The Takeaway: Sumo Sushi and Ramen, Osaka’s successor, boasts excellent maki and ‘the good kind’ of crab rangoon

Sumo Sushi is located at 122 E Washington St in Iowa City. — Jordan Sellergren/Little Village

The first time I tried sushi I was, ironically, a vegetarian. Even as a non-vegetarian, the idea of eating raw fish was difficult for me to wrap my head around. At the time, sushi was still a rare specialty food that I associated with bigger cities and West Coast states. Sometime in the ’90s, sushi finally came to Cedar Rapids and I got to try it for the first time, choosing yam tempura and shiitake to honor my vegetarianism.

Later, when I gave birth to the most carnivorous child the world has ever seen, sushi became their favorite food at the tender age of 4 and it was what they asked for whenever they got to choose a restaurant, fearlessly eating things like eel and squid and squishy mollusks. We ate sushi so often, in fact, that I got a little sick of it. I never got as brave as my child and even after starting to eat meat again, my repertoire was pretty limited. So it had been about a year since I’d last had sushi when I finally felt a craving for it again last week. Perusing the options, we settled on Sumo Sushi and Ramen.

Sumo Sushi and Ramen opened in January 2020 at 122 E Washington St in Iowa City, formerly the location of Osaka. The restaurant is co-owned by Chris Weng, a chef who honed his craft over 15 years of living in China and Japan before settling in Iowa in 2019, and Yuki Yu, the previous owner of Osaka who was part of the decision to take on a new venture in the space. Sumo Sushi and Ramen has an extensive, pan-Asian menu that includes offerings like bibimbap, pho and classic Chinese American items like egg rolls and crab rangoon in addition to the titular sushi and ramen.

Being a creature of habit, I stuck with the order that has served me well for some 20 years: yam tempura and spicy tuna rolls. Mike is a more adventurous eater who often wants to try something he’s never had before when we get takeout, so he ordered beef yakisoba, a first for both of us, and salmon tempura rolls. Lastly, we ordered egg rolls and crab rangoon, because we’re always in the mood for crunchy fried things.

The maki rolls were excellent, the tempura perfectly crunchy, the tuna exactly what I was looking for in both flavor and texture and the rice wasn’t too dry, which is a problem I have run into with maki more than once. The yakisoba had a sweet sauce unlike anything I’d ever tasted before and the beef and noodles were well cooked. The egg rolls and crab rangoon were both excellent. I like egg rolls that have more veggies than meat in them and these fulfilled that desire. After taking his first bite of the crab rangoons Mike declared that they were the “good kind.” I’m not sure exactly what his criteria for that designation are, but I had to agree — I appreciated that in addition to the traditional cream cheese and crab, there was onion and carrot which made the flavor a bit more complex.

Sumo Sushi scratched the exact itch that I had, delivering perfect versions of the dishes that I’ve been ordering at Chinese and Japanese restaurants for years. I can’t wait to dine in with my sushi-loving child when the pandemic ends. Maybe I’ll even get brave enough to try a mollusk.

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