When I tried the yellowtail sushi at the new Sushi House of Hoboken at 155 First St. (between Bloomfield and Garden) recently, its taste and texture were exactly as they should have been. And that can be rare to find.
"There are two ways to get yellowtail," explained Executive Sushi Chef Hendra Young. "You can either go to JFK [airport] and get it on ice, flown in from Japan that morning. Or you can buy it frozen, which many places do. I only buy premium yellowtail. I'd rather spend the extra money and have a smaller profit, if that means that the customer will keep coming back."
If you like sushi as much as most Hobokenites seem to, you can't help but notice those table placards that proclaim sushi as "edible art." Sushi House knows this and gets it right. A friend and I went on a Friday night to find the place full, but not so packed that we needed to wait for a table.
"It's like this even during the week," beamed Young.
Certainly many people, on passing, must be drawn in by the décor.
"We tried to go for something a little industrial, a little funky," Young said.
The style is very modern. The tables are elevated on one side of the restaurant, while Finding Nemo (appropriately) played on an overhead television set. The furniture comes in waves of steel and glass. The small touches are paid attention to as well; instead of the typical ceramic, we were given blue fish-shaped bowls for our soy sauce.
The establishment is a labor of love for Young. Though he has been a sushi chef for 11 years, this is his first restaurant, and he designed the menu with both the beginner and connoisseur in mind. The appetizer menu contains such exotic ingredients as abalone, grilled salmon's neck, Japanese baby carrot and potato chips - which is exotic if only in context.
There are options available for those who do not favor true sushi, meaning you can bring your skeptical friends along. Alongside the katsus, tempuras and noodle soup are entrées like grilled swordfish, chicken, beef and other standards. The combo teriyaki ($13.95) is a suggested selection, containing chicken, beef and shrimp. The soft-shell crab tempura ($14.95) was excellent, tender and not overly fried. The menu is probably one of the most extensive in town, offering more than fifty rolls, appetizers and entrees. There are fish dishes, including red snapper and grilled salmon, as well as soups and salads.
The signature rolls are always the most fun selections in any sushi restaurant. We had the Bikini roll (fried eel, cream cheese and asparagus topped with sauce and peach for $9.95), the Madame Butterfly (an eel avocado roll wrapped in shrimp tempura and topped with tobiko for $11.95), and the delicious Tropicana (lobster, scallion and cucumber wrapped in smoked salmon and furikake for $11.95). All were very well done and interesting in that the flavors mixed together in ways other than those one would expect. My friend was a big fan of the fruity-tasting Bikini roll. The specialty rolls are more expensive than the usual rolls (most at $4 to $6), but since they are much bigger it works out to a similar value.
The food was so light and delicate that we soon called for seconds, ordering a Sahara roll (a calamari-based roll for $10.95). The calamari was so freshly cooked that it was actually hot, but after waiting for it to cool off, we found it just as tasty as the rest of the menu. The squid was neither rubbery nor hard. The other house special rolls were all equally unique, adding up to a list that will have any table fighting over which to try first. (Here's a suggestion: the Top of the World roll combines mango and smoked salmon.)
At the Sushi House, there are private rooms available for parties, which you can call to reserve (with a BYOB policy, if you so choose). Free delivery is available, as well as a varied lunch menu (from 11:30 to 3:30 every day).
The Sushi House at 155 First St. is open seven days a week, from 11:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. They can be reached at (201) 656-7788, and they deliver. They also validate parking. Do yourself a favor and come on a Monday, which is Orange Night (35 percent off all salmon). Or a Tuesday, or Wednesday...
Michael Malice has eaten more than his weight in fish.