There’s western-world sushi, and then there’s Sushi Japan.

Jaclyn’s Pick:
Sushi Japan
14134 W Center Rd
Fare: Fresh-made sushi and Yakiniku (Japanese barbeque)
Cost: $80 for drinks, two appetizers and five sushi rolls
Reservations: Not needed

The decision for this month’s pick was an easy one: I was craving sushi. Having only been to Blue and Hiro 88, I wanted to see if I could add a new favorite to my list.

Sushi Japan has made it to the top of Omaha World-Herald’s Food Prowls — twice. (See their posts here and here.) So of course I had to see if it would make it to the top of mine, too.

Tucked in the northeast corner of Summit Square, Sushi Japan has been feeding Omaha their rolled rice creations for over 15 years. Their fish is flown in twice a week from Japan, where it is hand-picked by their personal fishmonger.

Let’s pick up our chopsticks and see if it lived up to the hype, shall we?

***

The Sake Experience

Having talked about it all week, Martha and I both agreed we needed to experience Sake in the most authentic scenario possible – short of hopping the red eye to Japan. Martha informed the server we were indeed Sake-newbies and asked for some guidance. He informed us that, traditionally, Sake is enjoyed warm. He pointed out two recommendations: one plain and one with something added to make it ‘more bearable’ (it’s like he knew we were going to need some help!) 

Cultural disclaimer: We are all about respecting and learning about other cultures. What they eat/drink, how they eat/drink it. We’re down with that. We get it. Try everything once, right? (Helloooo escargot and beef cheeks?!) That being said, Martha’s honest, out-before-she-could-edit-herself take on the warm sake was that it tasted like a blend of feet and perhaps the heavily traveled streets of Tokyo. That doesn’t speak to the quality of the sake – it probably just speaks to Martha’s shitty taste in wine. She tried a sip of my Purple Haze (the one infused with a sweet liqueur). She also found it to be intolerable. 

I didn’t care for either one myself. While the Purple Haze was in fact ‘more bearable’ than the original, I just can’t do warm alcohol. That being said, I’m still open to trying cold Sake. 

Apps

Is there anyone who doesn’t order edamame and gyoza when they go out for sushi? If you just answered “yes” — you’re doing it wrong. There’s something oddly satisfying about slurping up little soybeans from their delicious, salty pods. And the gyoza? Well those are just a delightful pan-seared dumpling anyone can enjoy.

The Rolls

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Firecracker (left), Beyond Crab Rangoon (right), Black Dragon (top), Ebi Tempura (middle), Spicy Crab (bottom)
Firecracker ($15.75)
spicy crab, tempura fried with seared salmon 

This roll was recommended by our server. We were timid about the (mostly) raw salmon, but Martha was adamant that at least one of our rolls had to be uncooked and something that we wouldn’t normally try. To our surprise, this wound up being our favorite roll. Whatever it was doing, the Firecracker was doing it right.

Beyond Crab Rangoon ($11.95)
crab, salmon, cream cheese, scallions, tempura fried, topped with sweet and sour sauce 

This roll was two things: fried and familiar. We liked it enough, but it would have been better if the cream cheese didn’t mask the crab, salmon and scallion flavors.

Black Dragon ($14.95)
shrimp tempura, cream cheese, cucumber, black tobiko, topped with eel and eel sauce

I was so distracted by the fact that this was 1 of the 2 rolls that came topped with eel sauce that I failed to notice it was topped with fish roe. And if it weren’t for those damn little eggs, it would’ve been perfect. While we both tried a piece with some of the tobiko – we mostly brushed it off.  And after the brushing, we both actually enjoyed this one and Martha even dubbed it her second favorite on the plate. The hint of sweet helped our taste buds forget we had eel in our mouths and were murdering baby fishes with each bite.

Ebi Tempura
($8.75)
shrimp tempura, cucumber

This was my second favorite roll for no other reason than its simplicity. It was a much-needed palate cleanser after that mouth full of fish eggs. (Which, by the way, tasted like an old, grumpy crab who’s been scathing the bottom of the sea for decades  — or so I imagine.) Martha could have taken or left this one – it wasn’t crazy or exciting and she felt the other rolls had such distinct flavor, this one got lost in the mix for her tastebuds.

Spicy Crab
($7.20)
crab with spicy sauce

We got this one as another comfort option. The spicy crab being her go-to at other sushi restaurants, Martha hoped if anything else scared or overwhelmed us, we could use this one to calm the $*#& down. She was actually underwhelmed with this version of her usual fave. But she also thinks it may have been because she was actually enjoying the other rolls and flavors we were exploring.

I suppose we should mention the complimentary Miso soup or salad (with carrot or ginger dressing) you can get with any roll. The pictures above were the leftovers … which should give you an indication of how we felt about them. Under her breath so as not to blatantly offend, Martha: “No wonder they give them away for free. Miso regretful.”

Again – a nod to authenticity and giving it a whirl. But they weren’t for us.

***

I wanted to give Sushi Japan a fork (chopstick?) up. I really did. But this gal is a sucker for the Americanized version of sushi: a hearty selection of cooked rolls and definitely more eel sauce.

But don’t worry, Sushi Japan, you still get a fork up from Martha. She is always impressed and oddly self-proud when we can try something outside our comfort box and like it (i.e. the Firecracker and Black Dragon.) It was a good enough experience that will push her to keep trying new rolls and she’ll probably even recommend Sushi Japan to others for an authentic experience.

P.S. We gotta get better at these forking pictures…

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