You don't need me to tell you that sushi ain't all that cheap, which is why it's easy to get stuck in a comfortable rut with regular visits to restaurants at which you're certain that your money will be wisely spent. That's where I come in. Between the professional writing and the amateur eating, I can safely say that I've visited nearly every Japanese spot that Monroe County has to offer. Of course, I have my favorites (love you, Tokyo!), but that doesn't mean I'm not up for a little action on the side.
It's been a few years since my last sushi round-up, and in that time the fish-and-rice landscape has changed significantly. So with Lent imminent, it's as good a time as any to make the maki rounds again to see what's new and who's demonstrated staying power.
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At one point there were no less than five sushi places in Webster, and now that the market has sorted itself out, Taka House (809 Ridge Road, Webster, 671-8520, takahouse.com) is among those that remain. Open since 2006, the bright, cozy Taka House offers up a solid menu of Japanese-restaurant staples, including sushi, sashimi, and creative maki with both raw and cooked components. The New Orleans Roll ($6.95), for instance, stars spicy crawfish, while the comforting Webster Roll ($9.95) features warm shrimp tempura, soft cream cheese, smoked salmon and sweet eel sauce. But I've noticed that I tend to lean toward the maki that incorporate fruit, like the Christmas Roll ($10.95), a riot of crab, shrimp, tuna, avocado, crunchy tempura bits, briny roe, and, on that day, vivid mango.
Tucked away in the corner of Westmar Plaza in Gates, the 11-year-old Edoya (2131 Buffalo Road, 247-4866, edoyasushi.webs.com) might be one of those secrets that hardcore sushi fans would prefer to keep to themselves. Both the space and the menu are rather streamlined, so if you require the neon-drenched dazzle that's become de rigueur at the newer joints, look elsewhere. But if you're in the mood for reliably tasty Japanese food, then Edoya's got you covered. Maki highlights include the Fire Roll, with crab, tempura bits, lots of tuna, and what's accurately described as "extra spicy sauce," plus there's Edoya's popular takoyaki ($5.50), fried flavor bombs of chopped octopus, veggies, and a hint of ginger, kissed with gossamer fish flakes. Oh, and the online menu doesn't reflect this, but Edoya also does a few kinds of ramen.
The Hylan Drive entrance of Marketplace Mall is where you'll encounter Rochester's newest sushi option, the swanky Nickel City import Papaya Asian Kitchen & Bar (270 Miracle Mile Drive, 272-7425, papayarochester.com). The fusion menu skews Thai, but there is also some unconventional maki afoot (along with lush, pillowy pork-belly buns). The succinctly named Steak Roll ($12) provides the venue for a no-brainer marriage between seared beef and piquant horseradish aioli, while the deceptively simple Lava Roll ($13) combines ahi tuna, avocado, and spicy red-miso crab. And, of course, there's a Buffalo Roll ($11): tempura chicken, blue cheese, celery sprouts, and a tiny kick of hot sauce.
Many people think of Osaka Sushi (3240 Chili Ave., 571-4889, osakasushiroc.com) as "that all-you-can-eat place," and though going that particular route is the optimal way to sample as much as possible from Osaka's extensive menu, it's not mandatory. There are a number of sushi and sashimi combinations curated by season, and the a-la-carte selections are excellently priced. The Pink Lady Roll ($7.95) caters to the nori-averse by wrapping a refreshing melange of steamed shrimp, crab, lettuce, and avocado in soybean paper, and the Upstate Roll ($8.95) combines tuna, asparagus, and cream cheese, topped by spicy salmon. But the adorable sushi pizza ($6.55) might be better described as sushi arancini: a crispy rice patty topped with the protein of your choosing and plated with a beautiful cherry-blossom tree drawn with sauces.
Formerly known as Kakachi, Sushi King (1825 Penfield Road, 381-7999, kakachisushiking.com) sits at the Four Corners in Penfield and, with the exception of several tempura and teriyaki options, pretty much concentrates on its sushi program. The Alaska Beauty Roll ($11.95) showcases salmon in both raw and tempura'd states, along with asparagus and a zesty mayonnaise, while the decadent Penfield Roll ($12.95) combines lobster salad, sweet-potato tempura, and asparagus, then gets gilded with peppered tuna. Vegetarians should also find much to appreciate here, from avocado tempura to an impressive roster of fish-free maki.
But ask an informed purist where to go for sushi, and they will usually direct you straight to Swillburg mainstay Shiki (1054 S. Clinton Ave., 271-2090, shikirestaurant.us). The rolls are of the classic variety, like spicy tuna ($5); futomaki ($5) with crab, egg, and vegetables; and the eel-based Dragon Roll ($10.50), but it's safe to say that the impeccably crafted sushi and sashimi are what draw most diners to Shiki. There are, of course, combos, along with the option to select piece by piece. But chirashi ($16.50) offers the best of both worlds, an assortment of jewel-cut sashimi gorgeously arranged on a bed of vinegared rice. And that's really what it's all about, isn't it?
Chow Hound is a food and restaurant news column. Do you have a tip? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.