Snap those chopsticks in half and dig into your inner sushi.
Not sure how to use these awkward wooden sticks? That’s OK because sushi is all about the experience. (If worse comes to worst, you can always ask for the cheater chopsticks made especially for kids.)
Once you’ve got a semi-grip on the chopstick-holding technique, you’ll need some sushi to practice with.
After a weekend of sushi taste testing, I compared four sushi joints in town.
Samurai 21, 245 Red Cliffs Drive
Ambience: Greeted by koi fish in a pond, Samurai 21 makes you feel like you’ve been transported to Japan as soon as you walk through the door.
Service: Guests have the choice between hibachi or private dining. If you enjoy the social scene, hibachi is the way to go, offering dinner and a show. Hibachi chefs cook your meal right before your eyes on a steel griddle directly in front of your seating area.
If an interactive scene is not for you, the restaurant also has a designated dining area to make for a more private setting.
Quality: My taste buds quickly told me the Samurai 21 Roll was a favorite. Shrimp tempura, crabstick, spicy mayo, tuna and avocado wrapped together and topped with a coating of eel sauce make for a tasty combination.
Price: This specialty roll sells at $12.50 for eight to 10 pieces. Prices range from $4.50-$13.50.
Overall experience: The Samurai 21 experience was action-packed, and the sushi set high-standards of what was to come. Samurai 21 earns five stars.
Sakura, 939 E. St. George Blvd.
Ambience: The hostess, dressed in a kimono, quickly set the mood of the restaurant.
Service: The hibachi chef joked around, pretending he spoke Spanish instead of Japanese. If you’d rather eat your meal in peace, you’ll want to head to the dining area of Sakura instead.
Quality: The presentation of the sushi roll spread along a plate made my eyes just as hungry as my tummy. I tried the Surf “N” Turf roll, a combination of shrimp tempura, crabstick, sweet chili sauce, seared garlic, garlic sauce and scallions.
Price: This roll sells at $12.50—the same price as my Samurai favorite. The sushi at Sakura ranges from $4-$14.95.
Overall experience: The restaurant was the perfect way for me to get my social jitters out on a Saturday night. Sakura earns four stars.
Benja’s, 435 N. 1680 East and 2 W. St. George Blvd.
Ambience: Unlike Samurai 21 and Sakura, Benja’s does not offer hibachi. Instead, the restaurant has a dining area for a more ordinary eating-out experience. Though I’ve dined-in before, this time I called Benja’s earlier in the day and placed my sushi order to-go.
Service: Unfortunately, the hostess hadn’t put my order in, so I waited in the restaurant while the crew hastily prepared my order with sincere apologies.
Quality: The sushi I tried at Benja’s was too much for my taste. The Playboy Roll is a combination of tempura crabstick, cucumber and cream cheese topped with avocado, spicy tuna, spicy mayo, creamy wasabi and covered with crisp tempura flakes and a light teriyaki glaze.
The mixture of three different sauces made the roll too wet. Though the tempura flakes create a crunch, everything else makes for a mushy meal.
Price: This particular sushi sells at $11.95 a roll, the higher end of the $5.95 to $12.95 price range.
Overall experience: Benja’s tables are always packed on the weekends, so if you’re in a hurry, take Benja’s to-go. For those first-timers, it’s worth staying in the restaurant in order to get the ins and outs of eating sushi in its entirety. Benja’s earns three stars.
Harmons, 1189 E. 700 South
Ambience: Harmons has sushi boxed and readily available for customers to grab and go. Though there is a small dining area near the grocery story deli, I took the sushi home for a more comfortable eating experience.
Service: Purchasing sushi from a grocery store is perfect for customers who would rather not be bothered by a server and the accompaniment of other guests in a restaurant. If you have a question, though, a deli worker will gladly help.
Quality: If you’re looking for the freshest tasting sushi, it won’t be found at a grocery store. The sushi was cold and had a three-day-old rubber texture as it slimed down my throat. If you want to keep it safe, the California Roll is popular enough that I trusted the sushi chefs at Harmons to wrap together crab, mayo, avocado and cucumber.
Price: Harmons’ sushi is priced at $4.99 and up.
Overall experience: If you need nothing more than a quick fix, the grocery store sushi will bide the time until fresh sushi can swim into your mouth. Harmons earns 1 star.
Regardless of where the sushi is from, if you’re eating sushi, then you should always follow sushi etiquette.
One quick dip into soy sauce, followed by another quick dip into eel sauce, make the sushi a perfect combination of salty and sweet.
Each bite should be cleansed by eating ginger, a part of sushi etiquette that I almost always pass up. The taste is a mixture of sour and sweet, and I can barely hold a straight face when the flavors clash in my mouth.
As I said earlier, sushi is about the experience and, might I add, a little bit of courage. If you haven’t eaten sushi before, make sure you bring someone along who knows exactly what’s involved when tasting the flavors of the sea.