Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Sushi in Howard County: Getting Beyond My Old Standards

Sushi should be all about fresh, but I find myself returning to old places because they both work for me.

Mrs. HowChow discovered Sushi King from a friend when she moved to Howard County. We ate the unique crazy rolls on an early date, and it is still our favorite splurge after a harsh day at work. "Crispy." "Grilled." "Pretty in Red." "Eastern Shore." Each one is a treat, although I can't make a trip without splurging on the "Samurai" (oooo, fried shrimp inside) and without thinking about who wants to double-date so that I can split the BBQ squid that Mrs. HowChow will not wrap her tentacles around.

But I keep thinking about the sushi places that I haven't visited and the rolls that I haven't nibbled.

I was thinking this last week during dinner at Sushi Sono, our second standard. We had the perfect table overlooking the lake at sunset, and we devoured a "Bridal Roll," a "Garden Something Roll," and a few others. Before living here, I tended to order sashimi or sushi pieces. Yet Sushi Sono and Sushi King have pulled off interesting -- and different -- combinations of fish, wrappers, sauces, and crunch, so I focused on the dramatic rolls. It's a rare treat. Often on a night when I'm tired and want guaranteed fun. So, considering sushi prices, it is hard not to just buy my favorites and enjoy a night with my wife at one of our usual spots.

But I pledge to try new. You need to help steer me right -- the right new restaurant and the right rolls or fish to order.

What is on my list?
  • Hanamura in Columbia gets rave reviews. Chris emailed me in January about the "Kevin Roll" and the opportunity to get great fish at a price a step below Sushi King. (Update: I like Hanamura!)
  • Nichi Bei Kei in Columbia gets mixed reviews on Yelp, and there is some mention of a sushi chef leaving in the posts from early 2009.
  • Katana Sushi started in Clarksville and opened a new location in Elkridge this year.
  • Bethany Seafood Restaurant in Ellicott City serves sushi on top of its Korean menu. Some of those Korean places on Rte 40 must be noteworthy.
  • Niko Japanese in the Normany Shopping Center also on Rte 40 has a lunch buffet that nuttyturnips says is his favorite.
(Update: Check out all the comments below along with Hal's new comment on another post. Great suggestions about many of these places and more.) If you are going to try sushi check out my prior posts about Japanese food and the comments -- like Kevin on aji at Sushi Sono.

If you want to dive deep on how people pick sushi places, check out Sallet J, Rushworth FS, "Should I stay or should I go: genetic bases for uncertainty-driven exploration," Nature Neuroscience. 2009 Aug.; 963-65. If you don't have a subscription at home, Richard Gorelick is chatting up technical neuroscience articles in the Sun's restaurant reviews.

If you're interested in cooking Japanese food, check out my review of Kimiko Barber's cookbooks. They're great guides to the Japanese aisle of our local Asian grocery stores.


Stacy Lyn said...

Fave roll at Sushi Sono: Hurricane Eye Roll....delicious!!!

Snoopy said...

Hi! I lurk here all the time, in fact you are in my google reader! I lived in Ellicott City a while back, in my pre foodie days. I have since moved to Columbia and love your blog as it helps my husband and I navigate new places we have not tried. I have been eating sushi for 21 yrs and it is my fav food. Sushi King is our favorite, however we ususally order by piece and get a roll or two. my husband loves the tuna belly and the sushi guys are awesome!

At sushi sono, I like the rolls, but not nearly as much as the king! Recently we tried Katana in Clarksville. There rolls were really good, and the salmon skin salad was the best and huge! However, I wouldn't go with a mindset of ordering by peice, although we got a few and they were really good.

As far as what compelled me to come out of lurking status, I used to love Nichi Bei Kai. I used to eat there all the time. In fact it was my go to japanese steakhouse. Even coming from Fed hill to dine. A few weeks ago, my hubby and I decided to get some hibachi. Not only was the sushi not fresh (it is usually only decent and this time not good at all) The chef forgot my lobster in my filet and lobster meal. He then proceeded to clean the table, play the shrimp game and finally cook my lobster. He basically smashed it into the cooktop and when he gave it to me it was raw. I have seafood allergies and cannot eat raw shellfish. My throat swelled up. We asked the manager what he would do for us and he basically yelled at us, caused a scene and the "bouncer" made threatening gestures at us. Unfortunaley a couple next to us had a problem as well and the same thing happened to them. Needless to say, we won't be back.

However, with that being said, any recs on a good japanese steak house?

Alison C said...

You need to try Yamahana sushi in the Waverly Woods shopping center. We love it. We're not raw fish fans, so we tend to stick with cooked and veggie sushi. Some of our favorites are the Dynamite Roll (Tempura crunchy spicy tuna roll), the Shrimp tempura roll, the Yasai Maki Roll (Tempura sweet potato, asparagus, string bean, pepper/soy sheet0 and the Sweet potato roll. They also have several other specialty rolls that are very good. And it's BYOB!

Try it!

LexC said...

There is a new hibachi restaurant on Johns Hopkins Road, Ginza of Tokyo. It was good when we went and they have a HUGE sushi bar. I haven't tried the sushi from there, but when we were eating there several people came in and just sat at the sushi bar.

etucker said...

I haven't been there yet, but there is a new Japanese Steak House and Sushi place in the Hickory Ridge Village center in the space where the Blockbuster used to be. Has anyone tried there yet? Any feedback?

BeerGuy said...

There's a sushi place by me in Waverly Woods shopping center (mentioned above, Yamahana) off Marriottsville road that is decent.

No liquor license that I'm aware of oddly, but they do decent rolls and have improved a great deal in quality the last few times I've stopped in there.

They have some of the tastiest salmon nigiri I've had. I used to go crazy for maguro nigiri but literally EVERYWHERE nationwide its quality has dropped considerably (overfishing?) so I've switched to salmon nigiri and this place for whatever reason has it fresher and tastier than even say, Sono (mind you Sono is much better overall, merely focusing on the quality and freshness of this one particular item).

Snoopy said...

I am going to have to try Ginza. I love Hibachi. We used to have bday parties at them when i was a kid! They did that in NY... I think the reason I don't go to Sono more is because its not as conveinent.

I once heard a rumor that King and Sono had the same owners... Or maybe it was that Sushi King owned another somewhere.. At this point if its sashimi we want Sushi king is our bet. They know us there so its easy. However, I am always in the market for a great roll place, since its cheaper for us.

Katie said...

Sushi Sono, where my boyfriend and I went on our first date :) It's a great first date place by the way, with the over look of the lake and all. We've been to Katana in Elkridge and I have to recommend the Sweet Potato Roll. It's delicious and it's not tempura-ed.

Amelios said...

For those wondering about the relationship between Sono and King, the owner of Sono's son posted a blog article a while back that tells the story of his parents (and the relationship of the restaurants):

Hugs and kisses to Katie... Sono holds a special place in our hearts :)

Anonymous said...

There is another great place that warrants a visit in Ellicott City/Elkridge...I forget the name but it is behind the Giant shopping center between the golf course and Montgomery road...Really good stuff...

Sarah said...

Gotta second Niko in the Normandy Shopping Center. Fantastic buffet. Get there early, lines often go out the door.

Amelios said...

@Anonymous that location in Elkridge you're talking about is Katana which is mentioned in the original post.

Also throwing out another vote for Niko, at least for their lunch buffet. The rolls, for example, aren't nearly as substantial as you'll find in a non-buffet setting, but it's an excellent balance of cost, quality, and variety.

BeerGuy said...

Whats the deal with the Niko buffet? Price? Days/hours? Thanks.

BeerGuy said...

Whats the deal with the Niko buffet? Price? Days/hours? Thanks.

nuttyturnip said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
nuttyturnip said...

I think Niko is $11.95 during the week, and $13.95 on Saturday/holidays. They're closed on Sundays. They usually have around 30 different types out, though some of it isn't labeled, and there's also a small hot bar with a rotating assortment of stuff. I'm sure it's not the best sushi around, but for the price and variety, it can't be beat. They also have a normal menu of fancier stuff for dinner, but I haven't really tried that.

Auz said...

I've been to the Hickory Ridge Japanese steakhouse former Blockbuster place and found it decent. The shrimp tempura roll is pretty good.

Narita Sushi (also at Hickory Ridge village center) is a great take away sushi joint. The Columbia roll is my favorite.

Snoopy said...

Sushi is never expected to be the best at a buffet, but I am pretty excited to check Niko out. I used to go to an all you could eat spot with my mom in NY with a funny name. I cannot believe that for 2 yrs I lived across the street from this place Niko and never went! Oh well its a short hop down 29 from Columbia.

Steve-- Thanks for the article. My husband and I were trying to figure it out, but didn't want to ask, lol

HowChow said...

Thanks for all the comments. I'm definitely going to try a few.

etucker: The new Japanese place in Hickory Ridge is Maruha Japanese Steakhouse. I haven't been, but there are some reviews here: http://howchow.blogspot.com/search/label/Rest%20-%20Maruha%20Japanese%20Steakhouse

Sarah said...

Also, it's a lunch buffet-- 11:30 - 2:30(ish I think)

ho.co.po said...

Get thee to Hanamura! It's the best alternative we've found to Nichi Bei Kai, which did change hands this year with disappointing results. To my knowledge the sushi chef is still there, but doesn't have as much input as he did with the prior owners, which might explain any decline in quality.

If you're into soups, Hanamura's salmon soup and mushroom miso are good.

We still miss NBK's salad dressing though — other Asian/sushi places use that orange crap. (What is that stuff, anyway? And why do they think people like it?)

BTW HowChow, do you know anything about the "tequila bar" (the sign mentions food too) under construction in the shopping center with NBK?

Katana Elkridge: meh. OK food at premium prices.

Ginza: beautiful decor, a bit pricey on both sushi and drinks (paying for the beautiful decor no doubt), VERY uneven sushi quality. Won't be going back.

Sushi King: too many fruit flies for my taste. I don't want to fight for my dinner!

Mrs. HowChow said...

I'm a huge sushi fan and was hoping to find some new places to pick up sushi takeout when Mr. HowChow is away. I tried Ginza of Tokyo a few weeks ago and arrived at home with 4 different rolls.

Maybe i'm just a picky sushi eater, but I was a bit disappointed. The rolls seemed creative, but the ingredients could have been more fresh. I think i'm spoiled by Sushi King and Sushi Sono and their yummy, fresh and interesting rolls and sushi.

I'm always up for giving a place a second chance, so i'll try it again, but may try the other readers' suggestions first....

Unknown said...

Toyko Cafe in the Wilde Lake shopping center. Our favorite! Try the Vegas roll....yum!

Anonymous said...

Sushi King is one of the worst Sushi places I've ever been too. We went there once and the fish was just not fresh, and we went back thinking we hit a bad day but it still wasn't good.

Sushi Sono on the other hand is amazing and gets a high thumbs up from my wife(who is japanese and very picky)

Mary said...

If you go to Katana Sushi in Clarksville, try the Crazy Girl Roll, American Eagle Roll & Jumbo Crab Roll.
They also have quite a few appetizers created at the sushi bar like a spin on tuna tartar: Waterfall (chopped tuna placed on a bed of sliced avocados, drizzled in delicious sauces). I think some things are standard across all the Katana Sushis, but each branch will create their own daily specials, which sometimes will get popular enough to make it onto their permanent menu!