Thursday, January 15, 2009

Oh, Sushi: O Sushi

O Sushi opened their second location in Dearborn last week, and I--never one to miss out on a grand opening of anything--stopped by for a few to check out Dearborn's latest Japanese-inspired offerings.

O Sushi is located at 22431 Michigan Avenue in Dearborn, making in the third sushi restaurant along that half-mile strip of Michigan Ave. (the other two being restaurant-cum-nightclub Crave Lounge and family-friendly area favorite Kabuki Sushi). The original O Sushi location in Canton is popular among locals, but the competition in Dearborn is most certainly fierce.

But their location couldn't be any better: situated in a prominent corner of a building on the edge of the street, drivers immediately see the signage as they pass by. The interior is small and brightly-lit, welcoming to more of a eat-and-run lunch/dinner crowd than the stay-and-socialize crowds drawn in predominantly by Crave and, to a lesser extent, Kabuki.

Apparently their location and quick-serve vibe has done them well--on only their third night of being open, the bustling little restaurant was half-full and there was a constant stream of carry-out orders being placed. Not only do people know they're open; there is also an excitement in scoping out the new sushi joint.

As well there should be. I sampled very little of the menu, but was pleased to find a nice assortment of nigiri and specialty rolls. Sadly, such distinctly non-traditional Japanese ingredients such as cream cheese and jalapeno peppers were found in abundance on the menu (something which always makes me cringe), but O Sushi compensates for these more Americanized tastes by also employing generous use of eel sauce, masago and tobiko (varieties of roe, or fish eggs), kampyo (marinated pumpkin skin), and oshinko (Japanese pickled radish). At O Sushi, East does indeed meet West.

For my first experience at this hopping little Japanese diner (as it would best be described), I tried some hamachi (raw Yellowtail) and the Kiss of Fire roll. The Yellowtail was mild and delicate...the Kiss of Fire was not. Made with tempura shrimp, spicy tuna, avocado, jalapeno pepper, then covered with crunchy tempura flakes and hot sauce on top, this roll was a crackling sensation on the tastebuds...and a little rough on an empty stomach, truth be told. Though far from a "traditional" Japanese roll, with a very obvious American flair, this roll was still a palatable explosion of flavor, with drastically different yet complimentary textures and just enough spiciness to balance the otherwise mild fish and avocado. I enjoyed this roll very much...though my enjoyment was a little bit less an hour later.

Other roll options include all the standards (California Rolls, Tuna, Spicy Tuna, Cucumber, etc.), but also a few surprises. The Mexican Roll is a unique approach to "fusion" cuisine, and the cleverly-named 007, Saturday Night, and White Christmas Rolls are all creative combinations of culturally traditional and borrowed flavors. Michigan even has its own roll, as does Chicago and Philadelphia. And if you like spicy, well...the Devil, Kiss of Fire, Fireball, and Cobra Rolls await you. You can begin your meal with their "Fire Cracker" appetizer, O Sushi's take on cream cheese poppers which include spicy tuna. Prices are standard: $3.95-$9.95 for a regular roll, $9.95-$13.95 for specialty.

Service is still...well, working out the "kinks." My waitress (and the only Caucasian on staff) seemed unsure of herself at every step, in likely part due to her constantly being barked at by the sushi chef and head waitress, screwing up everything she could then failing to present herself to correct her mistakes. As I write this a week later I'm willing to bet even now she no longer works there. The rest of the staff exhibited the utmost professionalism and attentiveness, with an obvious shared concern over the image and success of their establishment.

The d├ęcor is simple yet inviting; delicate Japanese floral wallpaper, bamboo accents, buttery yellow walls, modernist "Oriental"-style chairs in dark wood, a granite sushi bar, bright lights. In time they will also have a liquor license and will offer a full drink menu--I'm interested to know if that drink menu will go more by way of Mai Tais and Asahi or Mango Liquer and sake, but time will tell.

Overall, I was pleased. O Sushi has no pretenses about it, which is a nice change of pace in this increasingly trendy sushi-bar-meets-ultra-lounge world. A great place for a quick lunch or to pick up dinner on your way home, the fast service is met equally with quality flavors and creative craftsmanship. Third time's the charm, eh Dearborn?