By Merle Exit
My favorite brand of sake is Gekkeikan, a company who has settled in Folsom, Calif., due to the water coming from the snow of the Sierra Mountains. I traveled there to do a tasting and found that I enjoyed their domestic products more than ones that were imported from Japan. Four stood out above the rest: Haiku, Traditional, Silver, and Black and Gold, which is the best.
Not all liquor stores seemed to supply these products, particularly the Black and Gold. I found Rich Haven Discount Liquors in Woodhaven, owned by Jimmy Yu, which has been around for many years. Yu decided to expand his business by opening up U-Me Sushi, located next door.
The small restaurant — located at 8509 Jamaica Ave. — is noted for its takeout, but has about a dozen tables to dine in, too. Your order is freshly prepared at either the no-seating sushi bar or in the kitchen. U-Me Sushi offers two types of Japanese cuisine — sushi and hibachi prepared in the kitchen and not at your table. I wanted to sample both and brought company to share in the tasting.
I concluded that sashimi, slices of raw fish, would allow me to judge the freshness and ordered the 10-piece plate. The chef determines which pieces of sashimi to serve, though you can ask to eliminate something that you tend to not like. This plate came with two smoked salmon, two salmon, two tuna, one salmon roe, two mackerel, and one fluke.
The fish tasted quite fresh and amount of each piece was of value with the price.
Sushi is anything put on top of a small clump of vinegar-flavored cooked rice. Maki, also known as norimaki, are rolls of sushi wrapped in nori. They are cut into either six or eight pieces and are meant to be indulged in one whole piece at a time.
The ingredients can be as common as tuna or combined with as many as six items, in what is considered to be a restaurant’s “signature roll.” I chose one called “Jamaica,” which consisted of shrimp tempura, cucumber, eel, mango, and caviar with soy bean paper and eel sauce. Three cheers to the chef! Each taste bud was equally pleasured.
Two other maki specials were the rock n’ roll — consisting of toasted eel, salmon skin, avocado and cucumber — and the remix vegetable roll — made with shiitake mushroom, squash, avocado, cucumber and oshinko. One of my friends who joined me is a part-time vegetarian and loved the remix.
The plates also came with some small sides, including gari (pickled ginger), wasabi, and soy sauce. Gari is used to cleanse the palate between eating pieces of sushi. Wasabi is Japanese horseradish. I am always careful not to use too much as it immediately affects the nasal passages.
The hibachi menu had a choice of filet mignon as lunch — served from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, excluding holidays. Steak is grilled and comes with hibachi vegetables and fried rice. It has less salt content than the teriyaki menu due to the sauce. It also comes with vegetables and white rice.
A complimentary appetizer of kani salad was delivered to our table. Kani is imitation crab and combined with cucumber and mixed with spicy mayonnaise and flying fish roe. It was totally tasty!
Many of the menu items include a choice of either soup or salad. It’s all about the ginger dressing. I tend to request extra just to dip my pieces of roll into rather than wasabi or soy sauce.
U-Me Sushi also offers a Benzo Box lunch served with rice, gyoza (wonton wrapped pork and cabbage), California roll and miso soup or salad, ranging in price from $7 to $11. Other lunch offerings include rolls and hand rolls — served with miso soup or salad — where you can choose three from a list for $9.95. Take advantage of their lunch menu!
U-Me Sushi is open Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Sunday from 12 p.m. to 10 p.m. The lunch menu is not offered on Sundays.