Savory soba soup

Apr 14, 1999 at 12:00 am

The sign over the door said "Take Sushi" in red plastic letters. The spacing was oddly wide, as if another word might have been intended. Like "Take Out Sushi" as opposed to rhymes-with-sake Sushi.

I like restaurants that are diamonds in the rough, and all indications were that I had found one. This is an ethnic restaurant in a strip mall; the employees appeared to be of the same ethnicity as the food; there were customers who also appeared to be Japanese. All good signs. Furthermore, a couple of glowing reviews hung in the tiny lobby. But this is a diamond that needs some polish.

Take Sushi is tiny, squished between a Blockbuster Video and a barbecue place. Inside, there is a long sushi bar on one side, and tables down the other. It was very crowded on the weeknight we visited.

At $22.50, the sushi-sashimi dinner is the most expensive item on the menu. It came to the table on a beautiful ceramic platter. There was a seaweed roll of tuna wrapped with rice in a sheet of papery black nori. The selection of nigiri – rice balls draped with raw fish – included one shrimp, one crab, one tuna, one yellowtail and one we couldn’t identify.

The sashimi was a long row of tuna squares with a few slices of yellowtail. It was a disappointingly basic selection; there were none of the interesting-looking delicacies that we saw heading to other tables.

There are more than 60 varieties of sushi listed on the menu. Most of the nigiri cost $2-$4 and the rolls are $4-$5.

The tempura dinner comes with six gigantic shrimp lightly fried in the traditional batter, along with a slice each of sweet potato, onion and green pepper prepared the same way. At the table they are dipped in mirin sauce, which I found to be weak; I added some soy sauce.

Hearty udon and soba soups are almost a meal in themselves. Udon noodles are thick and long, while soba is made from buckwheat. The menu editorializes: "Soba is known for its contribution to good health; it lowers high blood pressure and is high in vitamins."

For $8, each comes with two huge tempura shrimp floating within. A few more vegetables in the broth would have made it more interesting, and even higher in vitamins.

One in our group ordered chicken teriyaki. What came to the table was a chicken breast sitting in a pool of teriyaki sauce. The chef did not seem to feel any need to connect the two, say by cooking them together.

The menu includes lots of interesting appetizers. The wasabi shumai ($4.75), a steamed dumpling stuffed with chopped shrimp, comes with a wrapping tinted green from the wasabi. Nasu Shigi ($5.50) is a half eggplant, scored and grilled with a sweet miso marinade. It was delicious, though heavy on the oil for American tastes.

Several varieties of Japanese beer come in 22-ounce bottles and cost $6 each. In the Japanese manner, no desserts are offered. There is takeout.