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Sushi West
*** 1/2
Out of a possible five
$$

Sweet, fruity sushi rolls add flair to menu

For some reason, Sushi West has remained a little under the radar.

In spite of being across from Glenbrook Square in a high-traffic area, it sits kind of hidden off the road in a strip mall along Coldwater Road, and it has a rather easy-to-miss sign out front. And I hadn’t heard much clamoring about it.

But what I found when I dined there were not only a couple of the most unique and tasty sushi rolls I have had in a while, but a couple of dishes I have not seen anyone else in these parts offering.

The sushi rolls that wowed me were marked by something one normally wouldn’t expect on sushi – fruit.

The Danny Special Roll – don’t know who Danny is but I want to high-five him if this was his idea – contained tempura fried shrimp, asparagus stalks and a little cream cheese inside the sticky rice and was topped with thin slices of ripe mango, avacado and shaved almonds and a drizzle of Sushi West’s House dark, sweet Special Sauce.

It was the kind of sushi roll you could literally have for dessert with the sweet mango, creamy avocado, sauce and shrimp combining beautifully with the crunchy almonds. And with a little salty soy and spicy wasabi, it shed some sweetness and was even better.

For summer, I can’t think of a better roll than the refreshing – yep, refreshing – Mike’s and Scott’s Special Roll. And, yes, I want to high-five them, too. Inside was spicy tuna, tempura crunch and avocado, topped with white tuna, a more-sweet-than-spicy creamy wasabi sauce and paper-thin slices of Key lime with the zest still on them.

The burst of citrus made this roll like no other and is what truly made it special.

Both blew away the Penny Roll. This California roll included mushrooms inside with the crab, cucumber and avocado, along with butterflied cooked shrimp and honey mustard sauce on top. However, there were not enough mushrooms and the sauce overpowered it.

The best piece of sushi I had was a throw-in with my sushi lunch. The lunch came with one piece of sashimi tuna and bacon – yes, bacon – sushi. The tuna was clean, fresh and delicious, but the bacon sushi was the bomb. It was simply rice with a piece of tempura fried bacon and a little special sauce on top. I could have eaten 20 pieces for lunch and been done.

The appetizer I have not seen elsewhere was the grilled and salted saury, a small fish from the Pacific similar to anchovies. And it was nothing like the nasty, oily fish from the tin can your grandfather ate. This whole fish was grilled so the skin was just a little crisp and it was very bony; however, the meat was firm and fishy, but the good kind of fishy. With a squeeze of lemon to offset the salt, it was delicious.

Sushi West also offered Syabu-syabu (pronounced shabu-shabu), an entrée that came with a bubbling pot of rich, dark, seaweed-infused broth and a variety of vegetables and other ingredients I could add to my liking, along with either beef or chicken. My half-frozen, thin slices of fatty rib-eye took about 30 seconds in the broth to come out pink and rare. The add-ins included piles of undon noodles, spinach, Chinese cabbage, enoki mushrooms, two raw eggs and a block of tofu. It was fun to cook, delicious to eat and would have been a great date dish for sharing.

The tempura vegetables – onion, zucchini, daikon radish, sweet potato – which came with my Bento box lunch and my teriyaki chicken, were top-notch, but the tempura shrimp were a little oily. In addition, the California roll that came with the box was smaller than the regular rolls, appeared to have been made ahead of time and tasted like average supermarket sushi.

The only dish that totally fell flat was The West House, grilled beef rolls with noodles, mushrooms and onions. The beef and vegetables were OK, but it was so oily it glistened and I just couldn’t eat much of it.

And despite being a beautiful place – cherry wood throughout, fresh clean furnishings and decorations along with a sushi bar and traditional sunken-floor Japanese dining room in the back – my servers seemed aloof and inattentive during both visits.

But, back on the plus side, Sushi West was a great place to take the kids as it served fruit smoothies and had a diverse children’s menu. I mean, what kid could resist a dish called the King Kong, which featured fried potatoes, egg roll and a chicken wing? And they had a decent selection of mochi ice creams for dessert. I would recommend the red bean flavor, which was great.

But not as great for dessert as that mango-covered Danny Special Roll.

Restaurant: Sushi West

Address: 4036 Coldwater Road

Phone: 373-2900

Hours: 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 4 to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 3:30 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday

Cuisine: Japanese

Handicapped accessible: Yes

Alcohol: Beer and wine

Credit cards: Yes

Kid-friendly: Yes; great kids menu

Menu: Saury ($7), beef roll ($9.95), Bento box ($8.95), syabu-syabu ($20), Danny roll ($9.95), Mike’s and Scott’s roll ($9.95), Penny roll ($7.95), chicken teriyaki ($12.45)

Rating breakdown: Food: ** (3-star maximum); atmosphere: * (1 maximum), service: 1/2 (1 maximum)

Note: Restaurants are categorized by price range: $ (less than $20 for three-course meal), $$ ($20-$29); $$$ ($30-$39), $$$$ ($40-$49), $$$$$ ($50 and up).

Ryan DuVall is a restaurant critic for The Journal Gazette. This review is based on two unannounced visits. The Journal Gazette pays for all meals. Email him at rduvall@jg.net; call at 461-8130. DuVall’s past reviews can be found at www.journalgazette.net. You can follow him on Twitter @DiningOutDuVall.

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