430 W. Main St. * 838-0630
It's a strange name, Sushi.com: Sounds like I'll be ordering my sushi online, or perhaps researching the properties of raw fish via an in-depth website. But no -- Sushi.com is a real bricks-and-mortar restaurant in downtown Spokane. The open, expansive interior is rather dark, with terra cotta walls and tables, and green carpet, but the bright late-afternoon sunshine that filled the west-facing windows helped lighten the mood considerably. The menu is extensive, and the sushi chefs work in the open, behind the broad wraparound bar that hugs the back wall. The green tea ice cream on is enough to make me want to return. (AC)
The Sushi.com Dragon Roll is arranged in a beautiful serpentine curve on a bamboo board. A piece of shrimp tempura serves as the head, along with a clump of spicy green sprouts (dragon hair?). The tail is similarly fashioned. The dragon's scales are made of thinly sliced avocado and unagi (barbecued eel); its muscles are sushi rice and nori; a small piece of shrimp tempura constitutes its innards. Delicate slices of cucumber provide a welcome freshness and crunch to combat the oily, slightly soggy tempura. Despite its dazzling presentation, this is no fire-breathing dragon -- doused in a rich brown syrup, this dragon is sweet.
I never did learn if this daily special was named for a chef or if it's a transliteration of something entirely poetic in Japanese. Either way, the presentation was intriguing: slices of the roll stood upright, like pieces on a chessboard; the end pieces, holding tall spikes of tempura shrimp, sat solidly in the center like the king and queen. The tempura shrimp formed the roll's backbone, surrounded by spicy tuna, nori and rice, and topped with deep pink tuna, unagi and bright green avocado. It was a visual delight and a complex taste sensation. The Genmaicha tea -- green tea with a hint of toasted rice -- soothed the palate nicely.
Tempura Shrimp Roll
($4.50 for 5 pieces)
People often say they don't like sushi because they don't want to eat raw fish. But they're unnecessarily missing out on the little culinary masterpieces thrown under the title sushi, because there are actually lots of options with fresh vegetables and even a few with cooked fish. One of my favorites is tempura-anything rolls. At Sushi.com, I tested the tempura shrimp roll. Soft, perfectly ripe avocado and matchstick cucumbers were the supporting players in the pretty little wheels on my platter. The tempura may have been a bit bready, but it was still delicate, its crisp saltiness framed by the rich buttery avocado and cool cucumber.
Okan & eacute; on the Hill
2910 E. 57th Ave. * 448-1779
The sleek and urbane interior at Okan & eacute; -- lime green walls above mahogany-toned beadboard, black industrial-style ceiling -- belies its location in a suburban strip mall high on Spokane's South Hill. Our server was knowledgeable, helpful and happily accommodated our indecision when it came time to order. The menu is a blend of Asian and American influences, much like the cultural blend of the Hawaiian Islands themselves. Like a lot of cultural mash-ups, this one has some successes -- and a few things that are, frankly, rather odd (like the Northwest roll). But the charm and hospitality evident in the place make it easy to relax into the moment and simply enjoy. (AC)
The Okan & eacute; Dragon basks like an iguana on a square ceramic plate. Its reptilian head is formed of wasabi; a fan of pickled ginger completes the tail. A ridge of bright orange masago (smelt roe) tops the dragon's back; its claws and fire-breath are painted on the plate with spicy chili sauce. The body is made of avocado, cucumber, rice and nori wrapped around silky raw scallops. Except for the zesty roe, none of the individual ingredients is spectacular -- the avocado is overripe, the rice underseasoned. But maybe sushi rolls aren't meant to be picked apart. Eaten all in one bite -- together with a hefty smudge of wasabi -- this dragon roll is a taste and texture sensation.
I enjoyed the glass of Silver sake ("crisp citrus apple") that I ordered with my RAW Roll -- so much so that the rest of the meal became something of a sociable and tasty blur. (Luckily, I grabbed a menu on my way out the door to aid my addled memory.) Two kinds of fish, hamachi (yellowtail jack) and albacore (tuna), combined with cucumber and masago -- beautiful bright orange smelt roe -- in a cool and mild roll that would make a nice introduction to raw-fish sushi. Although the menu listed "spicy powder" as one of the roll's toppings, I didn't notice much of a kick -- an absence that I easily rectified with the wasabi and pickled ginger toppings that came on the side.
The Northwest roll at Okan & eacute; -- salmon, smoked salmon, cream cheese, Granny Smith apple, finished with huckleberry sauce -- was so unusual I just had to try it. This roll had a lot going for it -- salmon and cream cheese is one of my all-time favorite flavor combos. Here, the cool, sweet crunch of the apple added intrigue. The whole roll was dipped in tempura batter and delicately fried, producing a lovely crust and gently warming the raw salmon. Unfortunately, the sweet huckleberry syrup overpowered those flavors, seeping into the delectable tempura and recreating a trip to the pancake house. Dipping the whole wasabi/ginger/soy sauce trio then produced one of the strangest flavor combinations I've ever had.