Munch goes to Sushi Too
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Getting sushi in a landlocked city is always dicey. Sure, Pittsburgh has the three rivers, but the only fish Munch has ever seen in them were already dead. ("Oh weird, there are fish coming out of that sewage output. Wait, oh nooooo.")
Fish, the kind used in sushi, usually come from the ocean, and we're a long ways from the ocean. And since it's raw, there's nothing -- not even a healthy breading and a hot, bubbling bath of oil -- protecting your stomach from whatever microbes might be lurking in that fish. Even Sushi Chef Friend of Munch once recommended against getting the uni -- sea cucumber -- from anywhere in the city.
"Where's the best spot in the city to get uni?"
"Not here. Try New Jersey."
"Is that near Windgap?"
This isn't to say that there isn't good sushi in Pittsburgh, but just as you don't go to your tailor when you need a root canal or to Ulaanbaatar for a great Primanti Bros. sandwich, you don't come to Pittsburgh looking for amazing sushi (or baseball). And when you find it, you appreciate it and avoid the uni.
Sushi Too had been one of those places hiding in plain sight on Walnut Street. But on one really hot afternoon, its narrow, glass-brick facade with a pink fluorescent marquee beckoned Munch, because Munch was craving something a little cooler. In tow were Super-Fit Obnoxiously Healthy Friend of Munch and Gas Station Engineer Friend of Munch.
We were pleasantly greeted by a blast of air conditioning and by a woman who led us to our booth. And then we opened the massive menu -- a full seven columns jam-packed with sushi and Japanese and Pan-Asian dishes.
But there were no Slim Jims, complained GSEFOM.
"And where is the hot dog warmer? I thought we were going to a nice restaurant," GSEFOM whined.
For appetizers, after much deliberation, Munch and FOMs settled on the Oh My God sushi roll with tempura (batter-fried) shrimp ($10) and a special sushi spring roll ($8). Unfortunately, both the sushi and the spring roll came out long after the entrees.
Most of the entrees come with soup (miso or fish broth) and salad. SFOHFOM commented that his miso was "pretty good," and the fish broth soup (also called Osuinoro) was positively delicious, not unpleasantly fishy as Munch thought it might be. The salads, iceberg lettuce piled high with soy beans and cabbage and topped with a creamy ginger dressing, were similarly balanced.
The entrees performed less well. Munch settled on the Tonkatsu ($14), a breaded and fried pork cutlet. It was served on a bed of slightly sad-looking salad greens and was a little overcooked. But the breading was perfectly crunchy, and the accompanying sauce -- a combination of soy sauce, Worcestershire and maybe something citrusy -- balanced out the heaviness of the dish nicely.
SFOHFOM, ever conscious of his health, got the Salmon Yaki Udon ($16), a salmon filet served alongside a pile of stir-fried noodles with vegetables. The salmon, he said, was perfectly cooked and the honey ginger sauce had a great flavor. And the noodles came jam-packed with vegetables -- zucchini, carrots and broccoli -- although the noodles were a tad overcooked.
For entrees, GSEFOM got the Black Pepper Chicken ($14), a chicken breast drenched in a salty brown sauce laden with black pepper. "This is pretty good," he said, "but I'm disappointed I couldn't get it with nacho cheese sauce."
About mid-meal, the waitress brought out the sushi spring roll, which we had ordered largely out of curiosity. Out came a spring roll stuffed with rice and salmon and served in a pool of sweet and tangy brown sauce reminiscent of some Thai dipping sauces. The starchy double punch (rice plus the spring roll wrapper) was a little odd at first and then comforting, and the salmon in the middle plus the sauce turned out to be perfect accompaniments.
The Oh My God roll came out soon after, small pieces of battered and deep-fried shrimp wrapped in seaweed then in rice and topped with mashed-up raw tuna. The crunchy shrimp with the soft rice turned out to be a satisfying combination of textures.
The three of us finished off the meal with deep-fried Oreos ($3 for 5). The cookies came out in glorious golden tempura batter jackets, still slightly cold in the center (presumably because they were frozen before being dunked in hot oil).
Overall, the meal was a little spotty, but the sushi is good and a great value. Rolls are priced between $3 and $11, which is much cheaper than other far more mediocre joints. SFOHFOM also noted the lunch specials ($7.50 for soup, salad, rice, sushi and another entree) are a ridiculously good deal.
No, you won't get the best sushi ever, but by Pittsburgh standards, it's pretty darn good. Just ask Bob Nutting.
First Published September 2, 2010 12:00 am