Sushi Friday

It is my habit to eat sushi for lunch on Friday – actually sashimi because the chef can’t disguise the fish with sweetened rice or rice vinegar or whatever. Most Japanese restaurants offer luncheon specials, so one gets soup or salad (sometimes both), rice and sashimi. Some places add California rolls (which are made with fake crabmeat). The prices are usually reasonable and the quantity of food means I don’t have to eat dinner.

Starting today, I will post an occasional review of one of these places, in alphabetical order, just to avoid any semblance of favoritism. They are all within about 15 miles of home, but I occasionally eat farther afield if there’s an excuse such as a library to visit or an errand to run.

Herewith the first review:

Asahi Japanese Restaurant

825 M Cromwell Avenue

Rocky Hill, CT 06067

860-513-0165

What I like: The place feels traditional, starting with the itamae (aka sushi chef). He bows to customers and displays true artistry in the presentation of his creations. But instead of the traditional shiso leaves, he balances the slices of fish on paper thin slices of cucumber.

The lunch is generous. Good basic miso starts the meal, though the last time I visited the lacquer bowl must have been in the fridge because the top was freezing and the soup was lukewarm. The Bento box contained a salad of the usual iceberg with shreds of red cabbage and carrot; rice sprinkled with sesame seeds; a mercifully small Cali roll; and gyoza. The latter are normally pork dumplings, but they make a special order of veggie for me. The sashimi includes are 12 pieces of sashimi, but there’s a drawback. (See below.)

The fish couldn’t be any more fresh.

The atmosphere soothes and relaxes. The music suits the quiet setting. It is sometimes Japanese, sometimes jazz with an Asian flavor. No one has to shout to be heard. Diners have privacy in the booths.

The waitresses are bit older, more traditional. They don’t hover.

There’s no hibachi so I don’t walk out smelling like someone else’s lunch.

After the main course, you receive an orange, from which the top half of the peel has been removed, and the pieces sectioned and cut from the bottom of the peel. It is served with an individually wrapped toothpick.

At $10.95 the price falls within the reasonable range, especially in light of the generous portions.

What I don’t like: The sushi bar (which only has four seats) faces away from the door so I can’t see who is entering. The place does a brisk takeout business so the door opens and closes constantly at lunch time. I generally try to go around 1:30 to avoid the hustle and bustle.

The sashimi luncheon has only three types of fish: salmon, tuna and a mystery white fish that has no grain and a faint sweet taste.

The location. Like a great many Japanese restaurants in the Northeast, Asahi is in a shopping mall, so it’s always an adventure to navigate the parking lot. Things improve after that.

Overall score: B+

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