O Sushi, Tucson

You don’t turn 10 every day, though my daughter had several birthday dinners, the first being while visiting Tucson a few days before her actual birthday. Being a fan of sushi, my wife checked the reviews and found that O Sushi looked good. And also, depending on how to say the name, you can sound either surprised or bored when telling people where you are going. Oh! Sushi. Or, oh, sushi (in an Eeyore voice).

The exterior probably won’t wow you. it’s located in a strip mall. Beige and brown, of course, because almost everything in Tucson is one of those colors. The interior probably will not wow you, either, unless you’re an Arizona Diamondbacks fan. The owner must really love baseball. The walls were covered with pictures of players, baseball cards, and TVs with the games on. He must also be a fan of dance clubs because of the turntable and other sound equipment. So if you’re a baseball-loving, techno-dancing sushi eater, this is THE place for you.

O Sushi

O Sushi

They had really good drink prices, which I like to see… well, anywhere. And the sushi prices were good, too. And as we sat down, we were given edamame and soup. Included. Not extra. Didn’t expect that. Though I’m not a big fan of soy beans, I ate them. It was the polite thing to do, and if you dip something in soy sauce, it’s almost guaranteed to make it better. If it doesn’t, try adding more.

As for the sushi, it was a nice, solid meal. We had six rolls – two Dragons, two Crunchy Dragons, one Eye, and one Yum Yum, the roll so nice they named it twice. All of it was tasty, and tasted about as fresh as you could get in a desert. The first few rolls were presented in this huge boat tray, and you could choose from low sodium soy sauce, and full sodium soy sauce. I also appreciated that the sushi was bite sized. You didn’t have to shove an enough piece in your mouth and risk choking, or taking a bit out of bigger piece and risk an enormous mess and public shame.

Actual sushi at O Sushi

Actual sushi at O Sushi

The thing I wasn’t impressed with was the service. Initially, things went fine. But we eventually had to send up a flare to get the waitresses attention. She didn’t so much look at our table until I went to go fetch her. And when she took my wife’s wine glass when there was still wine left in the glass, that almost caused an incident. Thankfully, the pours were very generous, so the one swallow remaining in the original glass didn’t seem like that much after all.

Maru sushi on a snowy night

Last night, our plan to go to Houlihan’s in the Lansing Mall changed because of bad weather – why drive to the other side of town, risking life and limb at the mercy of bad drivers, when there are restaurants just down the street? So we went to Maru on Okemos Road. And there was no waiting, possibly because it was Wednesday, but more likely because people decided to stay home.

But we made a mistake – we ordered too much food. Sure, there are worse mistakes, but we spent a little more money than we needed to. But at least it was good food – it really sucks to order too much bad food.

First up was the ruby cocktail ceviche, which Andrea insists on ordering every time we go. Rice, avocado, tuna, and other hard to identify ingredients, it is definitely a nice start. It is the perfect starter… for four people. Wine was on special, so we split a bottle of their house pinot grigio, Coastal Vines, which was only $12.

Our “main course” consisted of three items: Eel nigiri, a nirvana roll, and a crouching tiger roll. Oh, the sushi. All were excellent. Well, I remember the eel being excellent, as I didn’t have any this time. Andrea loved it, so I let her have both pieces.

I did, however, devour a large portion of the nirvana and crouching tiger rolls. The nirvana roll was huge, taking up close to half the table. Okay, maybe it was just a quarter of the table, but it was still large. I would have both rolls again, though I’m sure I’ll want to try something new on our next trip. The squid we had on our previous visit wasn’t to our liking, but everything else has been fantastic.

Maru isn’t a secret anymore, judging from the review on Yelp, so making a reservation is usually recommended. All sushi fans should give this one a try, because it’s the best in town.

Enso, East Lansing

Andrea and I ate at Enso  recently. Wow, we were both impressed. In the space that used to be Maggie’s (oh, how I miss the deep-fried pickles) is a completely different restaurant. Instead of a giant lizard staring down at entering patrons, there are now brick pillars topped with flames, which means they are serious about keeping people out. No jumping the fence there.

Before we arrived, I thought we would be greeted and served in a snobbish place where we were treated like we shouldn’t haven’t been there, like our last experience at Troppo. Maybe is was the horizontal bar over the “o” in Enso, or the Zen-like terminology on the menu. The interior was beautiful and well thought-out, but it seemed, I don’t know, too fancy for East Lansing. We’re used to nice-nice, not chic-nice.

But that impression ended quickly. Everyone was very friendly, and our server was attentive as he could – he did have a big table that kept him busy on people besides us. Andrea commented that everyone smiled there, and yes, everyone did smile – even the people in the jazz band – and there was no air of condescension. It was un-Troppoesque.

Okay, the food. Enso serves what it calls American Sushi. They had a variety of rolls, from vegetable to chicken to bulled pork. Pork sushi, who would have thought? We chose with a General Tso’s chicken roll. It was alright, but I would not order again. It was a little plain for my taste, and the sauce didn’t have the kick that I expected from something called General Tso’s.

However, the flatbread chips with queso and salsa were fantastic. They were crispy and plentiful, and we were offered more when we polished off the first batch. We declined – we were already coming close to being full, and we had lots of food left to eat. Our dinner had not even arrived!

For the main course, I had the Asian chicken pasta, noodles and chicken topped with Julienne-sliced veggies. It looked like a mini-mountain of pasta and greens, and it tasted great. Andrea had the shrimp and cantaloupe salad which she really enjoyed, though the bowl seemed challenging. It was an odd looking dish which sat on an angle and just didn’t seem to set on the table right.

For dessert, we split the mousse cups. The menu listed four mousses, but we actually received five: lemon cream, chocolate, raspberry, orange sherbet, and the bonus mousse, vanilla,  They were good, but not over-the-top, gotta have it again good.

We were both very impressed with Enso and talked about going back again very soon. I am reserving full judgment until my second visit, but it could crack my top 5 restaurant list shortly if I have another great meal like the one I had last night.