Thursday, February 5, 2009

Dear Sushi in Iowa, Get in my Face

7125 Mills Civic Parkway, #110
West Des Moines, IA 50266

Samurai Sushi and Hibachi on Urbanspoon

In search for the best sushi in the midwest...eating my way through Minnesota and Iowa one unlucky fish at a time.

If you haven't noticed - I love sushi. I wouldn't call myself a sushi expert...a sushi pig maybe? A sushig? But I can tell if a fish is fresh, I know what I like, I am adventurous and have a slightly above average eye for artsy stuff (some art DNA got spashed on sister got to swim in it). I think the reason I love sushi (and almost all japanese and asian cuisine for that matter) is because of the creative element that is often lacking in other food realms. Food that is pleasant to the eye, in addition to the mouth and the stomach, makes it all the more enjoyable. On that note, let's forget everything I just said and talk about Samurai Sushi & Hibachi in West Des Moines, I-O-WAAYYY-

Samurai is relatively new to Des Moines, located near the Jordan Creek Mall. The dining area is two separate spaces - a sushi/bar area and a hibachi grill area. For those of you not familiar with habachi I suggest you watch "A Benihana Christmas"...wait for the onion. We sat on the sushi/bar side. It was a very square area with dark walls, only a few booths, sushi bar and my good old friend regular booze bar. A lit waterfall covered the wall behind the sushi bar while to the right hung a plastic Pepsi sign (you know, the kind you see at a baseball stadium refreshment stand) with the day's specials.

Tim the owner came over to the table to explain how to eat our appetizers (live oysters!) and tell us all we ever wanted to know about his business. I was surprised to find out he had another location in the Quad Cities. This would be the last place on earth I would go in search of sushi - however, the first place I'd go if I wanted to get stabbed...I kid, I love all you Iowa folk, you river ones are just a twinge scary.

Overall the place was good. The servers were attentive and I got to try somethings I had never tried before. Tim was a delightful fellow and he let us in on the 'frequent customer specials'. Basically if you go a lot and you know what you're looking for the will provide. If you are dangerous ask for what's not on the menu. I will be back in search of the cuddle fish special!

Live Oyster Special $10.00
I didn't quite know what to expect in regards to the 'live' part. I guess technically oysters on the half shell aren't alive, just chilled. So to me 'live' equals really, really fresh - and they were! 4 oyster halves rested on a bed of crushed ice. Each piece was individually sauced and topped with cilantro and a small amount of sriracha sauce. Amazing! Even Mr. B agreed and he's not a big oyster fan. Guess the extra freshness really counts.

Tuna Roll $4.50
Love me some tuna and I have to say this was definitely in the top 2. The tuna was a deep red and more soft, fatty and oily than I'm used to (these are all good qualities). Tim had mentioned that they go light on the rice and use bigger pieces of fish than most places do. I would agree.

Philadelphia Roll $5.50
Smoked salmon (but raw? How they do that? This requires further investigation), cream cheese and cucumber wrapped in a tiny roll - Premium (sorry, I just watched Everything is Illuminated yesterday). No, but seriously, they were great. I always forget that Philadelphia roll salmon is smoked. For me personally I'm not a huge fan. I would rather taste the salmon in all its oceanic goodness. Maybe you would classify this as a beginner roll?

Futo Maki $5.50
Holy crap! I thought I knew what this was, but I didn't and I was pleasantly surprised. If you've ever had Kim Bap (a popular Korean dish) - I would compare the Futo Maki to this. According to the definition of futomaki is simply a fat sushi roll. This Large roll was filled with carrot, asparagus, marinated kampyo gourd, egg and fish (not sure what kind of fish...I'll have to go back and ask Tim). Lots of different flavors and textures, really fresh vegetables. I would go back just for those. I've never had them anywhere else.

Spicy Toro Roll $9.00
This was a new one too. I've had Toro sashimi but never toro in a roll. The fish was chopped fine and mixed with a spicy mayo, much like a spicy tuna or salmon roll. It had a really good flavor, not too spicy, and the extra oily-ness of the toro made the mixture super creamy. Although I really enjoyed this one, I might stick to Toro by itself. You just can't beat it.

Green Dragon Roll (probably more well known as the Caterpillar) $12.00
BBQed eel and cucumber wrapped in rice, nori and covered in thin slices of avocado, tobiko (flying fish eggs) and eel sauce. I think I've said this before, but I will repeat. The eel in this roll is barbequed so it is really smokey and sweet and literally tastes like just normal barbequed meat. If a person likes avacado, bbq and cucumber you could probably trick them into eating this one...I would just fail to mention the eel part.

Deluxe Rainbow Roll $14.00
Tuna, Yellowtail, scallion and asparagus rolled in rice and nori, topped with assorted fishes. Again, the tuna featured in this roll was a deep red color and ultra delicious. I'm trying to think back to the kinds of fish it was topped with. Definitely salmon, maybe some himachi and other varieties of tuna. All very fresh.

IOWA Roll $13.00
I can guarantee you will only find the IOWA Roll at Samurai. Inside: spicy salmon, eel, cream cheese, crab meat, avocado and masago (caplin fish eggs)...there was roe in that? Outside: rice, nori and tempura batter. Then the whole thing is deep fried.

My speculations on why this is called the IOWA Roll:
It has everything you could ever want in it.
People in the midwest enjoyed everything fried (even their underwear...I'm in a weird mood and I'm starving!!! Hence the random outbursts) .
Everyone will buy it because it's named after their state? <--DING, DING, DING! It was pretty awesome though. Not your typical sushi roll, but then again, sushi shouldn't be typical. That, and I can check 'eating IOWA Roll' of my list of lifelong goals. Holy crap I'm funny. THE VITALS # of People: 4

Reservations: No

Day/Time of Visit: Saturday, January 31st - 1:00 pm

Will I be back: You betcha. Gotta get my cuddle fish on...MAN! I NEED TO EAT! I'm losin' it.

YAYs!: Friendly service, new and interesting things on the menu, habachi and sushi, good perks for regulars.

Nays: Wish it was in a more attrative place.

Notes: Color me impressed.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

that was amazing. gone there a few times, but I was trying to find exactly what was in the food. Thanks so much!