900 15th Street
Sacramento, CA 95814
Sacramento is the Land of The Sushi Bar. We don't have a discerniable local cuisine (unless California burritos with french fry's in em' and Foster's Fruit Freezes count), but we DO have epic quantities of sushi, sushi on every street corner, a unagi Kamikaze roll in every pot. Upon arriving in a new town or locale, I am always privately shocked that there are NOT twenty five bazillion sushi bars. (One exception New Orleans has about as much sushi as Sacramento does.)
During my Thanksgiving break, we paid a visit to Zen Sushi in Midtown, primarily because Kru was filled chock fill of trendy people on trendy dates, leaving us with no room at the inn.
Zen is a pretty typical Sacto sushi bar: the menu and the decor are all stuff you've seen before. The only real deviation from the standard sushi bar theme is a few interesting grilled items on the menu. Your rolls and poke salads and teriyaki bento boxes may be found here.
We started with Poke, my perennial favorite. (Yes, this photo is horrendous.) A nice job: big fresh chunks of tuna, plenty of wakame, no weird sauce like some places like to add. Could use some chunks of Maui onion and perhaps some sea salt for authenticity. Why does no one do that?
We also tried the sashimi plate. Hefty chunks of fresh fish, and we enjoyed the addition of sea bass to the usual suspects. I do wish more sushi places served something beyond tuna-salmon-yellowtail in their sashimi sampler platters. I'm on the fence about big chunks of fish: tasty and makes you feel like a vicious carnivore, but not exactly the daintiest thing to eat. Hem.
Now we're talking. I have had a curious life long love affair with the humble smelt, beginning when I was three years old in Florida. We would go to Tarpon Springs, a Greek sponge fishing village near Tampa, and I would happily chow down on large plates of fried smelts and squids - I loved their oily unctuous flavor and the fact I was consuming a whole entire animal, eyeballs and all.
These were quite tasty: well sized and not overcooked, although they could have stood being a bit warmer. Try them if you haven't before. You may indeed be disappointed but you CAN say you did.
A whole entire squid charcoal grilled, chopped up, and put on a plate. Quite tasty preparation, and managed to stay tender in the middle, though there was a bit of chewiness around the head-bits. I do so enjoy spending a quiet evening chawing on a charcoal grilled tentacle with the suckers still attached.
Another tenet of California sushi: Thou Shalt Have Rolls With Funny Names. We tried the Spicy Q Roll, with unagi, spicy tuna, shrimp tempura, avocado and spicy scallion sauce (12.95) and deemed it tasty: the chef has a nice hand with these sushi rolls and things were more composed and fresh then is the norm. I'm not a fan of the conventional Big Ass Sushi Roll but this was quite tasty.
We ended with the Zen Sunomono: cucumber salad with assorted seafood tidbits. Nice and fresh and a rather interesting cucumber slicing technique. It's the kind of refreshing sushi chaser I like.
Zen Sushi is a solid addition the downtown Sushi bar scene. It's a quiet and friendly little place, which gives it a serious leg up over the crazy decibel levels of nearby Mikuni. It's a good place to watch the game if so inclined and eat some tasty grilled sea animals, and sometimes that is good enough.
Addendum: My mom reported they have one of those crazy space age toilets. Take that as you will. (Woohoo!)
(Also: Sushi/sports bars are SUCH a California thing. Sushi is our state's great equalizer: red necks, college kids, rich people and blue collar workers all come together to eat Kamikaze-Crazy-Mofo rolls or whatever and unwind after work. It's a beautiful thing.)