8433 Oak Street
New Orleans, LA 70118
Why does New Orleans have so many sushi restaurants?
This is a question that has plagued me throughout my (ending!) two years as a New Orleans resident. The Big Easy possesses a vibrant and fascinating food culture and a profusion of good restaurants, that's evident, but it does not have much in the way of Asian food. Decent Indian, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Korean food are difficult if well nigh impossible to find within the central city (you get far better pickings in the burbs). But sushi? SO MUCH SUSHI. SUSHI EVERYWHERE. This can probably be attributed to the hordes of yuppies and liberal arts students that populate the Garden District, and can also be chalked up to the serious hipness that sushi has enjoyed for what, the past twenty years, and some of it can probably be credited to Louisiana's fine seafood-eating tradition. But the fact remains that New Orleans sushi restaurants are both numerous and extremely similar, with menus and focuses that could be carbon copies of one another. How the hell do they all survive? Do Tulane students really eat that many 11:00 PM spicy tuna rolls? Is there an economics major in the house, someone who could parse out this mystery, present a paper, put my worried and unsettled (oh, eternally) mind to rest?
Sorry. Anyway. Ninja Sushi on Oak Street.
Ninja is located in a rather funky building a bit past the Maple Leaf on Oak. You walk into a funky bar area and are directed to a cleverly concealed set of stairs to the main dining room. The restaurants name and the bar area are, rather sadly, misleading: the dining area is a perfectly standard issue Japanese restaurant interior. Think soft colored wood paneling and gently piped in music.
The menu is standard for NOLA sushi joints, although there are a few nods to local foodstuffs - think fried oyster rolls and okra tempura - and some interesting appetizers, such as sauteed enoki mushrooms.
I had the seafood salad, which is one of my stand-by orders at Japanese restaurants. Pretty good, although the salad at Hana is bigger for slightly less money. The fish selections were fresh and I was impressed with the variety - they could probably toss more greens and seaweed salad on this thing and pad it out without driving the price up too much.
My friend swears by the pickled wasabi (Teardrop) roll here, which I didn't try. Apparently it's wasabi distilled to its smack yo in da face essence, and judging by the reactions of my two dining companions, it went over well. Look, I apologize for the whole wasabi thing. I will eat just about anything but horseradish products are one of the very few existent flavors that don't get my motor runnin' at all. Just can't stand it. I hate the way it goes up my nose.
We tried the Moriaki roll with yellowtail, salmon, fresh tuna, green onion, smelt roe, radish sprout and avocado, which was pleasant and fresh, although not particularly exciting (but that wasn't exactly expected). An order of salmon sashimi was fresh and properly prepared. We also sampled the enoki mushrooms, which were served in an interesting soy sauce, vinegar, and ginger concoction and possessed the slimy, chewy, yet oddly compelling thang enokis have going on.
On the whole, Ninja Sushi is a nice enough NOLA Japanese joint - but it doesn't possess anything extra to set it apart from the rest of the pack. Nice enough for sushi on Oak Street, especially if you've grown sick of endless, endless Hana runs.