Food & Drink » Restaurant Review

Keep Your Bias at Bay

Sushi Bay offers excellent and reasonably priced raw fish.

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Times change though. Sushi is a good example of this. If my mother had caught me in the barn gnawing on a salmon carcass when I was 5 years old, she certainly would have stopped me, and who would have argued with her back then? Fortunately, raw fish has come to be regarded by many in this country (myself included) as a fine thing to eat. I do my best to make up for lost time.

Last week, I stormed into Sushi Bay and ate my limit. I think my girlfriend and I scared them. Two people, so much fish. That’s one of the beauties of sushi. There are so many textures, preparations and experiments to entertain you. One of those, two of those, another one of those … Sushi Bay’s menu is great for this. Sushi, sashimi, salads, hand rolls, dumplings, tempura, chef’s specialties, daily specials, Kirin beer and the king daddy rabbit of sushi bars — the combo.

The menu offers several combos ranging from around $10 to $40. Our $27.95 version arrived on a wooden model boat. I love those things. The chef’s selection included a few cuts each of tuna, salmon, eel, yellowtail and snapper prepared as both sushi and sashimi, along with a spicy tuna roll, some barbecued eel and the ubiquitous California roll.

I always go straight to the simple sashimi — no rice, no garnish — just the fish. The unadulterated cuts were cool and firm. The boldness of the tuna and salmon played nicely against the more understated and slightly sweet yellowtail. The sticky, vinegary rice added a hint of pungency and nuttiness to the sushi. Good sushi and sashimi taste clean, and Sushi Bay serves it. I also appreciated the tuna roll, which was actually spicy. Often they are simply tangy. This one had a little bite and was a nice diversion from the more delicate flavors.

Other highlights included the Shrimp and Vegetable Tempura ($5.95), which featured three beautiful plump shrimp. I would have preferred a bit less of the breading, though. I highly recommend the Shrimp Shu Mai Dumplings appetizer ($3.95) and the house specialty, Chicken in Foil ($11.95). The latter is a very tasty mix of shredded chicken, veggies and a ponzulike sauce. Most entrees come with rice and miso soup. The prices are exceedingly reasonable with few entrees topping $13.

One thing I like to see in any restaurant, but particularly in sushi restaurants, is cleanliness. Sushi Bay’s dining room is very tidy and crisp. I also love the bar fashioned to look like one of the little sushi boats. The room and waitstaff offer a fine example of the sincere, slightly aloof cordiality one expects at such restaurants. The chefs deliver with attractive and tasty fare.

It’s wonderful to live in a city where one can sample such a variety of cuisines on any given night. I hesitate to predict the opening of a dirt bar in town any time soon. If it happens though, I will put my bias aside and sample whatever humus it offers. Times change and one must keep an open mind. Mom wasn’t always right. If you have overcome a learned aversion to eating raw fish and you live in the West End of Richmond, Sushi Bay is an excellent choice and a good value. S

Randall Stamper worked in restaurants in Boston, New Orleans and Indiana for seven years and has filled every job from dish washer to general manager. All his visits are anonymous and paid for by Style.



Sushi Bay ($$)

10490 Ridgefield Parkway
754-8070
Dinner only: Sunday through Thursday 4:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday 4:30 p.m. to 11 p.m.



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