CLOSED! a/o 12/2014... new version reopened as IZUMI BY SUMI 3/2015
MRT: SYS Memorial Hall
website: sumisushi.spaces.live.com mostly Chinese
hours: 11:30AM- 2:30PM / 5:30PM - 9:30PM
Kid friendliness: sushi bar seating only, very tight space
Visit reviewed: 11/5/2010 & 11/9/2010
There's plenty of sushi bars in Taipei, but if you're looking for the kind of heaping rolls with drizzled in eel sauce or deep fried, then you have to look a little harder. I've had some miserable and some not so bad and some great, but none like my favorite roll place in LA that has so many crazy combos of huge rolls for great prices.
I first heard about Sumi Sushi when my friend M said her friend S said they had the best spider roll. The same week, another friend posted some drool worthy pictures on her Facebook and I couldn't wait to give it a try.
It's not too far from the also newly opened Macho Tacos and Toasteria on Lane 248, a little over two blocks away from ZhongXiao, and has a nice bright blue sign in English to spot.
Inside is quite tiny- just a sushi bar with about 14-16 seats, depending on how squished everyone needs to be. I had made a reservation for our group of 5 and after we were eating for about 20-30 minutes the rest of the counter was filled with a reservation of 8 people, so a few walk-in customers were turned away.
The English and Chinese menu offers a few appetizers and dons (rice bowls with sashimi or eel), as well as nigiri and sashimi, but we are here for the rolls! Sumi Sushi was opened by a Taiwanese couple who had moved back from Canada after living there for around 20 years and missed the rolls that they could find there. So it's great that I could order the rolls in English because I'm not sure if I could figure out all the rolls names in Chinese.
While there aren't many pictures of the rolls on the menu, you can check them out along the wall, though they are identified only by their Chinese name. This lead me to quiz the chef about a lot of the rolls (What is a Sumi roll? What is a Volcano roll? What is an Alaska roll?) to which he patiently and cheerfully answered.
You can also give him a budget and let him put together a menu for you, and let him know what you like and don't like. It's a good way to sample things, but if you know what you like and don't like, then you might be better off ordering ala carte.
Some of my favorite rolls at Sumi were the dragon roll (NT$200) which is a California roll topped with unagi,
the spider roll (NT$300) which features deep fried soft shell crab (I could probably devour a whole roll by myself),
and the dynamite roll which has tempura shrimp, avocado and cucumber (NT$130). Dynamite rolls that I'm used to come covered with special sauce and then are baked, but Sumi Sushi's version doesn't, so don't get confused there.
I was bummed that the spicy tuna roll (NT$160) was all spiciness and no sweetness. The best spicy tuna I've found in Taipei so far is either the rolls from A Plus or the appetizers at Dozo.
I know it won't matter to some, but I felt that the rolls that were bigger in size were a better value, since most of the rolls were along the same prices. So I wasn't crazy about the bite size Philadelphia(NT$180) featuring salmon and cream cheese, or scallop rolls (NT$200) either. I wanted more mega monster rolls, but instead many of the rolls were more dainty and not filling. I also wanted more eel sauce than the sushi came with, so next time I'll ask for more since the spicy sauces on the side didn't do it for me.
The appetizers are worth ordering if you want something other than rolls- the chicken chop (NT$100) had a simple, but nicely grilled flavor and texture.
And the grilled ika (NT$80), or squid, was fresh and chewy without being tough.
The miso soup(NT$20) and salad(NT$50) came at the end of the meal, and both were on the sweet side. The miso was so sweet that I couldn't finish it, but the dressing for the shredded cabbage echoed the miso, carrot and sesame dressing that I've had at Blue Marlin in LA.
Sumi Sushi should continue to have good word of mouth with its affordable prices and relaxed sushi bar setting. I was wavering between a 'recommend' and a 'strongly recommend' and decided to give them a 'strongly' since I've gotten sushi to-go on more than one occasion since my first visit a few months ago when I'm craving last minute rolls. Too bad they don't deliver- that would be awesome.
It's fascinating to me how various pockets of Taipei are becoming "restaurant rows" for international eateries- since every lane and alley is pretty much a restaurant row- but I'm talking about places like Lane 248 that has grilled cheese sandwiches, pizza, sushi rolls and fish tacos in the same area, as well as Lane 280 off of Guangfu which has the new Italian restaurant Osteria by Angie, Ari Korean tofu (both of which reviews are coming!), the new branch of 15 Pizza and the new branch of Wendel's a block away. Any other "restaurant rows" that I should explore?