Monday, December 10, 2012

japanese/sushi: i recommend NCIS SUSHI

No. 4, Lane 216, Alley 27, ZhongXiao E. Rd, Sec. 4 
(02) 2721-6952 

MRT: Zhongxiao/Dunhua

website: NCIS FB page

hours: 11:30AM - 9:30AM

$$ (about NT$400-500/person)

Kid friendliness: no high chairs available. many non-raw options available

Visit reviewed: 9/26/2012

Finding dreamy sashimi in Taipei is no problem, but finding those mega rolls like I used to devour from California Roll Factory back in the states is more of a challenge. When I first moved back, I craved spicy tuna piled atop crispy rice, and crab, tempura salmon, avocado rolls wrapped in soy paper with the contents so full, they would almost fall out if you didn't stuff the whole thing in your mouth.  So when I first started hearing from friends that I had to try NCIS, or Nor Cal Inspired Sushi opened by a guy from Northern California, I was excited.

I first heard about NCIS over a year ago, when it was in the Shida night market, but I heard it was only open at night and quite tiny, so I didn't get a chance to try it. But when NCIS moved east to a bigger joint near Lane 216 and Zhongxiao East Road, it was time to check it out.

The long space is filled with two rolls of seating, one for couples and the other group so tables that can be pushed together for larger groups. There's also sushi bar style seating in the back, if you want to be able to spy the rolls being made while you eat.

The English and Chinese menu is expansive with lots of creative "rollz" including hand rolls, vegetarian rolls, and rolls with fun names like BMW, Toyota, Sofa King Bomb, or Puff Daddy, as well as appetizers, "old school nigiri" and "not so japanese fusion dishes". There's a lot to choose from, so everyone can even non-sashimi eaters can enjoy, and prices are very reasonable for rolls from NT$75 - NT$300.

If you're looking for some unusual rolls, look for MacNugget (comes with chicken nuggets), Mr. Sho (comes with onion rings and french fries) or Taiwan's Largest roll for NT$2500 which is comped if you can finish it in 45 minutes! There's also over 10 vegetarian rolls available, as well as vegan sashimi, which was the big draw for my friend who recommended it to me first.

The unagi bowl is surprisingly full for the price, with thin slices generously covering the rice. The eel is tender and covered with the right amount of sauce.

We start off with the Tunalicious (NT$270) and Marilyn Monroll (NT$220), which come with a nice 8 pieces per roll. 

The Tunalicious has spicy tuna and cucumber inside and more spicy tuna and sauce atop, and is more spicy than sweet. I prefer the Marilyn Monroll which has tempura shrimp and crab inside and scallop and avocado atop with bit of masago. While the pieces are not as big as I'd hoped, there are a lot of pieces for the price.

Admiring the decor while waiting for my other friend to arrive. NCIS could be a fun place for date night, or night out, with the 90s R and B blasting on the the speaker.

We ask the waiter what the sign is for, since it looks like a Wheel of Fortune game for free sushi, and he responds it's for birthday customers. My friend's birthday was actually that day (for real!), but he then mutters something like, oh, it's not really available yet. We are the only customers there and he doesn't let us try the wheel? Kind of puts a bummer on the experience. 

We then try the BMW (NT$250) which is quite similiar to the Marilyn Monroll, but swaps out the scallops for salmon. 

I also enjoyed the Spicy Ji Jimmy (NT$250) which comes topped with unagi and avocado and filled with spicy tuna and fried shrimp.

The eel is sliced pretty thinly, but not too much that you don't get the flavor. However, the use of the same sauces in the rolls end up making the rolls all meld into one memory. That sometimes happens at most roll places though, since there's only so many ingredients that you're working with and we are ordering variations of the same thing. 

My least favorite roll that day was the Pony A Gogo (NT$250), or the soft shell crab roll, which is usually a must order for me. When it came, the size was good, but the yellow avocado wasn't a good sign. One bite proved right- it was bitter and hard, probably not ripe yet and definitely not a Haas avocado. We asked the waiter to try it and after some friendly back and forth, he offered to give a discount on the roll.  For me, using Taiwan avocados isn't a deal breaker, but it definitely reminds me that I'm not in Cali.

All in all, NCIS is a good place to have in the rolodex (or HungryinTaipei app) and is one of those places you root for to thrive in Taipei. Its new location is actually not too far from Sumi Sushi, the other roll place in town where there will be the most comparisons. For the soft shell crab roll and scallops, I'll still go to Sumi Sushi. But the roomier digs and better prices are a draw to try NCIS again, especially with a big group. 
Don't forget to vote for your favorite Taipei restaurants in this year's Readers' Choice Poll! If you like NCIS, you can vote for it for best sushi, or best japanese, or best new restaurant in 2012.


James Shone said...

Next time you go there, ask the waiters about a crazy male 外国人 in a pink dress, flaming it up for "ladies' night".

Magda said...

What app?

joanh said...

james: and that would be you??

magda: look in the app store under "a hungry girl's guide to taipei"

Anonymous said...

Came to this restaurant, after reading this review.
I would say this sushi restaurant has a decent, party-night-out vibe, for before/after drinking at bars, etc.

however, I did not enjoy the food there.
I think that the place has great potential, if the chefs figure out the food better.

so I would recommend this place to my friends, for casual, alternative-to-a-typical-American-Diner.
but I would not recommend this place if you are looking for quality fusion sushi.

James Shone said...

Proof of what I speak of:

kk and eo said...

We agree that the place has great potential, but the tendency to be outrageous and experiment needs to be tempered by real concern for flavor and texture. Some of the things are just great while others either lack balance or just don't work. Lessening the sugar overall (although I know that sweet is very popular generally in Taiwan) wouldn't be a bad place to start. I can imagine that any and all of the food would work fine after a night of drinking but by that test so would just about anything. We think they should shoot for a higher standard at the top of the ladder they have already begun to climb. Thanks for the recommendation!

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Unknown said...

hidden gem by Zheng Da called Sasebo does it for cheaper.

joanh said...

Thanks for the tip! I'll look for it!