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Restaurant review: Izumi a very good introduction to sushi

FARGO - All-you-can-eat Japanese food seems like a bit of a contradiction, particularly when applied to sushi. It's hard to imagine that there was a time when sushi was simply unavailable in Fargo or Moorhead.

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The Mermaid Roll is one of many sushi options at Izumi Sushi & Hibachi in south Fargo. Eric Daeuber / Special to The Forum

FARGO – All-you-can-eat Japanese food seems like a bit of a contradiction, particularly when applied to sushi.
It’s hard to imagine that there was a time when sushi was simply unavailable in Fargo or Moorhead. Today, there are quite a few sushi options, and setting one’s self apart from the crowd becomes a task sushi restaurants didn’t have to think about 10 years ago, when I reviewed one of Fargo’s first, Yuki Hana.
All-you-can-eat is the way Samurai’s sister restaurant, Izumi, has set itself apart.
And it’s a very good introduction for those who aren’t sure how, where or even why they might introduce themselves to Japanese cuisine. Guests order off the menu, as much as they want, for as long as they want, for $26.95. And the selection is very complete.
Normally expensive options such as yellowtail and octopus, along with specialty rolls like the spider roll – the price of which, or the mystery of, often put people off of ordering altogether – are all included on the menu. It’s a relaxing, pleasant and fun way to learn about Japanese cuisine.
Teriyaki, soba, tempura and other cooked, hot options are available as well. Even hibachi, albeit from the kitchen, can be ordered as part of the all-you-can-eat menu, although I rather miss the part where they set the onions on fire and turn it into a train.
Ingredients are fresh, and the quality is generally good, although for the accomplished sushi fan, it may seem a bit understated with the rice being mild on vinegar, the sushi short on wasabi and the spicy rolls low on heat. Portions are resized to give you a chance to try more of the menu, and this, along with the more reserved flavor profiles of spicier options, make it an ideal introduction for neophytes who want to try it all and those with commitment issues.
But this raises the question of how well Japanese dining scales. When one thinks of Japanese cuisine, one often things of intimacy. Small spaces and carefully arranged plates on which food presentation approaches fine art. Flavors are generally subtle, and so elements of fusion foods are carefully selected, and atmosphere and service are subdued and non-intrusive. But the dining room at Izumi is enormous and wide-open. What comes across as funky minimalism at Samurai turns into a kind of impersonal openness at Izumi.
Smaller portion sizes may mean that your specialty roll ends up being served alongside two lonely pieces of sashimi on a few bits of chopped lettuce lost on a platter, rather than dressed and presented on a canvas for the eyes as much as the taste buds.
Service suffers a little in the shuffle as dishes come and go. Our first order ended up on someone else’s table. Service is very friendly but seems a little rushed, not because the servers aren’t attentive, but because the all-you-can-eat format simply means they are busier. The menu warns of surcharges for waste and warnings about sharing with your off-the-menu friends. This all makes sense in this format, but it feels a little odd in the gracious world of Japanese dining.
This is not to say that dining at Izumi isn’t a great experience. But this kind of delivery may take time for old-school aficionados of the gentle world of paper lanterns and intimate minimalism. It was this that set sushi bars apart from the world of bigness that is so much a part of American dining. But perhaps this old school is what Samurai is for.
Eric Daeuber is an instructor at Minnesota State Community and Technical College. Readers can reach him at food@daeuber.com .

Izumi Sushi & Hibachi

ADDRESS: 5675 26th Ave. S., Fargo
CUISINE: Japanese
FOOD: 3 stars
SERVICE: 2¹⁄₂ stars
AMBIANCE: 2¹⁄₂ stars
DINING DETAILS
HOURS: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday
PHONE: (701) 356-8556
ALCOHOL: Beer and wine
CREDIT CARDS ACCEPTED: Yes
RESERVATIONS ACCEPTED: Yes

 

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Pictured is the sushi bar at Izumi, where food is made-to-order. Eric Daeuber / Special to The Forum

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