Restaurant review: Sushi made simple
101 Sushi Bar
4480 23rd Ave. S.
- Food: three stars
- Service: two and a half stars
- Ambiance: two stars
- Hours: Weekday dinner: 4:30 to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 4:30-10:30 p.m. Friday; weekday lunch: 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday; weekend hours: 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Saturday; noon to 9 p.m. Sunday
- Phone: (701) 893-1010
- Reservations accepted: Yes
- Alcohol: Beer and wine
- Dress: As you like
- Credit cards accepted: Visa, MasterCard, Discover, American Express
The 101 Sushi Bar is aptly named because the menu, and the owners, seems to be trying to gently introduce people to a cuisine that swims against the familiar current of Midwestern meat and potatoes.
We live in the land of pot roast, gravy on turkey and white bread and deep-fried steak. The grill is a nearly sacred place, and cooking our fish is a social responsibility.
To battle the myth of "raw" fish, this Fargo restaurant has labeled dishes with raw fish clearly on the menu and has included a good variety of fully cooked rolls.
The restaurant's chef knows his stuff and is happy to explain it to you. And his partner will dote on you and make sure you get eased into the experience gradually.
Two menu items worth considering are the traditional Fatty Salmon Skin Roll ($4.95) and the Amazing Roll ($12.95), which, if not amazing, still does pretty remarkable things with tempura shrimp and smoked salmon. The vinegar rice is on the mild side.
A few of the creative additions to the menu cater, at least in name, to Midwestern tastes. The Sushi Pizza ($15.95) is a deep-fried ball of rice flattened and then layered with traditional ingredients - in my case, tuna, avocado, cucumber and the flying fish roe known as Tobiko.
The fish is fresh, the rice complements the other ingredients you can choose from, and the crunch is welcome. But it may be a bit too much. The crunch is satisfying, but it's nearly impossible to eat because, well, there's no real crust.
The same goes for the attractively presented Sushi Sandwich ($13.95). Consider it a club sandwich with rice and seaweed in the place of bread. Tuna, salmon, shrimp and red snapper make the rest of the layers. It's truly an appealing medley if you can get it to your mouth. But rice and seaweed just can't keep it together like toast and a toothpick.
Dishes like these two are imaginative versions of traditional sushi, but they are also solutions to imaginary problems. They're predictably good and much easier to eat, but you might be better off ordering individual pieces that make up the same parts.
Perhaps Sushi 101 should exercise the "101" concepts of introductory sushi to its servers. For a cuisine in which delivery is important, the waitstaff doesn't seem to understand the menu and certainly doesn't appear to have an interest for something that only passion can really sell to the sushi novice.
The restaurant's ambiance is acceptable, and little touches like very nice porcelain add to the dining experience. But the menu prices are not particularly low, and the bill you end up with doesn't entirely match the ambiance.
Sushi is an extraordinary food and, in its traditional form, can be well made and adapted to our prairie tastes at Sushi 101. Perhaps with maturity, the restaurant's service and atmosphere will match what is clearly a sensitive attempt to bring another sushi option to Fargo.
Eric Daeuber is an instructor at Minnesota State Community and Technical College. Readers can reach him at email@example.com