All-you-can eat specials, enticing dishes draw enthusiasts to Sushi Cafe

May 03, 1991|By Lynn Williams | Lynn Williams,Sun Restaurant Critic

Sushi Cafe

Where: 1640 Thames St.

Hours: Open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sundays to Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

Credit Cards: No credit cards accepted.

Features: Sushi.

No smoking section: No.

Call: 732-3570.

*** Timing is everything. At least where sushi is concerned. And I'm not just talking about buying only the freshest fish, and cooking the rice to the perfect degree of stickiness.

Our timing was perfect when we -- a party of two women -- set out for Fells Point's Sushi Cafe in search of new raw-fish feeding grounds. As it happened, Tuesday nights (through May, at least) are "Ladies Nights," when sushi-lovers of the female persuasion can eat their fill for $19.95. While this may sound like a tidy sum to many, people who eat sushi regularly know that these little morsels can mount up to a heart-stopping tab in no time. For women of healthy appetites, this is a very good deal. It's also liberating to be able to order whatever whim dictates.

(Men get their turn on Mondays, although the charge is $39.95 for the guys.)

The Sushi Cafe is just a five-table hole-in-the-wall, really -- albeit a fresh, cute one, with colorful happi coats and neon on the walls, Japanese snack foods at the counter, a pony-tailed sushi chef and an English-accented waiter. But the sushi menu is more extensive than at many larger restaurants. There's a substantial variety of vegetable rolls, cooked and raw fish, and an assortment of special maki with names like "3-D roll" and "nasty roll." Even the regular sushi come in five different forms: regular, roll, hand roll and inside-outs (rice on the outside) rolled in either sesame seeds or flying fish roe.

The chef, Gin Nakagawa, clearly knows his stuff, and positively struts it in his rolls. Three of them wowed us: the "many fish roll" (cucumber and flying fish roe wrapped in rice layered with thin sheets of salmon, yellowtail and tuna), which was as gorgeously jewel-like as it was delicious; the "3-D roll," essentially those same ingredients inside-out, and a smoked salmon and cream cheese roll. So what if those ingredients traditionally belong on a bagel instead of wrapped in rice?

We must not have a taste for danger, though -- the "danger roll" (tuna and spicy sauce) had us breathing fire. And another roll, made with a salted plum paste called ume, was too intense for more than a bite or two. But the nice thing about the all-you-can-eat format is the chance to try the more outre offerings.

Sushi are available a la carte, of course, as well as in a variety of mix-and-match formats. There's also a sushi club where, for a yearly fee, you can enjoy a substantial discount on each feast.

Mavens who opt to go the pig-out route should remember,

though, that the management won't let you take your leftovers home -- even if you assure them that your cat really loves fresh tuna.

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