Restaurant review: Umi Sake aims to please — and succeeds

Impeccable seared scallops and impressive sushi in Cockeysville

February 24, 2011|By Rob Kasper, The Baltimore Sun

I must confess that until I visited Umi Sake, my image of sushi eaters was that they were young, svelte jet-setters.

Not here.

At Umi Sake, sushi is mainstream America. There are families with small children, plus-size people out for an evening, as well as eaters who do indeed look like members of the svelte set.

They fill this Cockeysville restaurant, a low-rise building squeezed between a gas station and a Mercedes-Benz dealership on York Road. There is a small bar and lounge, as well as two good-size dining rooms with low ceilings and white wallpaper. Waitresses in red robes scurry about. Tables are so close together you can hear the sizzle of your neighbor's seared scallops. That is a good thing.

The menu at Umi Sake is vast, swimming with sushi and sashimi options and other Asian dishes. Some are listed on a sheet that allows you to pencil in orders; others are on a separate menu. It makes for speedy — if somewhat confusing — ordering.

Our waitress quickly straightened out our party of three — reading our pencil scribbles from our paper ordering menu. For starters, she brought us a sampler sushi appetizer named Eight is Enough ($9.50) and a white fish carpaccio ($8.50).

The carpaccio arrived first, tender strips of raw, super white tuna, drizzled with a marvelous wasabi sauce that was hot but not scorching. The tuna had a fresh, almost refreshing flavor. It was quite a dish. The sushi sampler, eight expertly rolled pieces of fish and rice, was equally impressive.

Successful sushi depends on fresh, artfully sliced fish carefully wrapped with rice that is sticky, not gummy. The rice should lift rather than block the fish flavors. Umi Sake's sushi hits all those notes.

Steering away from the sea, we ordered the sesame chicken entree ($11.95), crisp pieces of white meat, slightly battered, done well. The tempura shrimp ($12.95), also was a winner. Covered though it was, the firm shrimp did not get lost amid the impressive-looking and good-tasting white tempura batter.

The dish that caused the most commotion was seared scallops ($15.95). Large, plump scallops, remarkably sweet, arrived on a sizzling metal platter. This dish had a lot of noise and a lot of flavor. Who needs plain old plates? Give me sizzling platters any day.

The service was also good; our waitress was prompt and kept the glasses of chardonnay ($7) and the cans of Sapporo beer ($7) coming. The restaurant also features a good selection of sake.

Dessert is a quandary for me at sushi spots, but a serving of tempura ice cream ($5.95), vanilla ice cream covered in sweet tempura batter, was satisfying.

If you want sushi, sashimi and Asian dishes that aim to please — and succeed — Umi Sake is just the spot.

Umi Sake

Where: 9726 York Road, Cockeysville

Contact: 410-667-6585,

Open: 11a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 11 a.m.- 11 p.m. Friday-Saturday; 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday

Credit Cards: All major

Appetizers: $3.25-$9.50

Entrees: $10.95- $24.95

Food: ✭✭✭

Service: ✭✭✭

Atmosphere: ✭✭1/2

[Outstanding: ✭✭✭✭ Good: ✭✭✭ Fair or uneven: ✭✭ Poor: ✭]

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