We have all heard the expression “hole in the wall”, as it refers to great restaurants. Often times this is where the best food are found. In true Japanese style, Sushi En is one of those places.
I refer to my time living in Japan. These were my tender years of eating adventurously. As a young enlisted Navy sailor, there wasn’t a real desire to eat in big fancy restaurants nor did the situation presented itself. It was walking across the street from Yokosuka and Sasebo Navy Base and eating in the small side street restaurants. Most of these places were doorways. I remembered color of doors more than names, since the names were in Kanji characters (Japanese writings). The term “hole in the wall” brings real meaning to me as these were the places that really delivered the heart and soul of Japanese cuisine. My adopted Japanese grandma, Mama San, took me through the maze of alleys and doorways ducking behind cloth screens squeezing behind tiny counter tops for the very best Japanese cuisine. Sushi En could have easily been one of these doorways.
This tiny doorway is tucked next to a Texaco Gas Station and a Mobile Express Oil Change place, along South John Young Parkway at the Town Center Blvd intersection. The interior is a squeeze. There are a few chairs at the sushi bar, a couple of low tables along a banquet and some high tables towards the back hallway towards the bathroom. The walls are adorned in an appetizing red color with huge wall art. The floor is a dark rough texture that adds to calm the calm Zen like feel.
The menu is traditional Japanese cuisine with cooked food from the kitchen and sushi selections from the sushi bar. Sake and a complimenting small selection of wines together with saketinis selections round out the drink menu. There are display boards behind the sushi bar that carries new menu items of rolls, specials, and drinks. We were there for lunch hence a lunch menu. I am thrilled to see that a small limited lunch menu was presented. There were a few choices of rolls, a few sushi combinations, a couple of kitchen choices with several side choices. The menu itself was narrowed for a quick in and out lunch. Of course, there is the proverbial sushi list, with unlimited choices and an all day menu available.
Miso Soup was a good balance of saltiness. The tender broth with pieces of silky tofu and seaweed was a nice palate opener. Green Tea was served and brewed in this pot. Good strong tea with clean green tea flavor.
Aji or Horse Mackerel Sashimi – juicy, oily, fatty, fresh sliver of raw fish. One of the few places that carry this fish.
Sashimi Lunch – White rice included, Choice of Miso Soup or Lunch Side Salad. 12 pieces Sashimi: 3 pieces Tuna, 3 Salmon, 2 Tialpia, 1 Escolar, 1 Conch. Tender, fresh slivers of raw fish, all at the same temperature with various tiny textural differences. Not a hint of fishiness. True freshness.
En Lunch Combination – With Miso Soup, White Rice, 2 Shrimp Shu mai, Salmon with Teriyaki Sauce, Lunch Side Salad, Calamari Salad, and Japanese Egg Omelet. This is a variance of the classic Japanese Bento box. It is nice to see the choices available, far too often we are boxed in to only a very limited choice. Calamari Salad is a treat. Salmon was tender and flaky with thick sweet teriyaki sauce. Egg omelet was dense and flavorful. Ginger dressing on salad was thick and balanced.
Sushi EN Special Roll – Tuna, yellow tail, salmon, cucumber, avocado, with smelt roe & green onion on top. I am delighted that with three different types of fish in there that the amount of fish given is not compromised. Some restaurants will reduce the size of cuts to make a smaller roll. I prefer this giant size. Some may say that there is too much rice there, I prefer to let the chef make that call. They know intricately more than I , what amount of rice is needed to make which rolls.
A quick glance at Sushi En’s website will reveal that you can custom tailor your rice amount and type. Brown rice is an option. The restaurant had taken the time to make blog post about nutrition and new releases. It is nice to see that there is more to this little place than just food. The feel is very cordial and respectful. The food is great. The ambiance is neighborly yet sophisticated. A real hole in the wall.