Word of Mouth: Koi Koi Sushi & Roll

From Kliman Online’s “Word of Mouth”

From time to time, I hear the complaint (never from foodies, always from the foodie-suspicious) that sushi isn’t terribly filling—a variation, I guess, on the an-hour-later-you’re-hungry-again joke that people used to make about Chinese restaurants in the ‘70s. The difference is, these people aren’t joking. I have never quite understood the gripe, since, with an a la carte cuisine such as sushi, you simply have to order more rolls (or more nigiri, or more sashimi). But there’s no point in arguing with these underfed (or over-hungry) souls. Instead, from now on, I will just point them toward the new Koi Koi Sushi & Roll.  

Ordinarily, with even a large order, my wife and I exit a sushi bar with a feeling of lightness—a meal of raw fish a welcome antidote to the accumulated riches of too many restaurant meals. Koi Koi left us waddling.  

Rolls, not nigiri, are the thing here—the picture-book menu advertises 43 varieties, from fresh fish rolls to baked rolls to tempura-filled rolls, a number of them bearing the kind of kitschy names you expect to find at bars where girls go to go wild (“Sex on the Beach,” “Oh Baby”). Many of the fillings, predictably, are designed to maximize heft— there’s lots of cream cheese, mayo, and fry—and the kitchen is prone to supersizing, turning what ought to be maki into something closer to futomaki and doling out eight pieces instead of the standard six.  

How are they? Better than you’d think. It helps that the sushi chefs fry to a dark crispness, and that the combinations are generally smart, even if the quality of the fish isn’t superlative and the rice is under-vinegared. It also helps if you don’t cop a purist’s attitude. Not when one of the best things on the rolls menu is the Dynamite Scallop Roll, a circular arrangement of California rolls hidden beneath a thick top layer of baked scallop, onion and mushroom. To say that, at first glance, it resembles crab imperial more than sushi is being charitable; when it hits the table, it  looks inedible, the kind of dish you turn from instinctively.  

I’ll say this for the kitchen: It’s tasty. Although five pieces in, my wife and I had given up, our stomachs groaning. All that mayo. All that richness. No mas.

-May 27, 2008