Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Oishi Sushi and Grill: Hope in Irvington

I hadn't lived in Indiana very long before I became used to restaurants in strip malls, or in this case, an old Ponderosa. But inside it's a different story.

Sushi lovers agree this town doesn't have any really, really exciting sushi options right now, so when a possibility comes along, they all start buzzing. After the fourth person had raved about Oishi and asked me if I'd been, it was time to check it out. Plus, pal and blog editor Bil Browning of The Bilerico Project and his amazing family love it. They wanted to show me their new favorite spot.

In Indiana, we've all become too used to lazy sushi. Sure, the fish might be fresh (there's just no excuse if it's not), but restaurants shortcut the rice or use the wrong kind. They sell only tuna, salmon, eel, fake Krab, and "crunch" rolls because customers don't want -- or won't eat -- anything else. When a real sushi fan comes along, chefs are mysteriously out of anything even vaguely interesting -- snapper, mackerel, yellow tail. But not Oishi. While I wouldn't call them the single best, I'd definitely say their fish selection alone bumps them into the top tier of sushi joints in the city today. Certainly, it's well above average.

At Oishi, our sushi feast included both saba and the Japanese saba with traditional and well executed rainbow and dragon rolls. (We skipped the interesting sounding but unfortunately-named "Afghanistan Roll" described as "erupting with spicy shrimp.") Fresh was the word with not only our sushi but the cooked dishes. Potstickers were cooked correctly (steamed, then pan fried) and again, very traditional, which translates to "not super-sized." The teriyaki dishes featured tender meat on crisp vegetables and the sukiyaki was hot, sweet, and loaded with thinly sliced beef, glass noodles, bamboo, shitaki mushrooms, and the most flavorful silken tofu I've had in a long time. (It was like a delicate flan, perfect in texture, sourced from their Japanese supplier.)

Go for the tatami rooms for groups of 5 or 6 (and leave your shoes at the door). The menu is about half cooked items and half sushi/sashimi, but if you like sushi and live on the east side, you finally have an option. Service isn't perfect, but much can be forgiven for the quality. And don't forget they're open for lunch.

These days, there's a mini-Renaissance happening in Irvington when it comes to restaurants including Jockamo's Pizza and Edibles of Irvington. You can add Oishi Sushi to the list. It's not blow-your-mind good, but it's good and a worthy addition to the neighborhood.
Find it just off Shadeland at 10th.


Crossed said...

Not sure what you mean by the south side reference. It is located at 10th and Shadeland witch is in the Irvington / Warren Park area. But good review nonthe less.

Jen said...

I too am excited by all of the great things happening in Irvington. However, Irvington is not the Southside. As someone who grew up on the Southside and who now lives on the Downtown edge of the Eastside, I can tell you that Irvington (Jockamo, the Legend, the Bread Ladies and Oishi) are on the EASTSIDE!
Check your map.

braingirl said...

So sorry! I've fallen into the bad habit of thinking anything south of I70 is "south side". Corrected and duly noted.

bilerico said...

I had such a wonderful time with Renee. As much fun as it is to read her reviews, it's even better to be able to be there and try the food with her.

She's full of jokes and stories. I have a 14 year old daughter, so you know that means she currently doesn't like anyone but 16 year old boys. She absolutely fell in love with Renee, and has been bugging me already about when we're going to hang out again. Renee makes an impression - and a good one.

I think Oishi has some of the best sushi in town. Their fish is fresh and the rice is always perfect. The gyoza are always made correctly and they don't cut the corners I've seen some do.

One word of warning though: 5 people in a tatami room makes for a very warm tatami room - especially when two of the plates are still sizzling and one bowl of soup is so hot it's still cooking the meat in it. *whew*

All in all, I love Oishi Sushi to start with. But when you add in Renee, it's even better. :)