Saturday, June 6, 2009

Me Likes Sushi Mike’s

Only a short walk from everyone’s favorite new restaurant (myself included) The Cookery, in the quaint riverside town of Dobbs Ferry, is what is regarded by many to be Westchester’s best and freshest sushi, Sushi Mike’s.

Sushi Mike’s has a casual, quirky vibe. It’s somewhat the antithesis of White Plains’ Sushi Nanase, where the chef/owner, whose past stints include Nobu and Masa, may or may not serve you the best omakase meal of your life, depending on how respectful you are to him, his food, and his tiny but authentic sushi house.

No, here at Sushi Mike’s, there’s nothing reverent or serious about the setting. Michael Buble cheerfully sings (and skips occasionally) from the speakers, the sushi chefs greet you from behind the counter with smiles, and walls are a soft turquoise, as if you are under the sea, with murals of saltwater fish, sharks, and even a deep-sea diver doing his own underwater painting, to, er, add to authenticity.

Here’s a look at Hawaii’s state fish, the Triggerfish, in the aquarium by the door (luckily, he’s not on the menu):
Sushi Mike’s menu is extensive, mostly showcasing raw items, but also featuring udon and soba, teriyaki and yakitori dishes, and plenty of cooked or vegetarian rolls, for those who may not want raw fish.

Soba is probably one of my favorite comfort foods of all time, yet I had heard and read from reliable sources that what Sushi Mike’s excels at is—the sushi! On the day of our visit, my guest and I decided on one of their many specialty rolls, as well as a few additional items.

Here’s the Out of this World Roll ($12.95):
Isn’t that gorgeous? Inside, you’ve got cooked snow crab and spicy tuna with tempura crumbs, and on top, avocado and cooked shrimp. The tempura crumbs melded to the spicy tuna to give the interior an interesting crispy and creamy texture.

We also ordered a Spicy Tuna Roll ($5) and some items a la carte:
The spicy tuna is in the back, and in front, from left to right, you’ve got: Tuna (Maguro) sushi ($2.50), Yellow Tail (Hamachi) sushi ($2.50), Fatty Tuna (Toro) sushi (market price – it was $7 on the day of our visit), Sea Urchin (Uni) sushi ($4), and Salmon Roe (Ikura) sushi ($3).

This was a real treat. Spicy tuna is one of my favorite rolls. Many “traditional” sushi houses will not serve it, saying that the spicy sauce (hot chili sauce, chili oil and a touch of mayonnaise) just disguises the freshness of the tuna. But then again, most specialty rolls popping up in sushi houses across the U.S. aren’t very purist, either, are they? I say, whatever tastes good. The tuna here was very good. It had a slight kick, but also tasted as if there might’ve been a touch of sesame oil—a nice addition.

As for my ala carte items, the sushi rice was suitably sticky and vinegary. The fish were well cut, not too thick, and very, very fresh. Sushi etiquette (arguably) says not to dip your sushi (it’s ok for sashimi) into your wasabi and soy sauce bowl, as the chefs have already dabbed a small portion of wasabi between your fish and rice, however, I couldn’t really taste much wasabi in my sushi. This didn’t bother me at all, as I think the chefs at Sushi Mike’s are smartly trying to appeal to a wide clientele, some who might not prefer wasabi in their sushi. So, as long as no one was offended that I dipped my sushi into my soy sauce and wasabi, I certainly didn’t mind dipping it.

As for that third item in front, the fatty tuna, or toro, at $7, it’s a little steep for one piece of sushi, but it is the most prized and delicious fish I have sampled, and it was a real treat to have it that night. It is the belly area of tuna, and the fattiest portion of the fish. It is so fatty that it falls apart and literally melts in your mouth. Like butter.

The salmon roe had a crisp, salty pop to it, and the uni (best eaten in fall and winter), was soft but not too creamy, with a slightly sweet taste (I’m trying to find a place in Westchester that’ll serve uni in the urchin—1.) it’s supposedly the freshest and 2.) it looks cool! …anyone know of a place?)

I wish we could’ve sampled more, but I think we ordered just enough for two people, and we’ll certainly be back. The freshness was certainly top notch, as was the wide variety. Prices were also extremely reasonable. However, in terms of best sushi in Westchester? Sushi Nanase still holds that honor, fickle sushi chef and all. I hope to visit soon and provide a detailed report.

One word of caution: because we had an early dinner, we had no trouble sneaking in without a reservation; however, the place is small and fills up quickly. Best to call first.

Sushi Mike’s
146 Main St
Dobbs Ferry, NY 10522
(914) 591-0054

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