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Apr 2, 2003 11:40 PM

Sushi By Kazu in New Jersey, and why Zagat sucks.

  • r

Warning: This is a scathing review and I rant quite a bit.

Sushi By Kazu, a restaurant in Central NJ, is yet another case where the mighty Zagat proves totally unreliable. This restaurant received a 28 in food -- basically meaning that I should have had a near perfect meal there.

My friend and I drove about an hour and a half on a "pilgrimage" of sorts to check out this place. In hindsight, it was one of the biggest dining mistakes of my life!

Everything about the sushi was horrible! What follows is a description of the meal i had.

We entered the place to see basically a mob of people. The wait was still relatively reasonable at 15 minutes. There wasn't much to the setting, looked like your standard dive of a sushi bar. There were probably about a dozen seats at the sushi bar, and about 8 tables along the walls. We were given menus and proceeded to make our selections.

Having never been to this place, I simply wanted to order a variety of sushi. This was best accomplished through getting the 12 piece sushi special platter - the most expensive thing on the menu. I normally get omakase or chef's choice at places i know better. In hindsight, I do not believe that this place had anything resembling an omakase - no one in the place had unusual items on their plate from what i could tell.

Anyways, about 20 minutes later, we received our sushi. The platter i received contained all the usual suspects - tuna, salmon, eel, whitefish, mackerel, cooked shrimp, squid etc. Nothing remotely exotic. The freshness of the fish was sub-par, with a number of items being slimy, fishy, or chewy -- and no where near the quality of even the average sushi joint.

Okay, so that's fine - maybe for whatever reason, my friend and I came on the wrong day and the fish was terrible for whatever reason (I somehow thing that this is how it is regularly though). This still doesn't excuse the rice.

The rice was absolutely horrible. A total disaster. One of the keys to good sushi is having perfectly seasoned rice that is well proportioned, well compacted (not too loose or too tight) and in balance with the fish. The sushi rice we had was in these huge globules of tightly compressed (like a solid mass of rice, where individual grains were lost) rice that was underseasoned. Additionally, the sushi chef had a very heavy hand in the wasabi, and even if i had wanted to taste the fish, i wouldn't have been able to.

So in summary, the fish lacked freshness and variety. The rice lacked proper consistency, proportion, and balance with the fish.

Which brings me back to Zagat. In my humble opinion, a 28 should be reserved for only the best sushi joints - i.e. karuma zushi, sushi yasuda, sushi of gari, etc. It should be a near perfect meal.

Even if rated by sushi novices, i'm not sure how this place could be considered a near perfect meal. The wasabi alone i'd think would be enough to turn away at least half the customers (we all know people who can't handle that wasabi).

On it's best day, Sushi By Kazu deserves a 15. Yet more proof why Zagat Sucks. If i am missing something about this restaurant, please let me know. I simply don't get it.


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  1. I recommend Nikko on Route 10 East in Whippany, NJ next time. Excellent sushi. You won't be disappointed.
    (973) 428-0787.

    6 Replies
    1. re: Jim

      jim -

      thanks for reply.

      did you ever try that sushi by kazu place? i'm wondering if it was just me who thinks it's horrible.... i highly doubt it though. something interesting to note is that the sushi chef seemed to know many of the patrons in the restaurant - which may be why it was rated so highly... i don't know.

      as far as nikko - i've been there before. it's actually pretty close to my house. and it is substantially better than sushi by kazu. not even close. it's not cheap though. i'm at the point where i'd rather not go as frequently and when i do go for sushi, just go into city to eat at sushi yasuda or sushi of gari.

      i'm kind of fed up with the regular stuff. however, if i do have a craving and want a relatively inexpensive sushi meal, i go to Yoshi Sono in west orange. I think that the sushi is tasty, reasonably fresh, decent variety, and cheap.


      1. re: Rob B

        Never tried that Kazu Place.

        Thanks for the tip on Yoshi Sono though. It's only 5 minutes from my office.

        I usually go to Ichiban in West Caldwell. They have a nice lunch sushi special that includes miso soup and salad. Reasonable prices also. It's at the CVS shopping center at the Passaic Ave/Bloomfield Ave. section.


        1. re: Jim

          Jim -

          Ichiban is good. I've actually been there a number of times. The owner and sushi chefs there are always very friendly there, and your right, the lunch deal is a good one. Thanks for tip though.


        2. re: Rob B

          I agree with you Rob....we went there about a year ago and swore we would never go back. What a ripoff!

          1. re: JerzeyShore

            I had an equally disappointing experience as well.. didn't understand what all the hype was about. It wasn't bad.. just ordinary.. actually less than ordinary.

        3. re: Jim

          Yes, you will have an enjoyable meal at Nikko, I have enjoyed several meals there, the spicy tuna is especially good.

        4. I am a New Jersey foodie. I LOVE Sushi! Here are my picks in NJ.

          Best Overall Sushi/Sashimi - Kyoto Rt 9 Engishtown NJ - Since 1989
          Best Creative Menu - Flirt Sushi - Allendale NJ
          Best Places For Sushi Central NJ
          (In no particular order for creative rolls and yummy sushi always)
          Kyoto Rt 36 - Atlantic Highlands
          Fuji - Dayton NJ
          Midori Sushi - Highland Park NJ
          Shogun Legends - Wall NJ (Salmon Edamame Dumpling - Great)
          Aki Sushi - Port Monmouth NJ
          Mitsuba - Chatham NJ
          Mr Pi - Edison NJ
          Akira - Mt Laurel NJ
          Konbu - Manalapan NJ
          Monster Sushi - Summit NJ
          Nagasaki - Lakewood NJ
          Naka Sushi - Manalapan NJ
          Oyako Tso - Freehold NJ
          Samuri Sushi - Maplewood NJ (The Most Beautiful Sushi Roll - Snowflower)
          Wasabi House - East Brunswick NJ
          Ajihei - Princeton NJ

          3 Replies
          1. re: shabbystorm

            I had one meal at Nagasaki in lakewood NJ and I have never been so disapointed by sushi in my life. I would suggest that anyone who enjoys this kind of service and quality of food would probably be pleasently surprised by the quality of food at shoprite and could save themselves some money.

            Nagasaki Sushi & Hibachi Steakhouse
            6950 US Highway 9, Howell, NJ 07731

            1. re: shabbystorm

              shabbystorm- is kyoto that hibachi place next to That's Amore? I would never imagine the sushi would be good there...

              1. re: njchowgal

                I went there once for lunch about a year ago and I wasn't impressed at all. Too bad since it's really close to my house.

            2. I just ate at Jo Sho in Somerset. What a wonderful surprise. This is a GREAT traditional Sushi restaurant that has been in business for 20 years.

              I enjoyed the Burdock Root Tempura - Salmon and Kanpachi

              This definitely is a favorite in Central NJ

              1 Reply
              1. re: shabbystorm

                Josho is probably one of the best authentic sushi restaurant in Bridgewater/New Brunswick area. Shumi in Somerville, NJ was another favorite where I used to go for omakase dinner at a counter with my Japanese co-worker, but I haven't been there since I left the company. It seems to get good reviews on Yelp, though.

                You can't expect the same quality of food at sushi restaurants in this area. I trust reviews written by ordinary foodies at sites like here since food critics tend to judge based on special treatments they get when they're recognized by a chef or owner.

                Shumi Restaurant
                30 S. Doughty Ave., Somerville, NJ 08876

              2. I live in Westchester and don't know this restaurant but I totally agree about Zagat's. It is unreliable. We have the same problems in the Westchester issue and restaurants are not rated fairly. Perhaps it is because the reviewing is open to anyone and food is rated more by popularity of a restaurant than by quality.

                4 Replies
                1. re: wincountrygirl

                  Zagat claims to be a "reader's servey" but there is no doubt in my mind that it is corrupt. The scores on the survey are from 0 to 3 and in the published result is from 3 to 28. Huh??? Besides, Zagat does it's editing by omission, some popular restaurants just NEVER get listed for unknown reasons. Then there's the meaningless decals in restaurant windows "rated by Zagat". I know of several that got awful ratings and proudly display this decal.

                  1. re: menton1

                    it the published results were listed as 0-3, you would have an awful lot of decimal places in the ratings. not preferable.

                  2. re: wincountrygirl

                    The issue is the relative nature of the Zagat ratings. Generally, sushi in NJ is lousy, when compared to places like LA, SF, and even NYC. But if all you've ever eaten is NJ sushi and you're being asked to review the state's sushi restaurants, you'll undoubtedly put some mediocre places on top of your list because, well, somebody has to be on top and somebody has to be on the bottom. Therefore, Zagat doesn't evaluate against objective standards (assuming there actually is an objective standard in food). The problem the OP encountered with this sushi restaurant is one I've encountered in NJ when it comes to Mexican food, too. And I used to encounter it on a micro-level in California, where the folks in Orange County were forever ranking chain restaurants too high and not even reviewing wonderful ethnic restaurants. I'm sure it happens in a lot of other places, too. Zagat can be useful for many things, but understanding it's creation and biases helps tremendously.

                    1. re: glutton

                      Old thread, interesing discussion. Zagat's ratings through averages is almost guaranteed to elevate the average - reminds me of when the Asbury Park Press "Best of" lists come out. The Mexican winner is the place that uses the most cheese and the least spice.

                      To me, it is what makes this site useful. If someone submits explanation with their conclusion, I can use it to determine how I might view a place. I am more likely to accept the review of someone who raves about the sashimi or giant clam special than I am the review of someone who didn't think the Philadelphia Roll had enough cream cheese.

                  3. It's now 2010.... I've been to Kazu multiple times over the past few years. I enjoyed the meal each and every time.

                    I also think Jo Shu in Somerset was awesome, we don't head over as often since the DW doesn't work around that corner anymore.

                    The place in Princeton, in the basement Aheji (sp?) was also great, haven't been that way in a few years though.

                    Hit Koto in Jackson a couple weeks ago, really enjoyed the meal, not crazy about the location.

                    Made it to Kanji in Tinton Falls a week ago for lunch, it was spectacular and we plan to go back.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: BigBlue120

                      What are your lunch recommendations at Kanji? I usually stick to the standard stuff, which is excellent of course, but often consider branching out.

                      1. re: cantkick

                        Past few times I've gotten the hand rolls, wife loved the abalone dish. The oyster appetizer was great, as have the 'traditional' dumpling, gyoza, beef negamaki apps. I'm pretty regular in my ordering... hand rolls of eel/avacado, yellowtail/scallion and salmon skin. All excellent.

                        1. re: BigBlue120

                          Sushi by Kazu is my favorite also, even before he opened his own restaurant when he worked at Kobe in Lakewood on rt 9 many years ago... ....
                          glad you enjoyed it!!