rank the boxed sushi choices
The Famima post below gave me the idea -- let's compile a list of the best and worst boxed sushi. That is, not a to-go order from a real sushi restaurant, only from a market, deli, etc.
My list so far:
Fish King -- great spicy tuna roll, huge, only $6
Bristol Farms -- good selection, half rolls and sashimi available
Trader Joe's - inedible, gluey
What about Santa Monica Seafood? They have some boxed sushi in the refrigerator case, but I have never tried it.
I have eaten A LOT of Gelsons sushi over the years, mostly spicy tuna in its various forms - plain w/white rice in cut and hand rolls, brown rice cut rolls w/avocado, bowl. Haven't tried too much other than spicy tuna. But I think the spicy tuna is generally fine, although you have to check the dates. Never had any ill effects.
Bristol Farms is also good for sure. And I like Nijiya market sushi (Sawtelle) as well.
I love Fish King. It is BY FAR the best! In fact, if you call ahead, you can order fresh filets of your choice cut into sashimi. Just take it home, make your own rice, etc and you will have your fill of solid, restaurant quality sushi for a fraction of the price. The tuna is a little tasteless and can be fishy, but the yellowtail, salmon, and albacore are all good. If you call ahead, they can even source low volume, exotic fish when they replenish their own supplies (i'm pretty sure daily). We do this with the mirugai (giant clam).
1. Fish King
5. Other chain markets (i.e. Ralph's, Vons, Albertson's, etc..)
Not from your list, but I've found the boxed sushi from Nijiya to be really great quality.
17869 Colima Rd
City Of Industry
Their futomaki rolls are very big and generous, and the tempura shrimp rolls are very good quality as well.
They have other locations, but I have only tried the ones from the Rowland (Industry) store.
2130 Sawtelle Blvd Ste 105
2121 W 182nd St
124 Japanese Village Plaza Mall
Bristol Farms for sure. You know you are getting quality fish with an upscale market, and the selections are good- love the spicy salmon and the spicy bowls- with or without rice. Plus, their seaweed is good, and I agree on the squid salad. And where else do they think ahead and provide you with extra masago!?!?!
I've never been to Fish King so I can't say, however I do like the ones at Mitsuwa. I'd say
1) Bristol Farms- love the sashimi option.
2) (tie) Mitsuwa and Marukai
3) Whole foods is so-so but good lord, what is up with brown rice rolls? Whoever invented that should be.....ok, no violence on the Chowhound boards.
Trader Joes- oh, how can they make such beautifully tasty treats like the Asian Noodle Salad, Eggplant Hummus and buttery madelines and screw up the boxed sushi as badly as they do? Say it ain't so...but unfortunately, it is. Stay far far away from these little imitators.
Definately Bristol Farms. I like the squid salad they have there too. And ditto about the sashimi option.
Gelsons is real similar.
The brown rice stuff at Whole Foods is dreck, but their white rice stuff is OK, but not as good as Bristol Farms. And stay away from Ralphs and Vons.
I agree with Mitsuwa for best boxed sushi -- and Wild Oats also has surprisingly fresh and good-tasting ones too.
also ditto on Trader Joe's being sub-par -- I had a chuckle over their variety pack (vegetable roll, plus 3 varieties of California Roll [regular, low-fat, spicy] ALL made with surimi and NO avocado)
Best - Ranch 99 Market (get there when they open at 9, but don't buy any of the sushi trays after 11 a.m.)
Acceptable - Pavilions (but only with stores who have a psuedo "sushi chefs" preparing the boxes)
Worst - Vons, Ralphs (their sushi would probably survive a nuclear fall-out)
As I've mentioned in my other posts, I have a pretty tough tummy, but I got violently ill from boxed sushi on your list... so I tend to stay away from it...
But that being said, I've been really surprised at the quality of Mitsuwas... My favorite is their Spicy Crab Roll with REAL Crab... Yummmm!! :)
But for cheap Sushi, I think I'll stick to the CSA students! :) They do mean handrolls too (For ~3 Bucks!)
Mmm, spicy crab roll sounds good!
Well, you never know what you're going to get sick from. I've never gotten sick from boxed sushi; gotten a mild upset from a very reputable sushi bar; and gotten violently, horribly ill from a very reputable non-sushi restaurant where I think I had a cobb salad. If only you could tell in advance...
Yup, me too, I have bad memories associated with sushi from Gelsons and Whole Foods, and a couple of weeks ago I bought some tamago (my son's favorite lunchbox food) at Bristol Farms and (though it theoretically should last for days) it started growing fuzz within a day; luckily PoPJr noticed a bad taste and didn't eat the slices I'd sent along in his lunchbox in the interim. SO you really have to be careful with this stuff, no matter how tony the source--check dates, look carefully at the packaging, make sure it's been kept cold, etc.
Having said that, I've never had a problem with sushi from Nijiya or Mitsuwa. This isn't great stuff but it will do--when I worked on Sawtelle I got lunch from Nijiya all the time. Nijiya's selection has gotten broader recently, with the addition of a number of dim sum items like bbq pork bao and shiu mai and (another PoPJr. fave) har gow. Nijiya also intermittently will have interesting looking things on the shelf like a "diamond plate" (salmon eggs with very small pieces of tamago, cucumber and tuna over rice), battera sushi Osaka style, etc. Other days it will just be boring.
And despite my recent bad adventure I do agree that the squid salad from Bristol is tasty.