Three of us had dinner at Zento tonight, our newest sushi joint in Old City (that is, if the spot on the 100 block of Market hasn't opened yet). Our overall impression was, we are very lucky to have such great sushi less than a block away from where I live. My friend from DC kept saying, "Wow."
We had apps of fried calamari with spicy sauce and seared scallops--tasty, though not really an indication of what was to come (the scallops were on the tough side, though the asparagus they came with was very nice.)
As for the sushi, from what I remember, we ordered: Tuna square roll, Center City roll, dragon roll, lobster roll, soft shell crab roll, crunchy spicy tuna roll, yellowtail, unagi, octopus, squid, and flying fish roe. The only two I was not totally thrilled with were the yellowtail (not as tender and flavorful as I would expect, though we were advised later of the baby yellowtail), and the flying fish roe (not assembled well). The tuna square roll was simply beautiful just on aesthetics alone. In fact, all of the rolls were very well crafted. The ingredients were so balanced that each fishes' flavor was apparent and created a lovely sort of harmony. I found myself forgoing the soy sauce and wasabi paste--I thought they'd just get in the way. One remark about the squid--I liked how it was presented over the rice as a sort of fibrous/lacy tangle.
It was not as expensive as I thought it would be--we just ordered willy-nilly, so I was left to wonder about the final outcome. But without tip, the bill came to about $125 for three (it's BYO, so no alcohol included).
Edit: I forgot to mention the service, which deserves a note. It felt very personalized, and well-timed, especially for how busy they were. The third in our party was running late, and two of us ordered extras to eat and to go--all handled very courteously.
We were there last week pre-Arden. They had no problem getting us out in time for the theater. We ordered the sushi combo and the yosenabe (it was a cold night) and told the waitress we were sharing both. The yosenabe was outstanding, with a variety of very fresh fish, oyster mushroom (the real kind), and many other veggies. The sushi was presented in pairs (since we were sharing) and did not duplicate anything that was in the yosenabe. I had the feeling that the selection was dictated by what else the table was ordering, which is amazingly thoughtful. It was a weeknight, and the place was not crowded until we were leaving. Another stunning revelation - the wasabi was not paste, it was freshly grated.
And they deliver!
re: Susan H
Glad you both enjoyed Zento. It is a nice place and so much better than Haru or Anjou. I really hate to do this but the new place that opened, UZU, on 104 Market, is awesome. Probably my favorite place for sushi in the city with the exception of Teikoku out in Newtown Square. The sushi is simply excellent and they don't skimp you on rolls or fish. I have been twice with the second time being a much more personal experience because it was late. The sushi chef is huge Philly sports fan, so it was fun to chat with him and the owner about basketball while they made our order. That's all I'll say. Place is too good to be a secret. WARNING! Uzu is very, very small! There are only 16 seats in the place, mostly 2 seat tables, with four seats at the sushi bar. Don't let the size fool you. It's also BYO in case you are wondering.
I love sushi and could eat it for breakfast, but I am in no way an expert, so please take this as only an opinion.
Zento's sushi/ingredients are fresh, the presentation is nice, and they have more options on their menu for non sushi eaters (plus a few different salads.) They are also more expensive. I felt the rolls/sashimi were somewhat on the small side. I also felt the calamari salad was a little weak (good, but small in comparison to other sushi spots I go to) for the price. I have eaten here a few times and it is a nice place, but I haven't been blown away.
I was at Uzu on Weds night and sat at the sushi bar. They had just received their fish order. The scallops were so fresh they would close when you touched the glass. The itamae (sushi chef) is very friendly/personable and recommended I try the otoro (fattest tuna), clams (not a fan) and the Uni (sea urchin). They served us a complimentary appetizer to try some of the other dishes they prepare (a salty-lemon flounder, a crab, seaweed dish, etc) I ordered live sea scallops (if you ever had fresh scallops, they melt in your mouth like a sweet butter), a generous piece of otoro, and a few rolls. My wife and a buddy joined me (who ordered more than me). The meal was excellent and the server gave us chilled chunks of pineapple for dessert (on the house). My bill was $75 before tip (which for good sushi is amazing.) Went for ice cream at the Franklin Fountain afterwards. I cannot say enough good things about this place. Please try it and let me know for yourselves (I feel like an Uzu cheerleader). Like I have said previously, it is very small. If you go during prime time hours, you probably will not get a seat (most folks who came in Weds said they had reservations). The owner told me as the weather gets warmer they will add seats outside. Hope this helps.