Shumi in Somerville
Went there last week for the first time last week for a special occasion based upon glowing recommendations from this board. I enjoyed the food, and found the decor to be fine and warm. Service was also nice. That being said I did not find it to be special jewel so many have proclaimed it to be (maybe we ordered the wrong stuff?), and I would not go out of my way for it again when there are other comparable alternatives closer to me.
Started with an order of shumai and gyoza. Shumai was okay, but tasted like shumai at most Japanese restaurants, ie. okay but I suspect frozen, mass-produced, not home-made (could anyone confirm or dispel that assumption with confidence?). Gyoza was also just okay, but appeared to be home-made.
For mains we had the sushi/sashimi for 2, an order of the ramen, and an order of the tempura udon. First, the sushi/sashimi was good with a nice variety. It certainly tasted very fresh, which should be standard but is not always so. Highlights were the tuna sushi and sashimi and the spicy mussels.
Then, for me, a test of the quality of a true Japanese restaurant, the udon. The udon part was excellent. The tempura part, not so much. The udon had a nice, flavorful, clear broth. The tempura shrimp had far too much batter. Adding excessive amounts of batter does not mask the use of smaller shrimp, it actually calls attention to it. Either use larger shrimp with less batter and charge more, or use the same size shrimp with less batter. After the first bite I had to strip off about 2/3 of the batter. That being said the tempura batter was of perfect consistency, and it was very well fried (just use less of it!). So overall, very good udon.
Ramen was okay. Pork in it was overcooked. Broth was good, but a little bland (kind of the opposite problem from the ramen broth at Momofuku in NYC which could have been good, but was way too salty. A halfway point between the two would be ideal). Had the regular size order, which was very generous.
Overall, very good, but not the sublime experience so many people have written about here which would make it a destination spot, imho.
I think you hit on a key point with Shumi; and as someone who usually treks to NYC for a sushi/sashimi craving, it is important to distinguish what Shumi excels in and in my opinion where it falls short.
To preface, my fiance and I love Shumi for its sushi and sashimi. Not so much for the typical staples there...but for some of the delicacies you can find if you get to know Jack/Ike and discuss some of the options they have. They are known for their spicy mussels, tuna with spicy sauce, etc etc but we've had items such as chopped eel with quail egg hand rolls, "rolls" created with japanese omelette, monkfish liver and roe. I've spoken to fellow diners who had the privelege of watching Ike prepare uni from start to finish and serve it fresh (can't vouch for truth, just heard from some of the other regulars)- Some of their creations are truly one-of-a-kind for NJ sushi options and at a fraction of the price.
That being said, I've never been impressed with their cooked food, and have found most of the offering in that realm to be average.
In addition, if you don't interact with the chefs and explain you want to try some really new and crazy offerings, you do risk having a predictable menu with none of the special offerings that we have grown to love. I'd also recommend asking them to not serve their scallion paste with any of the mackerel; I find it overpowers the fish way too much and it can find its way into many of their rolls
You can't compare it to the top places in NYC necessarily, but it is also in an entirely different price bracket. Dinner for two at Yasuda or any of the top city joints will run ~500 bucks without alcohol, you can get out of Shumi with their special offerings at less than half of that.
It is truly a gem in the area; I'd recommend giving the sushi bar another shot, and discussing with the chefs that you've had the basics, and you are looking for something truly different! The chefs are the friendliest and most helpful chefs you will find anywhere, and if you are outgoing, you will learn a lot about Japanese cuisine and what you are enjoying to eat.
Thanks for the replies. I was not looking for a validation of my impressions, as much as sincere opinions (without the rancor of some posters [I have to say I have enjoyed the recommendations of both rgr and bgut, but they can both be very critical of posters' opinions, especially re: Nicholas]. If either happens to read this I hope they are kind]. That being said, I think gwh
's assessment is correct. Basically, raw fish takes a huge precedent over cooked items at Shumi. My question is why can't there be a balance between the two? THAT would make for a destination place. Good eatin everyone!!!!
augustus - While I appreciate the compliment, I'm sorry that you think that I am critical of posters' opinions. All views and opinions are welcome. I'm sure my good friend RGR feels the same way. With regard to Nicholas, I don't see myself as the torch bearer. In fact, I haven't eaten there in about a year. I have only the occasion to comment when a poster's review is so much different from my own experiences.