Jinsei is the best, but I would not say that is overly expensive. It has gotten a bad rap beacuse the alcohol prices are high. I would say that their rolls are only $2-3 per more than the rolls you can get at most places, and there is a definite qualitative difference. Also, they have specials certain nights of the week. For info, see:
Having said that, I agree that Surin is pretty good. I have heard that Ginza has good sushi, but I have not been there.
Ginza does have good sushi. I've found I prefer the sushi at Surin Mr. Brook versus the other locations. The sushi at Surin 280 probably comes in second in the Surin group.
It's been a few years since I've tried it, but Taste of Thailand had good sushi. (their original sushi chef, now long gone, was the person who established Surin's sushi bar). They do a good enough business to have decent turnover.
When it was independently owned, Sakura in 5 Points South was great. Now that it's chain owned, I haven't heard any positive comments and they have some cleanliness issues that are off-putting. On the other hand, I've generally had good experiences at Sekisui in Vestavia Center, although it's been awhile there, too.
IMHO, avoid Stix, Sumo and Kobe.
And I'll take a moment to lament the loss of what I considered the city's best: Kimono, across from the main Greystone entrance. I haven't been to the Japanese place that replaced it.
16 Perimeter Park S, Birmingham, AL 35243
re: Big Daddy
We ventured out to Ginza for the husband's birthday last weekend for sushi (he changed his mind from Mr. Chen's at the last moment to go hunt for sushi.) It was our first visit there, and we were very impressed with the quality of the sushi there. The waitresses were very nice, very well informed on the product, and made excellent recommendations for the day.
We had the eel, salmon, white tuna, and octopus nigiri to start, and then dove into some of the rolls with various combinations tucked away inside. Normally I'm not much for the traditional rolled sushi as nori just doesn't appeal to me. However, I found that I liked Ginza's sushi rolls better than any others.
Nothing we had at Ginza disappointed. We will be going back there again for certain. Maybe next time we'll make it to the BBQ room.
We also recently tried out 'I love Sushi" over on 280 in the Greystone area. Yes, the name sounded like the gimmick the place is. Skip it, don't waste your money there, unless you're just overly curious to check it out. Service was so-so, sushi was not as good as what you'd get at Sumo (how's that for comparison?), and the cooked dishes we had were on the level with the frozen dinners from the freezer case at Wal-Mart.
After a recent omakase meal with my father at the venerable Sushi Yasuda in NYC, he mentioned a "new" place in Birmingham, Jinsei, that he said was comparable.
While I'm sure that he was obviously exaggerating, we are staying at the Aloft this week, near Jinsei, and was interested in possibly checking it out.
I saw on old threads that they offer an omakase, but a quick call to the restaurant resulted in a hostess telling me that this was not the case (or not knowing what I was asking). If I'm in town from NYC, looking for an authentic sushi experience, would I be wasting my time at Jinsei?
When Jinsei first opened, I thought that I had heard that one of its sushi chef's had trained under Nobu Matsuhisa. While that's not unusual now (and could just mean the individual worked at one of Nobu's restaurants), Nobu was the king of sushi (in the US) for the longest time. Anyway, I think Jinsei serves the best sushi in Birmingham that I have tried and it does have a sushi bar, at which I assumed Omakase was available. I have not tried it there.
If a hostess at a quality sushi restaurant does not know the meaning of omakase, even in Birmingham, she should not be working there.
With that said, if I was making a trip from NYC, I am not sure sushi would be my focus. Don't get me wrong, Jinsei is great (and one of my favorite places in town), but Birmingham has lots of other restaurants to showcase over a sushi joint. I would try one of the Stitt joints, Hot and Hot, maybe get some soft-shell crawfish at Veranda, etc.
I went to Ginza for some sushi last weekend, and enjoyed it. In addition to nikiri and maki, I ordered both the grilled sardines and grilled pike mackerel, which were very good (especially with a little lemon) although the sardines were slightly better. For the most part, the fish served with the sushi was good, with seared white tuna, salmon skin and yellowtail the standouts (they unfortunately were out of baby yellowtail).
The flounder, however, was a regrettable order.
Unfortunately for me, it was Sunday and I forgot I'd wandered into Prohibitionville, I mean Shelby County on a dry day.
5291 Valleydale Rd Ste 101, Birmingham, AL 35242