Umai in Lansdale, PA
Not to be confused with well-known Umai Umai near the PMA in Philly (AFAIK, no relationship), this suburban HIDDEN-GEM is located in an attractive strip mall, right next door to my regular stop, Primo Hoagies. Toting a medium-sized, sharp Italian with everything & long hot peppers, I've often looked into the windows of small, ~35-seat Umai wondering...but given the dismal state of suburban sushi, it took an invitation from friends to occasion our first visit.
Friends who, being weekly regulars, proceeded to warn me not to write too "umai" ("delicious") a review, or "everyone will discover our little secret!"
With the reservations necessary for a Saturday evening in hand, we sat at the 8-seat sushi bar and ordered Omakase. Omakase translates to "entrust", and as any serious sushi-lover knows it essentially means, "Dude, I'm leaving my dinner up to you, don't let me down!" In other words, leaving the number of courses and fish selections almost entirely in the hands of the very friendly owner, Chef Rae (sp?) and his two able assistants. And as is usually the case for Omakase, they rose to the challenge of presenting a fantastic array of their most creative dishes.
I didn't take detailed notes, in part because the next 2 hours resulted in a never-ending flood of perhaps ~15 dishes, many bite sized, some larger, until we finally declared "chigau masu!"
The wide variety of seafood, from shrimp to white tuna to fluke to whole baby octopus (I didn't know they turned bright rust-red when cooked!), was very fresh, served in decent medium-sized portions, and beautifully, even artfully presented. Chef Rae obviously cares deeply about his craft. We started with oyster shooters, enjoyed an unusual deep-fried, stuffed Jalapeño (apparently one of Chef Rae's favorite ingredients, appearing in many dishes, although judiciously deployed), to the penultimate spicy tuna roll and dough-wrapped ice cream poppers for dessert. Not to forget the famous (according to other reviews) complementary kale juice, which I wish I could buy by the gallon.
The meal was well-paced, with unobtrusive service by the charming and attractive staff. It was clear that many patrons were regulars who knew each other and were on a first name basis with the Chef. There were also families with children, but well-behaved. Easy parking in the lot out front.
$55/person + tip is a good deal! Tell Chef Rae what your limit is, and he'll take care of the rest. To be safe, call a day early for a reservation and let them know you want to do Omakase.
BYOB, so we enjoyed a nice sparkling Vouvray, and an well-matched 2006 Dönnhoff Schloßböckelheimer Felsenberg Riesling Spätlese, the modest sweetness of which tempered the spicier dishes.
Someone should call up East Norriton's Bluefin and warn them. Something "umai" is going on over here in Lansdale...
1) Miso cod
2) Tuna taco
4) Baby octopus hand roll at the chef's counter
5) Oreo tempura (sounds like state fair food, but actually very tasty!)]