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Sono Sushi Japanese Restaurant

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On this day my wife and I decided to eat sushi. A quick search on yelp and we found the closest place from the location we where at on rt.35. After reading a few positive posts and "a must try" we chose Sono Sushi Japanese Restaurant. Some reviews where helpful and advised ahead that it was a BYOB. Conveinantly bottle kind was in the same plaza. Great! SSJR closes in mid day (2-5) I respect that. So it was around 4:45 which gave us time to shop at bottle king and then hit the restaurant. (Btw great prices at bk, a case of wine for the house later and a six pack of Heineken we where ready for this adventure). We where greeted with a smile at the door and directed to a table way back in the dinning room. As we walked through (we where the only ones there) we notced the sushi bar, my wife and looked at each other and kindly asked the hostess that we would love to sit at the bar. Again with a smile she escorts us to the bar. We place our cold beers on the bar and a server hand us an opener. (But no ice bucket, I was so hoping they would)
We start reading the menu and I spot sunomono one of my favs. So we ask to start with that as we continue to look over their menu. As almost any sushi place their choices where bountiful. But a few things we hadn't heard of struck us to try them. We decided we wanted to do a few appetizers and perhaps a couple of entrees as we usually do so we can try a bit of everything, as we like to take our time and enjoy ourselves. We also noticed an al a cart from the sushi bar, we love this because we like to ask the chef to chose and see how well they react to that. But my wife loving yellow fin asks for an order of that. Still on appetizers we also order softshell crab tempura and the avocado tuna boat. We set our menus aside and continued with our conversation to enjoy another beer as they slowly where getting warm. The hostess decides to take the menus from us, we asked to please remain them because we still had not ordered entrees. I thought wow, "there is no one in the place what was the rush?"
Our sunomono salad and avocado boat arrived. Me loving sunomono I hit that first. Huge disappointment. It was mostly sirimi, a few octopus slices and a poached shrimp over some what we figured would be daicon radish but no cucumber. Also the sauce was more of a ponzu rather than a thai chili or a citrus kimchi. So my wife immediately asked for some hot sauce and the chef poured some sriracha sauce. Nevertheless I did not enjoy this one. On the other hand we did enjoy the avocado boat. It looked presentable and fresh, and the tuna was delicious. The chef handed us the yellow fin which was also delicious and he recommended the eel which I ordered another because I enjoyed it that much. Them came the soft shell crab. Which to my blame I knew they where not in season and I expected them to be frozen but this had a funky taste of frost bitten. I will comment no more on that. As we try to enjoy our third beer (was warm by now) we decide to look again at the menus for some rolls and at least an entree. We decide on the holmdel roll and being we love crispy duck we wanted duck, but no crispy duck was offered, only teriyaki duck? So we assumed if they already have the duck why not ask to prepare it without the teriyaki, as I don't care for that much of the sauce. My wife being the brave one asked if they could make the duck in a ginger sauce rather than teriyaki since they already offered a ginger sauce with the pork under the same category. The hostess (which we learned that was one of the owners, looked at us with confusion. So she remarks a standard phrase, (let me ask the cook). Comes back and notifies us that the cook says it would not be a good choice. That's it! Not another choice or perhaps with a bit more creativity him suggesting to have it done in another way or maybe even so to as one of his personal favorite way, being a "cook" and owner as we also learned. So I whispered to my wife, as she continued to ask why he couldn't prepare it another way, that it was obvious that this duck they offered is probably, no definitely not fresh and is already soaked or marinated in teriyaki, and to just let it go and order only the roll. As I whispered this to my wife, the hostess comes back trying to defend herself and replied "oh no, our duck is fresh its just that the cook says it might not taste good in the ginger sauce."
Well at a his point I needed to say something. Because I can't imagine anything not tasting good with ginger. I replied to her "if the cook thInks this way will not taste good why would he not suggest something else rather than risking losing the sale?" I mean we already had ordered over $90. In appetizers what would make this person think I wasn't willing to try something original? We already had enjoyed the ssuggestions from the sushi chef. So instead we decide to ask the sushi chef behind the bar to make us something of his choice once again. He prepared us a y2k roll, which my wife enjoyed very much. I must say the sushi chef was very pleasant in conversation and I believe he would have accomodated us with something creative if he was in the back kitchen. To complete our dinner my wife wanted some green tea ice cream.
To sum it up:
Atmosphere 2.5 daisies /5
Service n/a we sat at bar.
Food 3 forks /5
Originality. .5 lightbulbs/5
Would I go back? Not likely. Please let me say this, i am a strong believer in giving a second chance, but we really didn't feel it. With all the suggestions in the area I would use that money on given someone else a shot and perhaps land a place we like and would attend frequently.

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  1. So does anyone know of a good sushi place we can give a try?

    7 Replies
    1. re: SwallowsNest

      Swallownest and HillJ, since you are local (I live in middletown too) I would give Kyoto a shot. Its on the border where middletown, Highlands and Atlantic highlands all converge (on route 36 in east point shopping plaza.) I have had sushi/sashimi in many places around here and I think this one is top notch.

      They have some tasty stuff. For rolls I like the simple spicy tuna since it is not crammed with mayo. Specialty rolls on my list include the "joy of love", volcano, king Triton...among a few others.

      Two "must haves" in my opinion would be the sushi nachos and basil tempura. The nachos do not sound good if you simply take the name and analyze it. It is more of a crispy wonton topped with tuna and other delicious morsels. I could eat a dozen of these things lol

      The basil tempura is awesome but sometimes they don't have fresh BIG basil leaves. They batter them and deep fry them (then top with tuna and other stuff.) So you can ask them if they have good basil leaves. Jackie is the owner and is incredibly nice. He will be up front and tell you. In fact, sometimes I go there and just say "make me a boat" and he will put together all types of stuff for me and charge me a very fair price...a mix of rolls and sashimi. He might not do that for everyone but get to know him and he will take care of you.

      If you like big eye, they get fresh bigeye and its top notch. I can eat raw tuna like popcorn and this is some good stuff. They get toro once in a while but with the price of that lately, it just doesn't make sense to buy that anymore.

      Hamachi Kama is not on the menu but ask jackie if you want a broiled yellow tail jaw. This might not be for everyone....very rich and fatty part of the fish. Think salmon fatty but with a different texture and flavor.

      1. re: corvette johnny

        I will def. make a point of visiting Kyoto. Your descriptions are hard to beat! Sounds like some very creative dishes are coming out of Kyoto. I've passed the center on my way to the coffee roaster, so I'm familiar. Thanks.

        1. re: corvette johnny

          Wow! Now that's lucky exactly what I'm talking about. Go in ask for something at their discretion and BAM! THEY ACCOMMODATE. we can all order off the menu but after so main times, you just want somthing different. And them being upfront on their freshness is a huge plus for us.
          PS: I wonder if they have duck. Lmao.....

          1. re: SwallowsNest

            Actually Jackie does like duck but never serves it. I smoke my own ducks and occasionally will bring him one (not to sell obviously, just for him to eat.) He brings me back Peking duck from NYC sometimes....a real nice guy who actually cares about the quality of the food he serves. If you ask him what fish he recommends for that night he is spot on. He commonly has good quality bigeye which in my eyes is the best bang for your buck in the tuna sashimi world...not toro quality by any means but real tasty and much lighter on the wallet.

            its not a trendy or a really nice decor spot but it is not a bad spot inside a strip mall...just decent food, decent prices and byob. I am more about food than fancy decor.

            PS, I think SONO is ok but I have a feeling you will like this spot better : )

            one more PS lol.... he has a nightly special roll. Most of them are pretty darn good. I can't remember the last one I didn't like and he personally makes up the combinations. All this talk and I think I might have to head there tonight.

            1. re: corvette johnny

              Hmmm. What time ars they open till?

              1. re: corvette johnny

                http://kyotosushinj.com/index.htm

                Unless I'm too tired to see, I don't see hours but the menu sure looks good.

                1. re: HillJ

                  that menu is old. They have revised it but still have many of the same dishes. The yellow tail jaw is not on the menu anymore but you can still get it.

                  They are open until ten so I would personally not show up later than 9:30 or so. I commonly show up around 9 after wife gets out of work.

        2. Have you given Nemo's in Keyport a try? Free parking in town.BYOB, they have an outdoor dining area off the back of the restaurant opened until it's too cold to enjoy and a casual, relaxed and friendly atmosphere.

          The food is really good. Asian Fusion. The sushi is outstanding.

          Menu:
          http://nemokeyport.com/

          I've been a customer since they opened. A location filled by many attempts over many years. This family owned biz works hard.

          My family & I enjoy the hot pot, spice level, sushi specials and lighter fare (like the cold salads).

          Last visit we ordered: Steamed fish with bok choy, spider rolls, hot pot, chicken and mango, avocado crab salad, tempura vegetables and pan fried dumplings.

          Their prices are very reasonable.

          6 Replies
          1. re: HillJ

            Sounds like a must go. My wife truly enjoys dining al fresco.
            Thanks HillJ

            1. re: SwallowsNest

              You'll overlook the Keyport bay (which isn't CA, but a nice evening experience anyway). They will bring an ice bucket and glasses for you to the table. It's one of my favorites.

            2. re: HillJ

              I've only been to Nemo once but I wasn't impressed with their sushi. I've also only been to Sono once but thought their sushi was some of the best in our area.

              These days my go to spot for Sushi is Ichiban. Really good, consistent sushi there.

              Haven't been to Kanji in a while but always enjoyed that place too.

              1. re: joonjoon

                So our taste in sushi differ-fine w/ me.

                1. re: joonjoon

                  I must agree that I did not like Nemo's sushi (the other cooked dish were great at Nemo, btw).

                  Where is Ichiban?

                  1. re: yCf

                    Ichiban is on Rt 35 Sth. Ocean Township, across from Ray Catena Lexus.

              2. When I did a great deal of work in RB I hit Sono Sushi a number of times. I found it inconsistent. Good when it was and lacking too. I found it messy; even the sushi was rushed looking. But, I can go on taste alone too and it didn't ring my bells as loud as other places can.

                But to keep it in perspective, I've never ordered to the degree that you & your wife have at Sono S. Not even close.

                1. Another recent experience on sushi was Matata Asian in Middletown on Hwy 35. The sushi was a standout and also quite reasonable for the platter portions. I also enjoyed their semi customized bento boxes. This place has also gone through several reincarnations. The new dining space is modern, roomy even when packed and the service is very friendly.

                  1. Sorry but I think much of your criticism is unwarranted. Sunomono is not supposed to be spicy, and what they served you sounds like the classic preparation of this dish. Adding sriracha to it might have been perceived as an insult or the mark of an amateur. And unlike chinese or other asian cuisines, proteins in a particular dish are not considered interchangeable. Pork is prepared in certains ways, duck in certain ways, etc. I can understand their refusal your request. And I can't understand why you expected to find crispy duck in a Japanese restaurant.

                    9 Replies
                    1. re: pixelcat

                      I'm sorry perhaps you have taken this post out of context.
                      Sunomon in Japan is a method of pickled japanese cucumber and fresh sliced seafood. They use various types of vinegars, such as rice, mirin, and some cases nabai-zu. Depending on who is making it, citrus is also added such as orange and or grapefruit. Along with soy sauce. It is also served as is or at the discretion of the restaurant' recipe with a kick!
                      Not with 80 percent sirim. (Hmm... let see im assuming that was not interchangeable or should i say interchanged.) Or as some classify it krabmeat with a "k".(a filler)
                      I meant no means of offending or insulting the chef, my wife did not specifically ask for sriracha. She asked for some spicy sauce, the chef gave her the sriracha. (Which by the way is of Korean origin) why do you expect that in a japanese restaurant.
                      As for the duck, since a form of crispy duck was not offered and only teriyaki was, we would have been more than happy if they would have prepared it in another way other than teriyaki. I'm sure Japan has more than one way to prepare a DUCK!
                      We would have loved to been served anything else at his willing. We enjoy trying new things. Exploring new flavors. Perhaps something more original and or as I mentioned something truly authentic. When someone asks the chef to prepare something at his discretion, that's a compliment! Not an insult as you stated. It means you trust the house to do good for you and care enough to allow the customer to enjoy real home flavors not americanized or prepared ones.
                      If there was fresh raw duck in the house, I myself can think of at least 100 ways to prepare it. This chef obviously knew of only one way.
                      To reiterate, we enjoyed all that the sushi chef behind the bar had prepared for us. If we chose not to go back is only because I strongly believe in applying my hard earned money somewhere else rather than someplace where they refuse to accommodate.
                      Hope this clarifies it for you. Thank you.

                      1. re: SwallowsNest

                        Actually sriracha is Thai in origin, named after the coastal city of Si Racha, in the Chonburi Province of Eastern Thailand. The version most folks are familiar with, was developed and is produced by Huy Fong Foods is headquartered in Rosemead, California. There is a documentary (that I helped invest in) being released in a month or so about this amazing sauce!

                        http://srirachamovie.com/

                        1. re: equal_Mark

                          How cool is that!

                          1. re: equal_Mark

                            Actually, it's named after the ship that brought the creator of it to the United States, and was invented in Los Angeles!

                            1. re: eleeper

                              I guess that little bit of history didn't make the documentary.

                              1. re: eleeper

                                The Sauce was named after the City of Si Racha in Thailand. The Company that produces it was named after The Huy Fong, an overcrowded freighter that departed Vietnam and arrived in Hong Kong, full of refugees. The UN helped place the refugees around the world, and David Tran ended up in LA, where he started Huy Fong Foods.

                                1. re: equal_Mark

                                  I wonder if Liza of Food Curated would be interested in promoting the film..

                                  foodcurated.com

                            2. re: SwallowsNest

                              I'm quite aware of what sunomono is. Although I've never encountered a spicy version of it anywhere it Japan I'm not categorically saying it doesn't exist. But seeing a customer add hot sauce, be it tabasco, sriracha or whatever to a dish of sunomono would certaining be cringe-inducing for me. And while I would rather not delve into stereotypes, I believe that innovation is not a prized attribute for Japanese chefs of the non-iron variety, but that executing a traditional dish properly is. And that means not making buta shogayaki with duck.

                              BTW, I never said that you insulted him by making a special request. However, after hearing about what you did to the sunomono I wouldn't blame him for being disinclined to honor it.

                              1. re: SwallowsNest

                                Did you mean nibai-zu?

                                Duck is actually fairly rare in Japan, both in the frequency at which you see it on a menu, and the way it is cooked (even rarer than most of the rest of the world typically serves it).

                            3. Why didn't you just ask for an ice bucket or the equivalent? Makes no sense to me.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: diablo

                                omg lmao....
                                You my wife said the same thing to me after we left.
                                I have no answer... But I definitely am laughing my ass off..

                                1. re: SwallowsNest

                                  Your wife is a wise woman.

                                  1. re: SwallowsNest

                                    :)