Rolling Down the Right Side

I’ve been lamenting the closing of Shinano’s Restaurant in South Euclid, of late. Open in the same place with the same crew (save for two people) since 1991, Shinano’s had just about the best sushi on the upper East Side of Cleveland.

Word is that they are looking for new digs, perhaps near Solon, which doesn’t do me a whole bunch of good: I don’t want to drive 25 miles for sushi — if I’m going to drive that far for sushi, I’ll go a few more and head to Ohashi’s in North Olmsted, which is probably (perhaps easily) the best sushi restaurant in town.

So what’s a guy like me to do? Suffer?

Not quite. Enter Young Lee, the former sushi chef at Lure Bistro in downtown Willoughby. Lee and his wife have recently opened Young’s Sushi on Clark Avenue in downtown Willoughby (old Willoughby). Clark Street runs parallel to Erie Street one block West of Erie.

OK, so I’m not exactly convinced by the location — I think I’d rather be right on Erie Street, but then again, the rent is higher there. Young’s location has its own parking lot, which helps out: parking in Willoughby can be a nightmare, especially during the car show.

Walking in, I was a little amazed at the decor; get this: black and white linoleum tile floor, a pale ash green wainscot-type bottom half and deep purple top half paint scheme on the walls, cantina-style tables with metal-framed plastic chairs, and (oh, wow!) country music playing in the kitchen.

I had my doubts…

…and was well rewarded for my open-mindedness. The sushi was outstanding: their white tuna is on a par with Ohashi’s any day of the week. I had the Fire Bird Roll, which has tuna, salmon, red snapper, white tuna, crab, avocado and cucumber; the Love Roll, which has white tuna, snow crab and avocado; and two pieces of white tuna nigiri. My bride had the Mexican roll (!), which has shrimp, avocado and cucumber; the snow crab roll, which has snow crab, avocado, and cucumber, and another which I can’t remember.

We both also had the Miso Soup and the house salad with ginger dressing. Both of these were excellent. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that both exceed any we’ve had yet (in Cleveland).

But the sushi was, as I said, outstanding: the fish was absolutely fresh, the rice perfectly cooked, the seaweed not too chewy, and the vegetables crisp and flavorful. And the ginger was so fresh it almost burned my tongue!

At first, I was going say that the wasabi was a little weak, but that would be wrong: it’s not weak at all — it’s what you would refer to as a “sleeper”: you get some flavor, but little heat… so you take a little more… then, all of a sudden…

WHAM! Your sinuses are under assault, your eyes can’t hold their water, and your mouth is going hooo-HAH! The wasabi is truly excellent.

I saved the white tuna nigiri for last — white tuna sashimi is one of my all-time favorite foods — and I was not disappointed in the least: it tasted almost like butter, and it melted away on my tongue slowly and evenly — and not a single hint of a sour note, which can happen easily with less-tan-Grade-A white tuna. My only regret here was not ordering two orders of white tuna nigiri (or maybe three — what the hell: when it comes to sushi, what can I say? I’m a pig… <grin>…)

All of this from what you would never think of when you think of a sushi restaurant. I only had one negative to the whole experience: the chop sticks were oval, and were difficult for me to handle. That is something I can definitely get used to, with practice.

I have to wonder about their timing, since opening a restaurant is never easy, especially in bad economic times, but if Young can develop and keep a loyal clientele (and with food like his, I see no reason he can’t do it), you’re going to be hearing a lot about this restaurant in the future.

The hours are 11-9 daily, and 1-8 Sundays; the restaurant is located at 4082 Clark Avenue in downtown Willoughby, about two blocks from the Willoughby Brewing Company (the other side of Erie Street), right next to the convenience store.

If you’re out and about on the East side, and you have a taste for sushi, try this place — you’ll be glad you did.

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