Great sushi can be found on way home from work
Given that sushi can either be really good or really bad, I've always been leery of strip-mall takeout sushi. So I have driven by H&S Hibachi & Sushi Japanese Express many times over the last few years, opting for Chinese takeout or pizza instead.
All that time wasted.
H&S doesn't have the ambiance or the "show" of the higher-end Japanese steakhouses, where the chef turns a stack of onions into a volcano and juggles his seasonings on the side of the grill. That's a lot of fun and good family entertainment.
But for most of us, that's special-occasion dining. With a handful of tables, counter service and carryout that you can order online at sushijanesville.com, H&S is the kind of go-to choice that's priceless at the end of a harried day. The sushi is just as good as anything available locally. The hibachi is actually better. That's not to say it's amazing, but it does the trick.
We dined in on a Sunday night with Richard's parents and sister, Carol. Most of us were pleasantly surprised. The hardest critic was Dr. Neeno, which isn't a surprise because he is a first-generation Japanese-American and has traveled to Japan several times. He knows what quality nigiri sushi tastes like, and this wasn't it.
He ordered the Sushi Combo B ($11.95), which was six pieces of nigiri sushi with a shrimp tempura roll. The sticky rice lacked vinegar, and he missed the balance of pickled ginger. Nigiri is the simplest and most Japanese of sushi, and his combo plate was disappointingly bland.
Sushi rolls are truly more American than Japanese. They typically have more flavors going on, which makes the quality of the rice and fish less noticeable. To these unsophisticated taste buds, H&S's rolls were great.
The shrimp tempura roll ($5.25) had a lovely balance of flavors and generously sized. The bay scallop roll ($9.95) came warm and wrapped in foil. It was filled with spicy crabmeat and avocado. A baked scallop/mayo and eel sauce combo topped the dish. It reminded me of a roll I had a couple of places around Los Angeles. I have never seen anything close to it around here until now. It was wonderful to taste that blend of flavors again.
We also ordered the crab rangoon (two for $2.50), which is actually Chinese but one of our favorite treats. The filled wontons were huge, lightly fried and nicely filled with cream cheese and crab. They were definitely a step above what you get at most area takeout places.
Carol, Joan and I (yes, my mother-in-law and I share the same name) all ordered hibachi dishes. The chicken and shrimp hibachi ($8.95) was a generous plate with sautéed zucchini and onions, fried rice and a mound of diced chicken and shrimp. The seasoning was good, and everything was nicely cooked. Carol said the same was true of her scallops. The priciest hibachi dish was shrimp and scallops for $10.45, a real bargain.
Our son ordered the steak yakisoba ($7.45), which came in a big bowl thick with noodles. He said the steak was perfectly cooked and the broth was tasty. The noodles weren't soba, which is made with buckwheat. That wasn't a surprise. In the area, most restaurants serve yakisoba with vermicelli noodles. That appalls my Japanese relatives, but this version was better than most.
Richard's go-to comfort food is fried rice. He makes it at home often, and it's our typical Chinese takeout order. He was surprised to find the shrimp fried rice ($6.95) at H&S was actually fried instead of just heated up. Frying adds a nice bit of crunch to the rice, and it's more authentic. It was a bit on the bland side, but that was quickly doctored with some soy sauce.
H&S serves as a good reminder that you can't judge a book by its cover. Although it doesn't look like much from the outside, the food here is made fresh, it's flavorful and it's downright cheap. I've found my new favorite sushi place-and it's on Richard's way home from work. Now that's a great, if late, discovery.
Joan Neeno is a freelance writer who reviews regional restaurants for The Gazette.