For sushi, Yoyogi bears remembering
By Julia Beizer
Friday, December 4, 2009
At a glance: "Inexpensive sushi."
To a cheap-eats writer, few words inspire as much dread as those two. Raw-fish lovers are always looking for ways to indulge the habit at a discount, but the cost-benefit analysis can be perilous. Cheap sushi is not always good sushi.
Yoyogi Sushi in the Kentlands won't be knocking Dupont's Sushi Taro out of the box any time soon, but the six-year-old restaurant is a reliable place to get a fish fix in Gaithersburg. And the locals know it. At lunch, nearly every one of the 28 seats is filled.
The place is a shoebox but a pleasant one. Order at the cash-register counter and you'll see chefs furiously at work in the galley kitchen. The simple dining room is accented with blond wood, cute kitschy sculptures of kittens and a sushi clock. There's a large bubbling fish tank with nary a fish in sight. On warm days, the large patio in front of the Main Street entrance is also filled with people. Most folks enter through the back door, under the big wooden sign with red lettering that reads, simply, "Sushi."
On the menu: "I'm sorry, but that thing is the size of a hamburger," said a dining companion over dinner at Yoyogi one night. She was talking about a slice of the rainbow roll, a 10-piece roll of tuna, yellowtail, salmon and cucumber. Though the silver-dollar-pancake-size pieces were particularly egregious in this case, the same could be said for all the rolls at Yoyogi. They're huge! This can be problematic. The rolls have trouble staying together (and the vinegared rice isn't very sturdy). But consistently, among Yoyogi's fans, the large rolls are one of the restaurant's biggest selling points. Of the three people who told me about this place, all noted the absurd amount of fish for a small sum of money. The size is a detriment when it comes to nigiri. The slices of fish are just too thick to stay draped over the rice.
Expect typical sushi bar offerings here: California rolls, Philly rolls, eel rolls and cucumber rolls. Spicy crunchy tuna is one of the most popular rolls at the restaurant, says owner Nancy Liu. It's easy to see why. The slice of tuna is augmented by a hefty serving of tempura crunch. The yellowtail roll is also reliable. At lunch, some combinations of two rolls are only $6.
Beyond sushi, opt for one of the appetizers such as crispy squid or the seaweed salad with sesame dressing. Miso soup is standard issue, but at $1, it's a great warm-me-up starter.
At your service: In a word, fast. Order at the counter and within minutes a runner will deliver at least part of your meal to the table. The servers may be interested in getting people in and out of the limited number of seats quickly, but they deliver the dishes with a smile.
What to avoid: As the name implies, it's best to go for sushi here. Stir-fried udon noodles lacked any of the flavor of the sauced chicken and veggies atop them. Crispy chicken teriyaki had a nice coating of sauce but was lackluster.
Wet your whistle: The restaurant offers house-made iced tea, canned soft drinks and bottled water for a fee, though hot tea and tap water are free. Yoyogi does not serve alcoholic beverages.
Bottom line: Don't expect knock-your-socks-off sushi, but come to Yoyogi for the same reason the crowds do: a pleasant dining room, friendly service and a lot of fish for a very small price.