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[whitespace] Sushi Boat
Photograph by George Sakkestad

Fishing for Complements: Regina Jones and five-year-old daughter Sarah Jones have fun choosing sushi from the parading boats.

Cruise Control

No recount is necessary--Sushi Boat gets our vote for great hands-on sushi stylings and Japanese cuisinartistry

By Christina Waters

LUNCH at the good-looking Sushi Boat in Westgate Mall is literally a moving experience. Living up to its name, this crisp, sexy sushi palace showcases one of those central sushi bars where a fleet of tiny, carved wooden boats slowly circulates around and around the central island. The boats sail past customers seated at the pale wood counter--oval-shaped so that the boats don't get shipwrecked--who help themselves to the edible cargo floating by. Great concept. It supplies several needs at once. When you hit a sushi bar, like Katya and I did last week, you're hungry and you want your sushi, pronto. Usually, alas, you have to wait until the chefs have finessed those elaborate, painstaking creations. By then you're already halfway to Hong Kong on sake, if you get my drift. But at Sushi Boat, the little sailing vessels are already loaded with gorgeous stuff. Orange islands of tobiko float by under the glowing red lanterns that line the attractive central island. Katya and I took a booth along the far wall so that we could settle in with all our packages--Sushi Boat is strategically located near Barnes & Noble, HomeChef and Starbucks. The décor is upbeat and sophisticated--earth-toned walls lined with colorful contemporary artwork along one side, and black-and-white upholstered booths with rice-paper screens lining the others. Wishing my living room looked this polished, I mega-dosed nutty, green edamame soybeans ($1.50) chased with green tea from beautifully glazed cups.

Soft, delicate gyoza were lined up like pearly pasta filigree in another stunning bit of glazed stoneware. Tasty and tender, they arrived with a light ponzu dipping sauce ($4.50). As Katya sipped her miso soup ($1), I inhaled three gyoza, munched transparent ribbons of stellar pickled ginger and gave thanks for the intriguing contrasts of flavors and textures that make Japanese cuisine so exciting. Little did I realize at this point in our lunch that we were about to meet two new superstar creations, sensuous experiences that blew us both away.

A large wooden plank was set down between us on which were arranged several rows of sushi, as dazzling as handmade jewelry. My chopsticks whisked up fiery chartreuse bits from a mound of wasabi that had been expertly fashioned into a rose. Generous amounts of the hot horseradish paste merged with soy sauce--the dipping sauce was ready.

Classic maguro nigiri sushi--long, deep garnet slices of ahi atop sticky rice--proved perfect ($3). This traditional creation is not only a personal favorite of mine, but an accurate barometer of just how fresh and competent I can expect the establishment to be. Another custom tekka maki with peppery shiso was delicious, although the nori roll was overly chewy ($3). Quite beautiful, though, and the combo of ahi and shiso never fails to dazzle my taste buds. However, Katya and I were in ecstasies that St. Theresa only dreamed about when we tasted the two house special rolls.

The Super California Roll ($7.50) was breathtaking. Huge wheels of sticky rice had been stuffed with a creamy shrimp filling and avocado. The top of each slice was draped with barbecued eel straight from the broiler, so that not only did we get a hit of wasabi against the creamy shrimp, but warm, sweet unagi against the cool rice. It was a serious success.

The word "success" doesn't really do justice to the amazing Westgate Roll ($8.95). I'd call it a blazing triumph. Decadence itself, the roll included great quantities of tobiko, more creamy shrimp and lots of scallions in the interior. Everything was encased in fresh salmon filet, which was then quickly popped into the oven. Unbelievable. The hot baked salmon essentially had been stuffed with a glorious sushi roll. And then sliced. And then eaten. Eaten with great pleasure. And no restraint. Sushi Boat walks on water. And if you're anywhere near Valley Fair, try its cozy installment of the Sushi Boat concept. It floats.

Sushi Boat
Address: 1600 Saratoga Ave., #119, Westgate Mall, San Jose
Phone: 408.378.4000
Hours: Lunch and dinner daily
Cuisine: Sushi bar/Japanese specialties

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From the December 21-27, 2000 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2000 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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