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.Rockin’ Sushi Moves Into the Stanford Shopping Center

music in the park san jose

An eager crowd of diners lined up on a recent Friday night hoping to score a table at Sushi Roku.

It’s located along the dorsal side of the Stanford Shopping Center—the poshest and most peaceful of all Silicon Valley malls—which continues to host new restaurant openings. Joining the ranks of nearby Taro San Noodle Bar and Hummus Mediterranean Kitchen, Sushi Roku’s interior builds on the principles of mid-century modernism by coupling a wide open dining room with a carefully arranged geometry combining furniture with décor.

As this is the seventh iteration of Sushi Roku from Innovative Dining Group, the restaurant’s identity was already fixed in place before the opening. The atmosphere is cool, but not cold, and as pristine as the perfectly creased, iron-gray napkins. The IDG co-founders, Philip Cummins and Lee Maen, could write a bestseller on the fundamentals of opening a new restaurant.

During their soft opening phase, they started out of the gate with an incredibly well-trained staff. In addition to, at least, four suited managers routinely checking in on diners, everyone who came to the table knew exactly what their job was and how to do it. Our servers expertly described the dishes brought to the table and they returned, unobtrusively, to clear plates and refill glasses.

ON A ROLL Servers expertly described the dishes brought to the table. Photo by Kim Nies

As the name of the restaurant indicates, the menu is fish-forward and fish-centric. But the dishes that contained and concentrated on a single vegetable left a stronger impression.

At first, I resisted the idea of ordering brussels sprout chips ($13). I’ve reached a limit with oven-roasted brussels sprouts coated with and sweetened by balsamic vinegar. These chips were, like all the vegetable dishes, flash fried and crisp as potato chips. The addition of freshly grated curls of parmesan canceled out the scant traces of truffle oil.

My least favorite vegetable of all is the dreadful cauliflower. Sushi Roku’s version with red dates and pine nuts ($15) provided us with the taste of something more refined. The flash frying technique diminished the unpleasant scent of the overly pungent vegetable while the date reduction tempered its bitterness. I won’t be perusing my grocery store’s shelves for cauliflower florets anytime soon but I appreciated the fact that a chef figured out how to make them palatable.

FLASH FRIED DELIGHTS  Vegetarian dishes such as eggplant and cauliflower deserve the limelight. Photo by Kim Nies

While the green beans, or ingen itame, ($14) in garlic sauce were par for the course, the kitchen again transformed a bitter vegetable, eggplant ($13), into the best dish of the night. Cubes of Japanese eggplants were sautéed in miso. Neither too sweet or too spicy, each bite was nearly as juicy and flavorful as a tomato, its cousin in the nightshade kingdom.

After this array of vegetable splendor, the beef ribeye wrapped in asparagus ($22) and a lamb chop skewer ($9) were competently made without dazzling the palate. Visually off putting, asparagus stems jutted out of the meat wrap so that it resembled a small white bone but easily  disguised by a drenching of a warm plum sauce.

More refreshment arrived at the tail end of the meal with a vegetarian adaptation of a senshi roll ($23). Just cucumber, avocado and white rice served with an aioli sauce that was spicy enough to make even Sean Evans sweat.

Sushi Roku, open daily 5–10pm, 180 El Camino Real, Stanford Shopping Center, Palo Alto. 650.507.2100.


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