Friday, November 18, 2005

Japanese places I don't like

Okay, I haven't really trashed any restaurants yet, so here it goes. And this comes with a caveat - other people seem to like these places, so this is my personal view and probably does not represent the consensus.

First of all, I do not like Ichiban's Japanese food. It may be politically incorrect to say so, but Chinese do not, generally, do Japanese food right. Key flaws with Ichiban:
1. For sushi and sashimi, they cut the fish in advance. I've never seen this done anywhere. By cutting it early they decrease the freshness of it. This is not absolutely awful for sushi rolls, as the quality of the fish is pretty well hidden in the other ingredients. It is particularly bad for sashimi, however.
2. The wrong sauces. I ordered shumai (steamed shrimp dumplings), and the sauce was totally wrong. It was like a sweet duck sauce. Shumai should be served with a spot of yellow mustard on the side and it is dipped in a soy-based sauce.

I have the same general complaints about Sushi House on New Scotland Ave. They didn't precut the fish, but the sushi was not that great. The sauces were wrong on the Japanese food.

These places are fine for Chinese food, and if you're not experienced with Japanese food (I lived in Japan for a year) you might not notice these issues. Certainly both places are popular. I have been to Ichiban a few times because people I was meeting wanted to go there.

They do tend to be cheaper than the real Japanese places, but you get what you pay for. The better Japanese places in the area are Miyako, Yoshi Sushi, Saso's, Mari's, and Mino's in Saratoga. I haven't been to the latter 3 in a while - Miyako and Yoshi are just a lot closer to where I work and live. I used to like San & Bada, but haven't been in a while so I can't say. Tokyo Sushi does a half-decent job, but Yoshi's is better and is just down the road.

Of course, all pale in comparison to Megu, but that's not fair since Megu is in NYC and costs about 5 to 10 times as much as the most expensive Japanese food here.

4 comments:

moonbrookhill said...

I travel to Japan extensively and I concur with the reviews. I think the worst japanese restaurants the area, of which none are owned by japanese, are Ta-Ke near memorial hospital and also that new one near the airport. You'd think these pretend japanese places would at least treat you like a japanese place would, but we were treated (ie. service) really poorly. Yoshi Sushi is where I like to go, but it's limited to Sushi, and call ahead to order to avoid a long wait (hour+ sometimes). The japanese place just south of SPAC is OK too. But if you want real japanese food in north america you'll need to go to NYC, Toronto, or the west coast.

Albany Lawyer said...

Just to follow up on moonbrookhill's comment, I would just mention that Ta-Ke does have decent Korean food. I can't comment on the Japanese food because I don't order it.

There are 3 or 4 tables in the back that have grills in the middle of the table. This is for Korean barbecue - the best known dish is called bulgogi (beef). I prefer the spicy pork dish.

I brought some friends from Korea there and they liked it (or they were being polite).

I also agree that Japanese food is better in NYC or the west coast (I haven't been to Toronto enough to compare). We were in LA recently and the variety available is so much broader. There was a place that had Fukuoka-style Ramen. You really have to have spent time in Japan to understand how significant that is.

I do feel, however, that Yoshi Sushi and Miyako's are close to the level of places in NYC and LA/San Francisco. I've been to Japanese places in NYC that were nowhere near as good.

Beauchamp said...

If you have the opportunity, try Hokkaido down in Glenmont. The service is wonderful and they have teppanaki tables as well as sushi and other Japanese dishes.

After being recognized as regulars we've been trying to cut back but it's such a neat place.

The spring rolls and the wasabi gyoza are just fantastic!

Albany Lawyer said...

Following up on Beauchamp's comment, I have been to Hokkaido. It's decent, but the quality is not as good as Miyako.

As for teppanyaki (where someone cooks in front of you and puts on a show), it's not genuine Japanese food. The form of cooking surface is used in Japan, but there's no show. When Benihana opened in Tokyo, it was named "Benihana of New York".

Miyako does teppanyaki (aka Hibachi table) and the key thing they get right is that the meat is very high quality and the sauces taste authentically Japanese.

Beauchamp mentions spring rolls, which are a staple of Chinese restaurants. I never once saw them in my year in Japan or on other trips.