When we hear the word ‘sushi’, we automatically think of seaweed and sticky rice covering shrimp or imitation crabmeat or, if we’re especially lucky, a bit of yellow fin tuna or smoked salmon. According to sushifaq.com, the term sushi actually refers to vinegar rice in Japanese – su being vinegar and shi being rice. “The origins of sushi began centuries ago as a way to preserve fish between two pieces of vinegared rice. To prevent the fingers from becoming sticky, the use of seaweed was incorporated.” There are many kinds of sushi, different from sashimi which is simply raw fish normally served without rice. The next couple of days will have me doing research over here at Tossing the Swiss, so I can do a play by-play on how to make your favorite sushi rolls at home. For now, I’ll skip the sashimi and go right to the restaurant review of a happening little sushi dive in El Paso, Texas.
SUSAKI Lounge Sushi & Martini Bar
From the outside of the SUSAKI Lounge Sushi & Martini bar in El Paso, Texas, you would never know the beauty of the lights hanging on the inside or the jazzy sounds of the hip hop music playing on the overhead, but open the door and walk on in because you are in for a treat. The mood lighting seems as equally accommodating for a newly engaged couple in the corner as it does for a group of hungry, sake-drinking contractors taking up three tables. On the overhead, the low-thumping base and the familiar voices of popular artists lend a feel of celebration to the air. I had to start with my requisite gin and tonic because, really, what would a night out be without one of those?
We wanted to nosh on something while we read through the extensive menu, so we ordered the Susaki Wings and Gyozas, or seasoned dumplings, to share. The wings were cooked perfectly with just the right amount of crisp, while the meat was tender enough to fall right off the bone. The coating was caramel color, sweet and tangy and was coated lightly with sesame seeds. There was a slight heat to the wings, which was welcome by all except Mr. Cheese who has an aversion to all things spicy or even all things that might even hint at being spicy. While the rest of us devoured those wings, Mr. Cheese enjoyed the Gyozas. They were pan-fried, cooked in the same manner as you can order from most any asian establishment. Filled with seasoned pork and vegetables, the dumplings were accompanied by a lightly sweet soy sauce but they also stood just fine on their own.
It was hard for us to choose any one sushi roll or dinner item, because it all looked so delicious. Susaki’s menu offers over 35 different rolls in addition to cones, sashimi, ceviche and teppanyaki. For those who still aren’t impressed, there are soups such as miso or cream shrimp, as well as entrees like orange chicken or pepper lime grilled chicken.
A few drinks and an hour or so into our visit, our table was graced with Shrimp Teppanyaki (vegetables and shrimp cooked in an iron griddle with soy sauce) for Mr. Cheese, and a different sushi roll each for me, Soldierboy and his friend. Not yet a big fan of raw fish consumption, I chose the safe (read boring) Samarai Roll consisting of crab, avocado, cream cheese, cucumber and shrimp, topped with avocado. Last minute, I got risky and asked Fernando, our lovely server, if he would throw some raw salmon in the roll. He was happy to oblige.
Soldierboy chose the New York Roll boasting avocado, salmon and eel topped with cream cheese, shrimp, eel sauce and furikake (a dried, Japanese condiment). Soldierboy’s friend chose the Favorito Roll which presented simply as shrimp, cream cheese and avocado topped with crab.
Mr. Cheese was not bothered for a taste of his meal, as we have all had that sort of plate before. Granted, he all but licked his plate clean, so it must have been fantastic. He got brave and tried some sushi, as well. Nodding his head, the best we could get was “it’s good.”
We all traded rolls and bites and sauces and what a fabulous evening was had! My sushi roll had an immediate taste of crab, then cooling cucumber and cream cheese. Dipped in eel sauce with the slightest touch of wasabi, the last taste and texture I got was the salmon, which was the perfect added touch. The Favorito Roll proved its name by being delicious while not overly fishy. I would compare this to the classic California roll. Soldierboy’s New York roll was by far the most risky, unusual roll ordered. He must have been here before. The combination of salmon and eel was strong on the taste buds while the cream cheese and avocado offset that punch, just right. Dipped in eel sauce, the New York roll was the decided choice of the night.
The drinks were cold, the environment felt ‘loungey’ like you could linger there for hours, tasting this and drinking that. The music kept our toes tapping and even caught Soldierboy saying ‘hey, isn’t that old school Lauryn Hill?’ The only drawbacks I could see, if I had to point two out, were the broken fountain that sat barren and the less-than-attentive service provided by the wait staff. I cannot blame Fernando, as he was delightful. I can only imagine they were understaffed because I really didn’t see anyone else working, besides Fernando. Nonetheless, all signs point to go. A feast of a time was had by all and we will be back, again!
Susaki Lounge – Sushi & Martini Bar
1506 Lee Trevino Ste-B El Paso, TX (915) 591-9266
- Ample parking
- Lunch specials 11am to 2pm
- Live music