If you’re looking for authentic sushi, well, you’ve come to the wrong place.
But let’s be honest, there are very few places you can go in the country, let alone the Valley, for an authentic Japanese sushi experience. Americans are accustomed to a bastardized version of the Asian dish, and patrons at Squid Ink Sushi are no exception.
The restaurant really takes the “anything wrapped in rice is sushi” mentality and kicks it up a notch. In some cases it’s a huge success and in others, a colossal failure. Luckily for sushi snobs, there are some excellent real sashimi and non-sushi options, should you choose to abstain from the sush’ completely.
We arrived late on a Tuesday night and were immediately greeted by the super friendly Squid Ink staff. The ultra-modern grey, cement and steel atmosphere mixed with the trendy vibe of the colorful art and edgy, hard-lined chandeliers. We immediately felt at home when our bubbly server sat us in a two-person booth near the sleek bar.
I arrived starving, so the gurgle in my stomach pretty much ordered for us. As it groaned “potstickers” ($7), our server went on her merry way. A few minutes later, much to my stomach’s appreciation, five crispy-on-the-outside, tender on the inside potstickers packed with sweet-salty flavor, accented by scallions, arrived at our table. We couldn’t get enough of them, but I had to call it quits after two because, since my stomach was calling the shots, we ordered four rolls, a noodle dish and a burger.
As I was perusing the menu, I came across something that sounded so atrocious that it had to be good. Here we are in a trendy sushi joint, and they have something called the Buffalo Chicken Roll ($11). Sushi is arguably a rather sexy food, but I can’t think of a less sexy food than buffalo chicken wings. Both are delicious, but combined it was bound to be disgusting or divine.
Unfortunately for me it erred on the side of the former. Tempura chicken rolled with cucumbers, soy paper, rice, hot sauce and ranch might not sound gross, and realistically, it probably isn’t. But when you’re looking at a sushi roll, you expect the flavor of sushi. In this case, you’re instantly reminded of dingy sports bars. (Not that there’s anything wrong with sports bars!) It’s just a bizarre combination. Do. Not. Recommend. (However, my carnivore boyfriend wasn’t turned off by it, so take that with a grain of salt.)
Luckily the rest of our experience blew the culturally confused Buffalo Chicken Roll out of the water. We ordered another roll containing land animals, the Surf ‘n’ Turf roll ($13), which blended tempura shrimp, crab, asparagus, sesame-miso aioli and eel sauce with tender filet mignon on top. Surprisingly the flavors gelled nicely. It was probably my favorite roll of the night.
We followed our adventurous rolls with ones a bit more on the beaten path. The Hawaiian roll ($13) combined soft escolar, spicy crab, avocado, ponzu sauce and was topped with strawberries. It’s a light and refreshing roll ideal for those hot summer days downtown. The Hory Fook Roll ($12), with a name too cute to pass up, is one for the spice lover in your life. With spicy crab and tempura jalapeños, it’s sushi with a kick, but because the jalapeños are fried, don’t expect to be burning up all night.
As if the rolls weren’t enough, we went on to order the Beef Yakisoba ($13), which showed up with broccolini, mushrooms, carrots, scallions and a teriyaki sauce. I found the beef a little on the tough side, but the boyfriend disagreed. However, the fresh flavors of the rest of the bowl made it easily one of the best dishes of the night.
And what meal isn’t best topped off by a heavy burger? I was told the Kobe burger ($12) here is phenomenal, and Squid Ink didn’t disappoint. The ultra-fresh, melt-in-your-mouth beef was topped with crispy bacon, sautéed arugula and we added a fried egg (because everything is better with egg). Served with a side of crispy sweet potato fries and two dipping sauces, this dish is perfect for cheat days.
Squid Ink Sushi
2 E. Jefferson St.,