Wednesday, February 18, 2009


I've been exploring the wonderful world of sushi over the course of the past few months and am pretty surprised by the amount of the stuff available in Rhode Island. It seems so exotic. So otherworldly. So foreign. You wouldn't expect it to be as common as hamburgers.

Well, perhaps that's an overstatement, but it's close to the mark. I don't think there's a town in the entirety of our tiny state without at least one sushi joint. That's pretty friggin' impressive considering there are states with towns larger than us.

I'm really enjoying my new-found taste for sushi. It's both a finger food and not. It can be light and heavy at the same time. And the robust rainbow of savory and sweet flavors is truly amazing. It's so entirely different from Eastern Mediterranean, Chinese, Indian, or any of the other default ethnic foods that usually end up in the bellies of college students across the US.

I haven't reviewed any of the places at which I've dined because I really don't know enough about sushi to make an assessment. I'm reminded of the public mocking that the Michelin Guide received in Japan. They awarded Japan more stars total, and more three-star awards, than either Paris or New York. The media in Japan proceeded to explain that the high-falutin' Euro-snobs didn't know jack-shit about Japanese cuisine after Michelin awarded high marks to otherwise unremarkable restaurants.

To wit, the Michelin Guide, much like the Gault Millau guide and its American, provide high honors to French cuisine in notable numbers. I complained about this in a previous post about's list of America's best restaurants. Michelin doesn't know anything about sushi, and neither do I.

I'm learning, though. I'm reading books and watching stuff on Youtube on the subject. Youtube is great for things like this. You're almost guaranteed videos about whatever you want to know, posted by someone who has an unhealthy obsession with the subject.

So here shall I post a recounting of my adventures thus far. This is by no means definitive and being somewhat of a sushi newbie, don't take my words as gospel. These are more or less my uninformed musings on what I've eaten and where I've eaten it.

Shogun: I really like Shogun. They have two locations and the one down in South County Commons is better, in my humble opinion. The fish was fresh, and the other offerings are good. Some of the noodle dishes were a bit oily, and the salmon in some nigiri wasn't terribly good, one night, but I've had very few complaints. They're only about ten minutes or so from my house, so they get a fair amount of my business. Seven Moons in closer, but I think Shogun is better.

Seven Moons: Also good. I prefer Shogun. The sushi is all pretty standard and is well made, but I've just found Shogun to be more... flavorful. I wish I could explain it better beyond that. I've found that the fish seems fresher and more tender at Shogun, but they don't have anywhere near the expanse of offerings at Seven Moons. If you want sushi, but the people you know hate it, this is the place to go.

Sea Shai: I really enjoyed Sea Shai. Fresh fish, well-prepared nigiri and maki, and teppanyaki chefs that seem to be having a blast. It's in Newport and Middletown, which means you'd have to be a lunatic to go there during the summer, but after the tourists have left I think I'd go here over Shogun. I dunno'. I like Shogun.

Uncle Sushi: Considering the crappy area it's in, I was surprised with the quality and variety at Uncle Sushi. It's very good. One maki a friend got, it was something like a dragon roll but with a spicy sauce and squid instead of eel, was excellent. This place deserves a lot of credit.

Fuji Garden: Way the hell out in Pawcatuck, CT, Fuji Gardens is quite a sight. Gardens, waterfalls, ponds, and a small forest inside really set the mood. The sushi was very fresh, well-made, spicy and sweet. No complaints about the nigiri. I wish it was closer because I'd probably go there more regularly. I can't really say if it's better than Sea Shai, but it's way cooler inside.

Haruki: I've only been to the one in Cranston, but I had the best dragon roll of my sushi-eating career. Not enough to make me travel (I'm in Saunderstown, afterall), and if I was going to go to Cranston, I think I'd go to Uncle Sushi. I think it was as good and it's called UNCLE SUSHI. Way cooler. Other than that, it's some of the best I had.

Oki Steakhouse: It's on Mineral Spring, so you can avoid Providence, but I wasn't impressed. It was good. I have yet to have bad sushi and this place was not different. My girlfriend's parent's house is five minutes away, if that, so it's a good place to go if you're nearby. I was happy with what I got and would go back.

Cafe Yuni: The very definition of hole-in-the-wall. It's a tiny place off of Wickenden Street with almost no signage. Not the best I've had, but better than Oki. And it's near Sakura and O-cha, neither of which I've sampled, so it must be doing something right to survive. It's a great place to grab some sushi then head down the street to Coffee Exchange to get buzzed post-nigiri. I'll have to eat at the other two to decide if Yuni is the place for Sushi around that area.

So, yeah. That about concludes my thoughts on Rhode Island sushi. If any readers are sushi snobs, I'd really appreciate your perspectives on sushi in our fine state. Any good places? What exactly am I looking for in quality sushi? Any places to specifically avoid?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Best of the Best of the Best, SIR!

Well, the event's results are in, and Rhode Island did alright. Devlin Rice placed eighth in the Northeast Regional competition. That's pretty hot considering it's only his second year and he placed ninth last year.

Devlin works at Pawtucket's New Harvest Coffee. You'll notice their coffee being used at many of the cafes in the general Providence area, such as Blue State and Three Sisters. I also think Seven Stars uses it. I really like their coffee. It's some of the absolute best being roasted in the New England region. Their espresso roast is good, dark, and chocolaty.

It's unfortunate that he doesn't work at a local cafe. Rhode Island doesn't really have any high-end cafes. We have Coffee Exchange, which is very good, but it's kind of like an excellent local cafe, as opposed to a destination cafe. In the Projo article about Mr. Rice, it mentions his signature drinks made with chocolate and marzipan. We don't have any cafes that have signature drinks, where the drink is treated as a recipe that requires a chef to construct.

For example, a drink I make in my kitchen is a small cappuccino with sugar layered on top, after which I torch it like a crème brûlée. It's not terribly complex and it's easy to make, but it's fun and is something special. It's that sort of inventiveness that's missing from our local watering holes.

So here's hoping the attention generated by Rice's participation in the competition increases the number of cafes in RI that dare to be daring. And congratulations to Devlin Rice for making an arguably excellent showing in your sophomore event.

Who's the Best Barista (
Food Notes (