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I love Asian cuisine 

Find delectable new treats at Sushiya and rush to the opening of Chow (formerly Chow Nova)

click to enlarge HEAVENLY :  The new fall menu at Sushiya offers a fabulous juxtaposition of textures and flavors, such as the cherry blossom roll, which contains crab, asparagus, and cilantro, wrapped with tuna. - PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • HEAVENLY : The new fall menu at Sushiya offers a fabulous juxtaposition of textures and flavors, such as the cherry blossom roll, which contains crab, asparagus, and cilantro, wrapped with tuna.
No matter where I am in the world with my husband Dan, when we dine in a sushi house we always order our favorite treats: maguro, hamachi, and sake sashimi (tuna, yellowtail, and salmon), and a rainbow roll to get some rice into the order. Then we try something new, usually a nightly special. But it’s those usual selections that serve as my yardstick for judging all sushi houses. That said, I’ve been a fan of Sushiya since I first reviewed it in 2007 for its quality and affordable prices. It never disappoints us. 

 

I’ve gone back to Sushiya for Cuisine because they are introducing a new menu of specials for fall, and it offers an opportunity to experience Japan’s special sushi and sashimi dishes in a very different way.  Not only were the dishes I tried of the quality I expect from this consistently good Japanese restaurant, the flavors were quite intriguing and far different from my customary meal there. Not only that, I never noticed the missing side dish of pickled ginger and wasabi. Judging from the number of people I’ve watched in sushi bars gobbling down those accoutrements, that’s probably  difficult to imagine.

 

- TASTES OF ASIA:  Sushiya Japanese Restaurant is located at 11560 Los Osos Valley Rd., in the Laguna Village center, SLO. You can call for reservations, 595-1500. -
  • TASTES OF ASIA: Sushiya Japanese Restaurant is located at 11560 Los Osos Valley Rd., in the Laguna Village center, SLO. You can call for reservations, 595-1500.
Co-owner/chef Bruce Lee brought up the point at the end of the meal: “You see, you had a different experience with Japanese food and you didn’t even miss the ginger or wasabi.” I understood. I’ve watched people in many Japanese restaurants put the ginger on the sushi or sashimi. I’m sure they don’t realize the pickled root is meant to cleanse the palate between the different dishes, not top off the fish like sour cream on nachos. The refreshing ginger provides a cool contrast so you can better appreciate the next fish you’re eating. I’m a foodie, always have been, so I tend to get hung up on tradition. 

 

This year, Lee and his partner Bob Park began offering a value-priced addition: the sashimi special, which provides 10 pieces of the chef’s choice of fish, steamed rice, miso soup, and salad, for $19.95. Lee said he will continue to run this special in the fall. They’ve also improved the number of offerings on the sake and wine list, and plan to add more local wines that are sushi friendly.

 

From the new fall menu I enjoyed several delicious dishes, each one a fabulous juxtaposition of textures and flavors. My favorites included: the fresh rice-paper wrap with crab, cucumber, beets, carrots, green onion, and Japanese mint, served in a spicy ponzu sauce with toasted sesame seeds, $8.95; the spicy tuna crunch featuring a tuna cake mixed with crispy tempura crumbles, jalapeno, and tomato topped with three caviars in a fresh parsley sauce, $9.95;  the pretty cherry-blossom roll offered crab, asparagus, and cilantro wrapped with fresh tuna in a ponzu sauce, $14.95; and salmon wonderland, which includes smoked salmon, cream cheese, red onions, and radish wrapped with Atlantic salmon, for $14.95. Sushiya serves continuously between lunch and dinner so you can enjoy these special treats any time of day.

 

Chow to reopen in SLO!

 

When I heard that restaurateur Robin Covey and his longtime business partner Shanny Covey are reopening Chow, formerly Chow Novo, in San Luis Obispo, I was thrilled. It ranked among my favorite Asian specialists in SLO County. Ever since my first meal there, I’ve raved about their pan-Asian tapas, curries, and yummy small plates of potato samosas, fresh mango-avocado spring rolls, sates, and salads. And dessert, like the truffle trio or the sorbet trio that were so distinctive and unusual, was like dipping into a little slice of heaven.

 

Covey opened the tiny Palm Street eatery in January 2006 after he was forced to close Novo on Higuera for earthquake retrofitting. It took ten months to finish Novo, and when the reopening was announced, Covey stated that he was closing Chow Novo. I called asking him to reconsider the latter because we locals loved Chow Novo. He laughed and kindly provided practical reasons why that didn’t make sense business-wise. He showed no surprise when I called again this time, excited to learn more about the new Chow.

 

“I wasn’t looking to open anything but the building owner, who dines at Novo frequently, asked me: ‘Are you ready for number two?’” Covey recalled. It’s an excellent downtown location and he was relieved to find the kitchen in perfect condition. He’s remodeling the dining room, bar, and the back room, which allows for private parties. With two locations, they can offer their restaurant staff more hours, said Covey, adding that he feels confident they can keep both restaurants successful. “I like the fact that it’s within walking distance of Novo. That’s a huge plus so I’m not making myself crazy.”

 

Covey said Novo chef Justin Gabbert will be the creative force at Chow. They plan to keep the menu all Asian, excluding Japanese and Thai dishes. He spoke of such delicacies as roast duck with little pancakes, and roast pork belly. “If we can pull it off, we’ll do four types of fresh rice-paper rolls made to order,” he noted. “Novo only has one all the time.” Robin and Shanny (she owns their original Robin’s Restaurant in Cambria) took their chefs to San Francisco to dine in Asian restaurants to discover the latest trends.

 

They found my favorite new Asian restaurant in San Francisco by chef Charles Phan of the Slanted Door, named Heaven’s Dog. It’s a casual bar and dining room with stellar foods, and reasonable prices from the food to the drinks. “Justin and I were on the same page at Heaven’s Dog; we said this is exactly what we want at Chow,” Covey said. The food will be fresh and seasonal, and Covey plans to have one of the cooks shop the farmers markets thrice weekly for locally grown ingredients.

 

“I have a really excellent wait staff and kitchen team. I feel so lucky,” Covey beamed. “Shanny and I feel confident we will be busy and need to be at the top of our game.” The Covey family’s new temple to Asian cuisine will be located in the site that housed the defunct Panolivo and Naples restaurants. Chow’s new home is at 1009 Monterey St., SLO. Come back to Cuisine to read my review after it reopens in early November. I, like its countless fans, can hardly wait until the doors open.

 

You can reach New Times’ Cuisine columnist at khardesty@newtimesslo.com.

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