Eight to Eat: Our Best Sushi Picks
Norfolk paper artist Rich Gray created the “sushi” for our feature. Gray teaches origami and papermaking at workshops throughout Hampton Roads.
Sushi, when done correctly, is one of the more elegant of the culinary arts. Far beyond a bit of seafood encased in a roll of rice and seaweed, sushi is an ancient dish that mixes tastes, textures and tradition. Great care is given not only in being pleasing to the palate, but pleasing to the eye as well.
We’ve loved sushi since the first time a piece passed our lips in 1989, although we admit we put way too much wasabi on the rolls and drenched them in soy sauce. Still, we were hooked.
For a quarter-century we’ve been dining on the Japanese classic here in Coastal Virginia and have tried many places. Here are some of our favorites:
He’s Soy Awesome
The Top Sushi Chef Award goes to: Wataru Mizuno at Mizuno Japanese Restaurant, Virginia Beach
We can’t think of a time when we’ve been disappointed in anything prepared by Wataru Mizuno, chef/owner at his namesake restaurant. Born in Japan, Mizuno formally trained as an apprentice under sushi master Teruo Sato in Tokyo. Since 1996 he’s delighted folks here with his interpretations of sushi classics.
Insider tip: it’s hard to beat Mizuno’s Avocado Roll, California Roll and Tuna Roll, and the Rainbow Roll is one of the best we’ve had. The specialty rolls are always a treat, and we love the nigiri and sashimi too.
Fermented Rice, Rice Baby
A Super Sake Selection Award goes to: Zushi Japanese Bistro, Virginia Beach
Sake, that delicate elixir of brewed, fermented rice, is a beautiful accompaniment to sushi. At Zushi there are more than a dozen sakes to choose from, and they even occasionally offer a class called Sake 101, lead by a certified sake adviser, to walk folks through the varying characteristics of the drink and the offerings at the eatery.
The Grab-and-Go Super Sushi Award goes to: The Fresh Market, with locations in Newport News, Norfolk, Virginia Beach and Williamsburg
Sometimes you just want to sit at home in your pajamas and dig into some sushi with The Real Housewives blaring in the background. When we do, we grab our sushi to go at The Fresh Market. We find the selection, freshness and price all to be agreeable, even if what’s on television is not.
You Bowled Me Over
Our Go-To Chirashi Award goes to Hayashi Sushi & Grill, Hampton
Hayashi Sushi & Grill offers not one but two types of chirashi on their extensive menu: a Japanese style with an assortment of raw and cooked seafood and vegetables on a bed of sushi rice, and a Korean style with the items served on a bed of steamed rice. We love them both.
You’re Temaki Me Crazy
The Temaki That Sates Award goes to: Nara Sushi, Virginia Beach
More than a dozen hand rolls are offered at Nara, large and flavorful cones of nori filled with well-balanced sushi rice and delightful ingredients. We’ve enjoyed all we’ve tried, but it’s hard to beat a classic: the California done temaki style.
A High Roll-er
An Amazing Appetizer Award goes to: Tuna Rose at Daikichi Sushi Bistro, Chesapeake
The appetizer game is kicked up a notch with Daikichi’s Tuna Rose, a dish almost too pretty to eat. But we do anyway. This delicious offering has teardrop-shaped tuna rolls fashioned as petals around a rose fashioned from tuna sashimi and garnished with roe.
Come Up and Sashimi Sometime
The Raw Fish We Love Award goes to: Kanpai Sushi, Virginia Beach
The sushi bar is visible from most everywhere in Kanpai, and watching beautiful portions of fish cut into delightful slivers of flavor builds the anticipation. The sashimi here is fresh and satisfying; grab the Sashimi Deluxe for 16 pieces of the chef’s selection of the day.
Tataki Food To Me
If You Think It’s Sashimi But It’s Not Award goes to: Tuna Tataki at Bardo Edibles & Elixirs, Norfolk
A generous portion of beautiful yellowfin tuna is tossed with sesame seed oil, Sriracha and soy sauce (an application differentiating it from true sashimi) and served with a garnish of masago (the roe of the capelin fish), a drizzle of wasabi aioli and with crispy wontons.
We’ve also had memorable meals at Kyushu Japanese Restaurant (Virginia Beach), Sakura Sushi Bar (Norfolk), This Old House Japanese Restaurant (Virginia Beach) and others, but those are mentions for another article at another time. Itadakimasu.