Cafe Reviewed: Wednesday, August 27, 2003
Sushi at Manhattan’s
Smoked salmon sashimi $9.50
Scallop sushi $4.00
Kampyo maki $4.50

Sushi Zone
Kazunoko sushi $1.25
Toro sashimi $12.95
Bay Bridge roll $7.95
Summer Roll

It’s that time o’ year, when the sushi’s cool and refreshing.


Sushi at Manhattan’s

2501 E Lamar, Arlington. 817-652-1435. Mon-Thurs 11:30am-2pm, 5:30pm-10:30pm; Fri-Sat 11:30am-2pm, 5:30pm-2am. Sun 5:30pm-10:30pm. All major credit cards accepted.

Sushi Zone

915 E Road to Six Flags, Arlington. 817-226-4055. Mon-Fri 11:30am-2pm, 5:30pm-9:30pm, Sat 5:30pm-9:30pm. All major credit cards accepted.

hen it reached 109 degrees here recently, I cautiously peered out the window of my air-conditioned work space and chortled. England was boo-hooing because their thermometer had just topped out at 98 Fahrenheit! No doubt there’s an Iraqi somewhere, wrapped with wet blankets inside a mosque where it’s 126 degrees, snickering at my refusal to stick a toe into 109. The simple fact is, hot weather is a relative experience — someone else always has it worse. But this doesn’t mean I’ll ever surrender my right to kvetch.

One of the few things that makes this foodie happy in times like these is ... sushi. When the calendar flips to August, this boy’s heart turns to thoughts of cool tranquility via tuna sashimi and sweet shrimp. Indeed, I’d like to buy the world a sushi lunch, and we can discuss our troubles in perfect harmony as well as in central air. Back during the 18th century, the Japanese unwittingly concocted the perfect gustatory antidote to ozone alert days — preparations of raw fish, rice, and seaweed that’re as colorful as fresh fruit to the eye, cool and tender to the tongue, and easy on the tummy. Because portions are so sparing and gingerly prepared, you can linger for hours at a well-ventilated sushi bar — assuming your pocketbook can take the heat.

A favorite dining companion and I decided recently to visit a new kid and a popular standard, both in Arlington. Sushi at Manhattan’s has been open for a couple of months now as a side-door establishment to the bikini-contest-obsessed clubland stalwart known as Manhattan’s. On the wall behind the sushi bar are black and white illustrations of Marilyn Monroe and of Frank Sinatra in his rakish fedora. I suspect a bit of unintended thematic spillover here — while I’m pretty sure Frank enjoyed watching babes in bikinis, it’s hard for me to picture him digging into a big plate of raw baby squid and salmon egg.

S at M’s smoked salmon sashimi needs a bit of rescuing. Sashimi is made up of sliced filets of raw fish sans rice served with wasabi (a clay-ish ultra-hot Japanese horseradish) and a haystack of shredded radish. These small salmon slices were curled and tough at the edges. I couldn’t really locate the delicate taste because the texture — which should be as soft and plump as your beloved’s skin — was too rough. That’s a regular source of subtle friction in quality sashimi — the bite-down has to be pliable enough but not too mushy before you can consider flavor.

A glorious alternative was the scallop sushi — fat, eggshell-white raw scallops astride clumps of sweet-vinegar rice and wrapped with a dark brown ribbon of seaweed. A small glazed lemon slice, barely tart, was tucked atop each scallop, and the sting of the fruit carried the subtle flavor forward. Most intriguing of all (even to a rabid sushi hound like me) was the kampyo maki. These were narrow seaweed-and-rice rolls filled with dark orange, fettuccini-like strands of pumpkin skin in a musky sweet sauce. The stark briny seaweed and lightly cloying pumpkin flavors were perfect foils.

Since any decent sushi bar is all about quiet flavors and lush textures rather than “take all you can eat, but eat all you take,” you often leave the place not quite sated. As we left, the thought hit us that we’d like to compare and contrast their bait with that of a popular and long-established Arlington restaurant. Judging by our recent visit, Sushi Zone continues to earn its crowded tables with prompt service and a playful menu of Texanese delicacies. Still, we skipped the Texas Rangers Roll and the Arlington Roll in favor of the Bay Bridge Roll — a standard California roll (crab, avocado, cucumber, and smelt egg) with cream cheese shot inside and topped by fresh-water eel drizzled in the brown sauce that flirts so shamelessly with a chocolate taste.

Cream cheese is rarely a good sushi roll accompaniment in my opinion — it makes bland the already delicate fish taste — but freshwater eel has such a rich poultry connotation, it can survive Philadelphia’s prime export. Sushi Zone’s masterful coda for our broiling-afternoon adventure was toro sashimi (not always available). Toro is the meat around a tuna’s belly, just one of at least a dozen kinds and cuts of that fish you can request. Toro is often called “fatty,” but the bulky pink wedges we were served had seamlessly blended the lipids into the meat for a cool, luxurious buttery effect. We both sighed contentedly as we ate, glanced out the window, and dreaded our trek back across the shade-free parking lot. A sushi habit is not much cheaper than a monthly A.C. bill, but it does offer more varied pleasures.

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