After snapping the picture of the new Sophie’s Cuban Cuisine set to open on 56th St. I happened upon a place that caught my interest. What appeared to be a generic middle of the road Midtown sushi joint, had placed a cooler/glass case in front of their restaurant and were selling pre-made little boxes of sushi and other Japanese food… and there was a line. I love sushi, and am always looking for good, cheap sushi at lunch, but I usually avoid the restaurant places because they are a little bit more money then I want to spend, and I don’t really eat at sit down places for lunch. I’ll make exceptions for buffets, and really good ramen places… but sushi restaurants, I tend to avoid.
But this one was selling boxes of sushi out front, and that makes it exciting! I don’t know what it is about setting up shop on a sidewalk that makes something more appetizing to me, but it just does. Sell fresh made delicious sushi (or BBQ, or falafel, or gyro or teriyaki for that matter), in a restaurant where I have to sit, order, wait and then tip, and I’ll hesitate. But take the same food, put it in a to go container, and sell it on the sidewalk for the same price- and I’ll be the first one on line.
What they’ve got, the pictures, and the +/- after the jump…
One of the biggest problems with pre-made sushi is you don’t get to order exactly what you want. If you don’t like California rolls, than you’re in trouble- because usually every “combo” has at least part California roll… and this place is no different. Each box has two rolls in it (12 pieces). You can get all one thing (all California Roll is $5, all Spicy Tuna is $7, all EEl roll is $7) or two things mixed together. California and Spicy Tuna is $6, California and Eel is $6. They also had Salmon Skin which you could get alone (for $7) or in a combo with California roll (for $6) and a tempura shrimp roll combo (with California roll) that also costs $7.
I don’t like California rolls… so normally I would avoid a place like this. My ultimate combo is Spicy Tuna and Eel (I like to alternate bites of sweet cooked, with spicy raw… a very nice combination), and although it wasn’t on the menu they had up on the wall- when I got up to the front of the line they had a Spicy Tuna/Eel combo!!! Very exciting… especially because the guy in front of me ordered the very last one, and then changed his mind at the last second.
It was a very scary moment, and I’m glad I wasn’t forced to order a California roll combo. (I can see the headline now… “Fat Man Kills Investment Banker in Midtown Sushi Line”) The Spicy Tuna/Eel combo is clearly a favorite and is also the most expensive, clocking in at a big $7.50. It doesn’t come with Miso soup, but you can get a small soup for $1 (which I did).
There were good and bad things about the sushi here. First and foremost, it’s pre-packaged so it is not going to be as good as sushi you order at a restaurant, but it was fresher then most… and because it was made at a real sushi restaurant the rice is much better then most of the sushi sold at delis. The price is not bad, even though the sushi rolls were only 6 piece rolls (some places give you 8 piece rolls/16 piece combos) but at least they don’t use the trick containers. Do you know what I’m talking about? You buy sushi at places like Food Emporium, Amish Market or some deli, and they are put in these plastic containers are not very deep…. so what looks like a normal size sushi roll from the top, ends up being only half the height of a normal sushi roll. That’s how they getcha! These sushi rolls are of normal height, and while they don’t have a ton of filling, they are not too skimpy.
If you like the actual pieces of sushi, they had a few combos featuring that for $9 and $10 depending on how many pieces of sushi you want, etc. I don’t usually go for straight up pieces of sushi at take out places, so I can’t speak to how good it is at this place. Rolls are a much better bet when you’re going the cheap route. If you want something in between (a roll with pieces of sushi laid over the top), they do have a Rainbow roll for $10.
Finally, they had a couple of bento box options which looked pretty good. I’m a pretty big fan of the Japanese fried chicken covered in sweet sauce ($6), and Yakisoba (Japanese stir fried noodles for $6), but both of those are served with California rolls. I guess you can’t win them all. Edamame and Seaweed salad are both available for $2, but with those you start pushing your lunch closer to the $10 mark. Although for a nice and quick sushi lunch, I guess it’s not so bad…
- It’s made at a “real” sushi restaurant, so the rice is much better than a lot of the deli sushi
- It’s pretty cheap
- The stand being outside makes it pretty quick and easy
- They had a combo with Spicy Tuna and Eel, which is a big plus for me!
- They have other bento boxes besides sushi
- There aren’t as many choices as some of the delis, so it is probably made more often and fresher
- Places like this live and die by their combos. If you don’t like the choices, than you are screwed. Most combos come with California roll, so if you don’t like California roll, you probably won’t be into this place.
- You don’t get as many choices as some of delis which larger selections.
- The rolls are 6 piece rolls/12 piece combos… instead of 8 piece rolls/16 piece combos
- It doesn’t come with free miso soup
- It’s still pre-made sushi… so it’s not going to be as good as ordering it fresh at a restaurant
Kiiroi Hana (To Go), 20 W. 56th St. (btw. 5+6th), 212-956-0127