Let’s face it, Japanese Food (especially Sushi) can leave a big hole in the wallet. That’s why we always look forward to the “All-you-can-eat” sushi buffets! This doesn’t always have to be the case especially when you have a place like Sushi Central. Located in Abu Dhabi, this restaurant does away with your cravings at a much affordable rate. Fancy a quick office lunch while still at the desk? Sushi Central offers 3 Bento Boxes to satisfy your cravings priced between AED 45 – 58! What about dining in? I’ve always wanted to visit this restaurant based on the reviews and many stories heard by friends – It so happened that I did get a chance to preview their summer menu at a meetup invitation.
The branch at Tourist Club Area (Al Zahiya close to Mina) is one that is located away from the hustle and bustle of the city. It promises a relaxing and peaceful meal as comes with it’s ambiance. (They do have another branch in Khalidiyah which is usually bigger and busier). While parking would be the only problem you may face, rest assured, you are in for a treat.
I was welcomed with warm smiles and an excited executive Chef Renato while I was seated down at my table and handed over a special menu for the afternoon. Sitting directly in front of the kitchen and the chef’s special table, I could only imagine how beautiful this lunch would be.
It goes without saying that a chef’s art is immaculate. A chef touches upon every possible sense of taste, texture, color, smell and emotion. Japanese food is one cuisine that adds a sixth sense of simplicity – one that is a challenge for chefs to put on a plate. With merely 3-5 ingredient dishes, I started off with a mocktail – Dance in the Rain. As the name suggests, it was indeed refreshing and bright. Essentially Watermelon with Soda and Whipped Cream (the calories), I went for 2 more rounds of it (minus the cream of course).
I’ve heard rumors that the fresh Lychee Juice is in fact splendid. Have you tried it yet?
Now I am indeed a big fan of hummus (I’m pretty sure you are too!). It’s just so creamy and delicious! (and healthy, right?) The best types of hummus I’ve had so far are the luscious, finger lickin’ ones that come from Lebanon. The ones with a good glug of olive oil, tahina and parsley. But this isn’t the only type that’s available you know. This particular appetizer intrigued me with a neat derivation from Japan. This perfectly cooked and zesty Lemon & Togarashi Prawn was topped with an Edamame Hummus that was simply amazing. The flavor of the hummus of course was similar to that of a regular one, but garnished with lemon zest and Togarashi (Shichi-mi, a Japanese chilli pepper spice mix), it was a parallel step from the traditional Lebanese garnish of cayenne.
The next dish up was a Tuna Tataki. The tuna was lightly seared perfectly and served rare with a crust of black & white sesame seeds. Quite a very flavorful fish, it was glazed with a light soy sauce, ginger and lime juice dressing that made this the perfect summer appetizer!
Of course, by now we were highly impressed at the quality of food served. Passing on our compliments, the chef decided to take our lunch a bit off course. Create a few special items and keep us in the Appetizer zone longer – We didn’t really complain! Some of the items included freshly hand-rolled nigiri and sushi – obviously!
A couple of plates of Appetizers down, and it was quite difficult to find room for Entrées (to be very honest). But you gotta wanna atleast have a spoon right? Especially after it looks this delicious!
First up was a Hot Chicken Bento Box. Elegantly served in a traditional Japanese Bento style Box, were 4 compartments of Breaded Chicken with Katsu gravy, Veggie Spring Rolls, Veggie Yaki Udon and Cucumber Salad with pickled Radish.
Now Chicken Katsu is an extremely popular dish in Wagamama (Shall post the review shortly). The traditional version consists of the same breaded chicken served with rice and a bed of Katsu Curry. The Katsu Curry or Tori Katsu is a sort of sauce (it’s more on the thicker side) that’s flavor-rich in curry powder. Think of a green curry from India, easy on the spices. This dish is the perfect lunch meal as it’s really filling.
Sushi Central’s version takes a slightly different twist on this original. Instead of the whole drama with the rice, you see the bite-size strips of chicken with a spoon-over of the sauce. Now in my opinion, the one I had seemed to lack that curry flavor and tasted more like corn flour. Needless to say, the chicken itself did make up for it. Yes, I know it’s just breaded chicken, but to get a crispy crust while tenderly cooked on the inside is a bit of play with the temperatures on the deep fryer. The rest of the compartments have nothing much to brag about though.
Another beautifully laid out dish was the Grilled Salmon. Slightly bit overcooked (but that was just that day), this big fillet of salmon is, again, enough to get you through lunch by itself. The ginger sauce served with it was a winner for me which was perfectly spiced. Moreover, it paired extremely well with the salmon – I really really enjoyed it!
I am always picky about desserts in an East Asian restaurant. Except for a Thai Sticky Rice with Mango or Water-Chestnut Rubies in Coconut Milk, everything seems extremely familiar to the appetizer or entrées. For example, the Gyoza with Figs and Dark chocolate. Essentially, deep-fried dumplings with a sweet filling. Unfortunately, it was too crispy and sweet for me to like this one.
Now it’s difficult to say no to ice cream, agree right? The last dessert of the day was a beautiful Home Made Green Tea Ice Cream with Oreo Tempura. Yeah, deep-fried again! It ruins the simplicity of Japanese food and what it should be. A deep fried piece of Oreo was rather awkward and ruined the spotlight on what should have shone the Green Tea ice Cream. The ice cream was immaculate. Perfectly smooth (not those icey types), not too sweet, with just the right hint of green tea flavor, I would take it on its own, with a spring of mint.
And with that, I wrapped up my meal with a glass of Watermelon Juice and called it a day. Now Sushi Central definitely has an edge on making Japanese Food (comparatively) affordable. And with its embrace towards the modern culture (as seen in the menu and decor), it definitely stands out from the crowd as that “go-to” Sushi Diner on a casual weekday dinner or weekend lunch. Would I re-visit? Why yes! I’d love to go back for some edamame hummus and possibly try out the much adored Mermaid California and an Ocean Black Tiger (Sushi Specials). As mentioned before, I’d like to call this a casual place specifically for sushi, the entrées probably not.