(Updates with details of change of management on 605 Valley Road, after the jump)
It seems Baristaville residents really love their sushi. Almost everyone, and their kids, has something to say about Japanese restaurants in Montclair – most of it pretty positive, too. Here’s a roundup of who’s opened up shop and where, what we’ve sussed out about them, and which ones have shut down over the past several months.
Blue, at Watchung Plaza
Replacing Yoshi Sushi at Watchung Plaza, Blue is a new favorite of my family’s and, although it feels disloyal to say it, a couple of notches better than Yoshi.
Service was friendly and impeccable, there are great lunch deals, prices are relatively easy on the pocket, their bento boxes are divine and all the sushi I’ve tried – sticking firmly within the white or red fish group (I have an allergy to shellfish) has been excellent. Pictured is a lunch special from Blue – an inside-out tuna and avocado roll with raw tuna on the inside, and grilled tuna with a sweet garlic sauce on top. Absolutely delicious!
Other sushi fanatics have been pleased, too. Here’s what Barista Kids’ Kristen Kemp, another former fan of the now-defunct Yoshi, said:
Every Friday, we go out for sushi. We used to go to Yoshi, and we were worried when they were closed for renovations. When they finally reopened, my favorite owners were gone, and the place was called Blue. The new hostess could see my disappointment, and she almost hugged me, saying, “I’ll take good care of you.”
I was definitely taken care of. My favorite dish at Blue is a chef’s special called the Yummy Yummy Roll. The special sauce is spicy and perfect and not too mayonaise-y. The inside is salmon, avocado and other goodies. Salmon is also on the outside. The fish is better than most quick sushi restaurants, and the prices are good, too. The spicy yellowtail handroll was hot, mild and buttery, and the Korean-born chef does a few BBQ specialties that my husband orders. I have yet to try the chirashi, which is telling of the quality of a sushi restaurant’s fish.
I hate to say it, but all in all, Blue is a little better than the old sushi place. And the hostess who waits on us is doting and sweet, too.
Sapporo, on Valley Road (next to A&P)
Although Sapporo’s decor isn’t a strong point – it’s a bit dreary, and mauve, with laminate glossy faux wood flooring in parts, tile in others, and no artwork – the restaurant’s interior is possibly little changed since the days of Daruma, the former restaurant which occupied this easily missed spot next door to A&P on Valley Road. Happily, and certainly on the day my dining companion and I visited, Sapporo didn’t fall short on flavor, service or value.
Almost all the photos in the slideshow (above) were taken at Sapporo, in a meal for two that worked out to about $10 a head. It included miso soup, salad, steamed veg dumplings of ginger, carrot and celery, a massive sushi lunch special (as seen in the photo at top) and a chicken katsu bento box, which came with, yes, even more sushi. For the price, we ate our fill and took away enough sushi for a meal for two very happy children.
Sakura, at 605 Valley RoadReplacing Fawa, the restaurant that offered a peculiar fusion of French and Asian food at its trendy former premises on Valley Road, is a sushi restaurant, Sakura. Probably news that some, who weren’t happy with the small Fawa portions and lack of a key Asian grain, may welcome.
Debbie Galant, who checked Sakura out recently, said: “Beautiful presentation and they were able to serve something – cooked eel as an entree – that was totally off the menu.” (See her photos in the slideshow of the elaborate, vertical presentation of sushi and cocktail glass of fruit)
Bamboo, at 605 Valley Road
Here today, gone tomorrow; the landscape at 605 seems to be ever changing. By mid-May, Sakura, the Japanese restaurant which had replaced Fawa, had a new sign reading Bamboo on the front of the premises, and a notice saying Grand Opening – May 20. I popped into the restaurant on Wednesday (May 19) and was told by a cheerful staffer, Wendy, that Bamboo (pictured here) will serve Chinese and Japanese food, and will also do pick-ups and deliveries. The owner, a Mr Deng, hails from the Fujian province of China and this is his first restaurant in the area.
Another restaurant that bit the dust is Noveau Sushi, formerly at 635 Bloomfield Ave, which had been highly popular despite its high prices.
Have you visited any new Japanese restaurants in Bloomfield, Nutley, Verona, Belleville, or indeed, anywhere else in Baristaville? Please send your recommendations, in the comments.