Out With the Old, In With the New: Sushi in Montclair

sapporo sushi1.JPG(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.

BlueSushi.JPGBlue, 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 Road
Replacing 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)

bamboo2-1.jpgBamboo, 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.

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  1. We tried Sapporo a few days after it opened, and well, the sushi was pretty horrible. And I think most can agree that once you have bad sushi, you aren’t eager to go back. Can’t speak to their hibachi, though.
    Was never a big fan of Yoshi, service was always slow and the sushi was just “ok.” Haven’t tried Blue yet, though.
    Recently tried takeout from Sakura and liked almost everything we had. Seems to have the same pitfall of FAWA, though, in that its “special” rolls are quite expensive, but they were good enough that I’d go back.

  2. Can’t figure out why one Japanese restaurant (FAWA/Sakura) would open up directly across from another on a small street in a smallish town that has multiple Japanese restaurants also close by. I know we love our sushi, but . . .
    It would be great to have an uptown Thai restaurant, for example . . .
    Dai Kichi is still the best.

  3. the best sushi around it Tomo’s on the road through cedar grove to Willowbrook. The stuff in montclair doesn’t even come close.

  4. Actually, I thought Sushi Nouveau went quite a bit downhill (while their prices climbed) when the old manager, Karen, left. The past few times we went (and we were weekly regulars) we had to send back dishes that were underprepared.
    Our new favorite place is Aki Japanese in Bloomfield. Better selection than Sushi Nouveau and cheaper to boot! https://www.akisushius.com/

  5. Surprised that Nouveau Sushi is gone. Hadn’t been there in a while but was definitely a cut above the competition a couple of years ago. Expensive though. Been going to Aki on Broad St. in Bloomfield. Highly recommend it. Good for take-out also.

  6. Dai Kichi has lasted for so long for a reason – it’s good, service is attentive, Aki is a great manager (and softball player, btw), and they deliver. Another family favorite is Aki Sushi on Broad Street just down from the Brookdale ShopRite. Yes, it’s always a bit confusing – do the kids want to go for sushi at Aki the person, or Aki the place?

  7. I’ve taught myself to make sushi. It’s not bad once you get the hang of it. As long as all of the staple ingredients are in the pantry, it’s like many other meals. And for about a tenth of the price of ordering in a restaurant.
    But when I do go out, it’s Dai Kitchi.

  8. If you haven’t tried Toro, between Charlie Brown’s and Magnolia wine store, DO. Always incredibly fresh. they take great pride in their fish, deservedly so.

  9. can’t believe Nouveau is gone – they were 1st on our sushi rotation! However we tried Toro recently and were very impressed. Great pre-movie spot.
    Also very pleased with Aki in Bloomfield. Has anyone tried their Sunday brunch? Seems like a reasonable deal for $17.50 (assuming they have a good variety)!

  10. Aki is the best! They have a HUGE selection of great special rolls. We were Dai Kichi fans back in the day but are now total Aki people. Aki is only really good for their kitchen stuff. Their sushi is about 10 levels below Aki and 3 times the price!

  11. you asked for places out side Baristaville. I like Ocha in Caldwell and also Pahang in Verona.

  12. Don’t forget Aozora on Bloomfield Ave. Very consistent excellence. Never disappointed here. Tomo is more straight-up and like what you might get in Japan. Aozora more Nobu/American fusion, and the staffs at Toro and Sushi hana are very pleasant. But the best sushi goes to Aozora.

  13. Based on the review here we tried Blue for dinner tonight. It was amazing. The rolls on special were unlike anything I’d had before, and the fish was fresh and delicious. Plus, while I was waiting, the chef showed me other rolls as he was making them, suggesting things I might try next time. I will so definitely be back. This is a great addition to Watchung Plaza.

  14. I also want to say that Aozora on Bloomfield Ave. is fantastic. The chef, Nelson, makes amazing soups, too. If you want higher end stuff, that’s the place to go. We stopped going to Nouveau after Karen left; it was just not the same. But there are many options. I am lucky to have so much delicious sushi around here since I’m completely addicted to it.

  15. I have to say Aozora has the freshest sushi. When it comes to sushi restaurants I like to see who eats there. Does the place have Japanese customers? That’s always a good sign.
    I was eating at the sushi bar at Aozora once and this Japanese men sat down to eat with his wife next to me. They seem to know the chef very well. I asked them if they come often and they said at least once a month. He then told me: “Im his fish supplier. I supply fish to most sushi restaurants in town. I know he buys the best quality, that’s why we come here!”
    I have eaten sushi at many restaurants, yet only a few serve you the head of the Ama Ebi…Aozora is one of them.
    If you have never tried it, give it a shot. They have been there for 7 years. They must be doing something good!
    They have two websites:
    One is super annoying, but super modern:
    The other one, which I recently discovered, its much easier to navigate:
    Last…if you plan to go during the weekend, make sure to make a reservation as the place is always packed. During the weak is more mellow, which I like the best.

  16. Nobody likes Nori? A bit expensive, but quality sushi in my opinion.
    Has anyone had both Nori and Dai Kichi? Is Dai Kichi that much better?

  17. Why do you say that? I’m actually just curious, I just recently started eating sushi and I’ve only had Nori. Plus since I’m a sushi-newbie, I tend to stick to the “safe” sushi and not venture into anything too crazy.
    So for all I know Nori could be terrible in terms of classic sushi, but it seems pretty good to me for what I get.

  18. Went to Nori in Fall 07. It was so long ago I forget exactly what triggered my “awful” assessment. It had something to do with mayo on a roll…or so I think. I’m sorry I can’t do better. I like Dai Kichi, but I got delivery from them one week ago and the delivery guy crumpled up my receipt and tossed it on the ground. It had my name and address on it. Not cool. So now I don’t know where I’ll go for sushi. I’m very particluar.

  19. I say give Aozora a try. I think you will be more than pleased! Ask for Nelson, chef-owner, tell him you are very particular and be may hook you up with something…you never know! special

  20. I loveeee Aozora!! My first experience with sushi was at nori and it was okay. Nothing to write home about, second time I had sushi I tried Aozora – very very good. Always willing to try new places so will try this place too!

  21. @ ricardodacosta and lomeinlover: I’ve been told to try Aozora many times. I will and I’ll post my opinion. Thanks.

  22. Any word on 32 Church in Montclair? We stopped in Saturday after seeing a movie … had a light bite; salad and some pasta. Our meal was good, service was only fair but the restaurant is pretty and I love the new front window that opens up so you can eat in but be out!

  23. Seriously, if Blossom had a Montclair outpost, I would probably just stop cooking and eat every meal there.
    A new restaurant opened on Glenridge Ave, called Azianne (I think it’s in the old Tallest Tree space). I picked up a menu since I live nearby – expected it to be more Asian style foods but it’s kind of all over the place. I was surprised because they’re also doing breakfast. If I try it, I’ll report back.

  24. We tried Bamboo for takeout last night. Never again. Things didn’t bode well when the person answering the phone had a shaky command of English and couldn’t locate an item on the menu. But when we got home to discover we were paying $7.00 for two spareribs, and unexceptional ones at that, we crossed this restaurant of our list. I actually called them to find out where the rest of the ribs were. The same person who took my order assured me that $3.50 per rib was the norm.
    I’m not sure if this is a case of arrogance, ignorance, or outright stupidity, and I don’t care, given the alternatives in our area. If they’re still in business after the summer, I’ll be surprised.

  25. Aozora is overrated. Aki Sushi in Bloomfield is way better. Toro is great too but lately they haven’t been very busy. Hope they don’t close.

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