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Friday, April 27, 2001 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Restaurant Review

Neighborhood Deals: Sushi in Joy serves fresh mix of hospitality, delicacies

Special to The Seattle Times

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A chorus of hellos and smiling faces greet patrons at Sushi In Joy, a cheery, 5-month-old Japanese restaurant about a mile north of downtown Bellevue in a strip mall almost hidden from the road by a Chevron station.

Sushi In Joy
2618 Bellevue Way N.E., Bellevue

425-576-1743

Hours: lunch

11 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday-Saturday; dinner 5-10 p.m. daily

Major credit cards / No smoking / Beer and wine only /

No obstacles to access

Japanese

$$

Recommended

The welcome is so sunny and the service so friendly, it almost makes you forget the February-in-April weather outside; certainly the warm, wet cloth offered once you are seated goes a long way toward reviving the circulation in cold fingers. With it comes a complimentary bowl of edamame.

This is the first restaurant venture for owner/chef Chang Choi, and it's a class act. Choi cooked professionally in his native Korea before arriving in America nine years ago. He entrusts the sushi bar to Andy Park, who makes sure fresh fish is delivered three to four times a week. "I call my suppliers every day," says Park. "The fish has to be the freshest. If it's not, people won't come back."

Many are sure to return to this tidy dining room where the aroma of fresh wood still lingers and the well-spaced tables are adorned with stone-filled bowls sprouting sticks of fresh bamboo. There's a small private room in the rear and a 10-seat tatami room, occupied on this evening by a couple of families with kids who are clearly having a great time slurping noodles while sitting shoeless on the floor.

Sushi and sashimi, noodle soups and yakisoba, teriyaki and tempura, donburi and katsu are all available day or evening. There's also broiled mackerel and fish cheeks for those willing to adventure into more authentic delicacies.

Prices range from $5.50-$12.95 at lunch and rise a dollar or two at dinner. Bento boxes featuring teriyaki and tempura ($7.95) or sushi and sashimi ($9.95) offer an especially good value at midday.

Itemized bill, meal for two

Poke salad, $7.50

Broiled yellowtail

cheek, $7

Japanese egg rolls, $3.50

Alaska roll, $4

Beef and tempura combo, $13.50

SubtotaL, $35.50

Tax (9.1%), $3.23

TOTAL, $38.73

Poke salad: A generous portion of raw yellowfin and albacore tuna garnishes this tangle of lettuce, cucumber and seaweed slick with sesame oil and dusted with chili pepper.

Broiled yellowtail cheek: My companion was put off by the crispy fins and small bones, but I savored the tender flesh attached to crackling skin, dipping each morsel into the lemony, scallion-studded ponzu sauce. Served with a bundle of greens, this appetizer ranks as a light entree.

Harumaki: Ponzu sauce perks up these crunchy, slightly spicy little vegetable-stuffed Japanese egg rolls.

Alaska roll: Broiled salmon skin, brittle and still warm, joins cucumber, avocado, tobiko and rice in a nori-wrapped bundle that's sliced into four succulent mouthfuls.

Beef and tempura combo: The thin New York cut, cooked rare and exceedingly tender, is brushed with a teriyaki sauce poised precisely between pungent and sweet. The tempura is as light as a dandelion puff and includes two shrimp, carrots, green beans and a creamy slice of squash. Served with a small green salad.

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