Tucked away in a plaza packed with several cultural restaurants, Sushi OK attracts its customers with its gaudy, fluorescent lights that illuminate the darkening sky red and blue.
Pulling open the heavy, wooden doors, my friends and I were greeted by a peculiar array of disco wigs over an empty fish tank. Pausing to take a selfie with the flashy wigs, I took into account that they had a teppanyaki grill right in the front. As soon as one out of the few waiters working noticed our presence, we were brought to the table nearest the sushi bar in the back corner.
The sushi bar — bearing a resemblance to other traditional, Japanese wooden bars — was littered with a few patrons, while only two tables were filled in the remainder of the spacious restaurant. Another section of the space was festooned with a ceiling of star lights, while colorful, paper lanterns lined the borders. As we observed the content of the three flat screens above us, our waiter left us a hefty stack of menus alongside a bowl of salted edamame and iced waters.
I was once again reminded that ordering over a starved stomach rarely leads to a positive outcome, as it resulted in us requesting way too many dishes. An endless amount of options seemed to be placed before us from classic and fresh rolls to baked and tempura rolls, as well as noodle soups and rice bowls. Once our waiter noticed my raised hand long after my muscles grew tense, he approached our table to take our order. The dinner special of two rolls for $18 was simply too great to pass up and led us immediately toward the superman burrito, baked white ono roll, spicy tiger roll and albacore fashion roll. On top of that, we also ordered the tempura udon, salmon skin bowl and baked salmon roll.
After a brief wait, the dishes began to come out one after another, starting with the tempura udon. A large, seemingly bottomless bowl of firm yet tender udon noodles was accompanied by a plate of warm, shrimp tempura fried to ideal crispness. Minus the unnecessary green devils also known as broccoli, the item was a decent Japanese entree that was neither too salty nor bland. The only issue was that, though the soup was light and warm, it seemed to carry an essence of leafiness with its tea-based broth. But if that’s preferred, then this is a must-try.
Next came the salmon skin bowl, which was flavored to near-perfection in a sweet teriyaki sauce. A mound of fresh, tangy seaweed piled amongst the abundance of crunchy salmon skin over rice balanced the dish nicely. The superman burrito followed quickly behind. Four halves of the burrito roll were delicately stacked along the brim of the plate, the center being used for a dark, creamy sauce that perfectly complemented the riceless roll. The soft flesh of the roll melted away with each bite, and its salmon, tuna, imitation crab and avocado were skillfully wrapped in soy paper.
All of the rolls were displayed with impeccable plating and presentation as they were speedily dished out as well. The baked white ono roll consisted of a beautifully cooked white fish over a bed of spicy tuna rolls. The spicy tiger contained a tempura spicy tuna roll topped with a slice of gingered shrimp and avocado. The albacore fashion roll was yet another tempura spicy tuna roll with a smooth sliver of albacore. Aside from our accidental order of too much spicy tuna, all three rolls conveyed flavor-packed pockets of savory and hot kicks from the tuna and shrimp tempura.
Sushi OK’s name is quite misleading. Except for the somewhat delayed service in taking our orders and that the tempura udon contained a hint of unusual tea flavoring, this Japanese joint is at least slightly better than OK. Scratch that, it might just be a new favorite in Riverside. If not to try more varieties of rolls — that have more than just spicy tuna within — I’ll have to return to reap the benefits of their satisfying dinner special.