Sane Sushi on Central
It's crazy the number of sushi places that have opened recently out here in the desert, so far from the sea. Crazy Fish is Albuquerque's newest addition to the pool (pun intended). After many long weeks of anticipation, made even longer by false starts and rumors of the restaurant's opening, it finally opened eight weeks ago.
You'll find no gimmicky sushi boats or moats here, and not a single giant ceramic cat to welcome you with a high five. The room, like the fish, is fresh and almost elegant in its simplicity. Black and gray predominate the decor. Red insinuates itself in splashes of deep color on tabletops, the sushi bar, bandanas on the chefs, and even the seared tuna salad.
My dining companion complained that he didn't like the décor. He prefers a more traditional setting when it comes to Japanese restaurants. I had the opposite reaction and loved their decorating scheme, which is minimalist without needing to be hard-edged or cold. It's quite simply cool, from the colorfully lit art that graces the main wall, to the way-cool restrooms or even the original takeout boxes. The wall is decorated with four large framed manga, depicting various aspects of a life with sushi.
I have not found it necessary to review a restroom since the over-the-top lavatories at El Monte Sagrado Resort in Taos, but here goes: Don't miss these bathrooms, folks! They're as tasteful as the rest of the place with neutral tile and modern fixtures, but the kicker is the wonderful language tapes that will teach you invaluable Japanese phrases to either prepare you for your next visit to Edo or just make you smile.
A nice selection of lunch entrées are served in neat bento boxes. These shiny red and black lunch boxes include rice, a refreshing cucumber and seaweed salad, very lightly dressed baby greens and a mélange of mung bean sprouts with julienne red and green pepper and a bowl of excellent miso soup. The crispy chicken ($7.75) was great, a variation on katsudon (breaded and fried pork cutlet), one of my all time favorite Japanese dishes. The chicken is crispy with a Panko (Japanese bread crumb) coating and served with a savory house-made, tonkatsu-type Worcestershire flavored sauce. A nice selection of salads is also offered on the lunch menu and for a few bucks more you can add a California or tuna roll. The seared albacore tuna salad was outstanding, truly a bargain at $7.50. The fresh tuna was seared properly, deep red, rare atop a nest of pristine baby greens, which were scattered with a confetti of red peppers and perfectly dressed with balanced ginger soy dressing. Abbreviated sushi and sashimi combinations served with miso are also offered at lunch with less variety than the dinner versions, but they're also cheaper on the lunch menu.
I skipped the soup and noodle section on the lunch menu though it looked good. My server couldn't answer any of my many questions about some of the dish preparations and ingredients and had to go back with questions for the chef four times during our brief encounter. There's a serious deficit when it comes to service in that regard--the friendly, laid-back wait staff really should be apprised of what's being served and how it is prepared.
The sushi here matches the décor. The fish is fresh, not fishy or flashy. You won't find green chile and cream cheese combinations here, just pristine fish very simply presented with no bells, pops or whistles. The pickled ginger was a natural color and some of the best I've had. A friend heartily recommended the squid salad as a first course, but instead, my friends opted for the vegetable and shrimp tempura ($6). It had just a few shrimp but the tempura batter was light, not greasy, with a flavorful dipping sauce.
Our server was very excited to recommend the garlic peppered beef ($13.50). I must admit I couldn't tell if she was just doing some check building or if she was genuinely ecstatic about the dish, but I sure was glad she recommended it. The beef was tender and cooked to a reasonable rare temperature. The interplay of the pepper, garlic and sake flavors worked really well. An added bonus was the zippy wasabi mashed potatoes, which were unfortunately not served warm enough and a challenge to eat with chopsticks. Which leads me to a rhetorical question: Why do a very high percentage of diners in Japanese restaurants use chopsticks? The same doesn't hold true in other Asian eateries where chopsticks seem to be the exception rather than the rule. Now, there's something to ponder.
Have you ever noticed how sushi lovers seem to crave ice-cream after dinner? You're in luck, since desserts here are limited to ice-cream and bananas (tasty tempura fried bananas, to be exact). Instead of chocolate ice-cream, we substituted delicious (albeit small) scoops of spicy ginger and caffeinated green tea ice-cream.
Next time you get that crazy yen for sushi, or creative Japanese cuisine for that matter, head for Crazy Fish.
Crazy Fish; 3015 Central NE; 232-3474; Hours: Tues-Fri 11 a.m.-2 p.m., Tues-Thurs 5 p.m.-9:30 p.m., Fri-Sat 5 p.m.-10 p.m.; Price Range: Inexpensive to moderate at lunch, moderate to expensive at dinner; Major credit cards accepted.