When I was a teenager, I used to go to Crazy Fish a lot. Since I couldn’t go out to bars and I didn’t know anyone who went to house shows or did anything “cool,” my best friends and I would go out to eat. My friend Dylan brought me to Crazy Fish first for homecoming when I was 15 or so. After that, my friend Katie and I would frequent the restaurant looking to escape the watchful eyes of our parents, even if it was only for an hour or two. My first time there was just shy of 10 years ago now, but Crazy Fish has been around longer than that.This gem is between Nob Hill and UNM, and with its unassuming facade it’s difficult to pick out when you’re walking along Central. Since I first started going to Crazy Fish, the decor has changed (they’re under new management) but it’s maintained the same vibe. Elegantly minimalistic, this is a hideaway for anyone looking for a quiet, casual and lovely evening. The space is small, open and bright with an exposed sushi bar to watch the chefs work. It’s a fairly intimate atmosphere; though there aren’t many booths it’s easy to get lost in personal conversations because it’s also very quiet.On this particular visit, after the complementary bowl of miso sent from the gods, I decided to try some things I hadn’t had before. I ordered the Monkey Balls ($7.50) with the encouragement of my foodie partner. This dish consists of two fried mushrooms stuffed with spicy tuna, served with daikon and topped with teriyaki, spicy mayo, sesame sauce and shredded seaweed and sliced into quarters. I can’t recommend anything fried here enough. It was perfectly crunchy without being oily or soggy. The spicy tuna was chopped so fine I almost thought it was ground, and coupled with the other mildly spicy and sweet toppings, it was tastefully excellent. I tried another option that I don’t normally get: a bento box. I chose the salmon bento box ($13.95) which featured a small California roll, veggie tempura, green salad and a seaweed salad with grilled salmon on a bed of rice. This dish would be perfect for someone who is unsure if they’ll like sushi. It was fairly plain, simple and delicious.The California roll is the most common composition for sushi, and this roll was exactly what I expected. It was sweet, creamy but topped with smelt eggs (masago) which added an interesting flair of texture with the crab in the center of the roll. The veggie tempura was unexpectedly wonderful. I’ve noticed with most sushi places around, the vegetables in tempura tend to be cooked to one extreme or the other—too soft or too tough with a fragile fried exterior. Like I said earlier, I can’t recommend the fried food here enough. The salad was surprisingly fresh with a semisweet dressing, and the seaweed salad was firm and elastic. Finally, the salmon was grilled perfectly and barely seasoned. It could have used more flavor but I can see how this all could be a gateway dish for a sushi virgin.The real star of the show at Crazy Fish is the sushi. No matter what time of year, who is in the kitchen, the quality of the food is consistently excellent. For this next visit. I had the smelt egg nigiri ($3.50), the rainbow roll ($12.50) and the dragon roll ($12).The nigiri was beautifully simple: It had tiny orange smelt eggs that were barely sweet and was wrapped with dry seaweed. The texture of the soft, delicate eggs with the dry, slightly saltine seaweed created an interesting contrast. The rainbow roll is perfect for tasting different types of fish as it’s topped with tuna, yellowtail, whitefish, salmon, shrimp and avocado. I liked the tuna alright and the shrimp even more, but best were the softness and flavor of the salmon.One type of fish I do like more than salmon is freshwater eel, and that’s what the dragon roll is comprised of. It’s a basic California roll topped with unagi (eel), sweet sauce and avocado. The headliner of this dish is the unagi. It was incredibly tender and with the sweet sauce poured over the roll, I was left wanting more. Not that it could have used more, I just wanted about a million more rolls of it because it was exquisite. To end the meal I had the green tea mochi ($4.50). The outer layer of rice cake was soft and cold, topped with whipped cream. The center of green tea ice cream was mildly sweet and easy to bite into despite the coldness of the entire confection. The familiar sticky residue of the rice cake remained on my fingers when I signed the bill and exited toward Central.As I left every person working at the restaurant said goodbye, which made me feel extremely welcome and wanted at the business, which isn’t that common. I never felt rushed by the staff or like I was a nuisance at all. After all these years and even under new management, from the food to the décor to the staff, Crazy Fish remains one of the best restaurants in the city.
Crazy Fish Sushi Bar & Grill3015 Central NE505-232-3474crazyfishabq.comHours: Mon-Thu 11am-9:30pm, Fri 11am-10pm, Sat noon-10pm, Sun noon-9:30pmVibe: Casually minimalistAlibi Recommends: Monkey balls, smelt egg nigiri, dragon roll