Sushi is an expensive habit – and for a girl who likes to eat it at least once a week, my sushi budget was getting stretched. So when my brother Mark posted that he was grabbing lunch at a new sushi buffet in town, I immediately called to set up a dinner date. My brother Piers went one better – he went to Izumi that night, posting a series of photos that further tempted me, and then came along with us too.
Izumi Hibachi Sushi at 4368 Washington Road is tucked behind a Hardee’s in Evans, a little hard to find if you aren’t looking for it, despite a brightly lit sign. It’s the first sushi buffet in town and also offers a full menu of sushi and Japanese dinner items.
But at only about $17 for the dinner sushi buffet, it’s hard not to order it. (Consider this: A single specialty roll or bowl of udon costs about $11.)
The buffet is a gleaming sprawl of Japanese offerings, with every food item beautifully presented on shapely white ceramic plates: There are salads, crab legs and cold boiled shrimp. Fat sushi rolls stuffed with cooked or raw seafood and drizzled with sauce. Beautifully sliced raw fish atop beds of formed rice (nigiri). Sashimi, the slices of raw fish presented on a broad green leaf. Raw oyster shots. Desserts. And for the fearful, a line of prepared Japanese entrees plus a hibachi where you pick your own ingredients.
Under the modern purple lights, chefs in smartly patterned black and white jackets quietly made rolls and presented items on the buffet. Classical music tinkled in the background.
The sprawling restaurant can look empty even when it’s not, and on this Thursday night, there were a couple of 10-plus parties in the back, along with several smaller tables up front. Especially with sushi, you want the food to be kept nice and cool, and for there to be a quick turnaround.
I was immediately impressed by how fresh the sushi was. Every bite was at the proper temperature, and even on that not-so-busy night, the food was being replenished regularly.
The biggest problem? Trying to decide what to get.
The buffet features 20 rolls, 14 nigiri, four types of sashimi, four salads, 15 cooked items plus extras like edamame, soups, desserts and more.
My husband, Sean, grabbed a crab stick, imitation crab on white rice wrapped in seaweed. “Why not?” he responded to my inquiring look.
Why not indeed? Whether you’re a sushi novice or consummate, the buffet gives you an opportunity (at a good price!) to try items you might not normally order. So with his good advice, I dug in.
The crab legs tend to be somewhat small (and my brother Piers said they’re cold, not steaming hot as on other seafood buffets), so I didn’t try those. But I got a scoop of seaweed salad and squid salad to start, along with salmon and white tuna nigiri.
I almost always order seaweed salad when I eat sushi, and this salad tasted just the same – nice and fresh, with flavors of sesame, soy and ginger. The squid salad had a great meatiness to it, with the nice firm pieces of squid touched with a bit of spice, a bit of soy and some tartness. And the nigiri? It was among the freshest I’ve ever had, with both fish being sweet and buttery.
The sushi rolls offered good variety, with a few recognizable and some new options. Some had fresh fish and avocado, some had cream cheese, a couple were deep fried, and several were drizzled with spicy mayo, giving them a nice kick. But all were beautiful, from the Pink Lady with its pink soybean paper to the Rainbow Roll with the jewel-like tuna and salmon draped on top. Some of my favorites included the Passion roll, a crunchy crab roll with shrimp on top; the Georgia roll, filled with crab salad and cucumber; the Super Volcano, a deep-fried cream cheese and spicy tuna roll, topped with a mountain of crab salad and a drizzle of eel sauce; and the Sunshine roll, salmon on salmon with spicy mayo and avocado.
For a breather, I also helped myself to a cup of miso, which I dressed up with silky white tofu cubes, scallions and flakes of dried seaweed that rehydrated in seconds upon hitting the warm broth. And once they replenished them, I quickly downed an oyster shot – a tiny pearlescent gray oyster in a marinade flavored with soy, spice and vinegar.
With no wait at the hibachi (I’ve since been back a couple of times, and there never is), Mark got a plate of freshly prepared meat, vegetables and noodles, with garlic, teriyaki and a spicy sauce. For those who don’t like sushi, the hibachi is a good option, offering beef, chicken and shrimp, plus vegetables such as broccoli, peppers and onions, along with rice, noodles and sauces to make a customized dish.
Another option is the cooked foods, which feature the familiar sesame chicken, fried rice, chicken on a stick and eggrolls, along with delicious slightly charred green beans, fried potstickers, and plump golden shrimp and vegetable tempura.
The dessert bar draws me every time with its beautiful little colorful squares of cakes and pies, but as Sean said, there’s a reason you don’t go to Asian restaurants for the desserts. They’re either bland, not sweet or have a chemical aftertaste (bright orange shiny cake, anyone?). But there’s also fresh fruit, including orange slices in orange cups, grapes and honeydew and an ice cream freezer with vanilla, chocolate and strawberry cups – and on one recent night, rainbow sherbet!
As great a deal as the dinner buffet is, the lunch is even better, since it offers nearly all the same items except for the nigiri and crab legs. When I texted my friends Brett and Grace (also sushi lovers) that we were there, Brett replied, “Eat like there is no tomorrow!” At Izumi, you could do that and eat very well.
ON THE MENU
WHERE: Izumi, 4368 Washington Road, Evans
HOURS: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 to 10 p.m. Monday to Thursday; 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 5 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; noon to 4 p.m. and 5 to 9:30 p.m. Sunday
COST: Lunch buffet, $10.95, dinner buffet, $16.65. Items are also available by menu.
SECOND HELPING: (706) 922-7280