Saturday, April 3, 2010

Sushi Gen - classic lunchtime bargain

Some compatriots and I tried and failed to eat dinner at Sushi Gen prior to the Radio Room at the Edison on Tuesday night as they were booked solid the rest of the evening. We made do with a very eh meal at Manten, a Japanese take on Chinese cuisine, across Honda Plaza, which I recommend be avoided.

This reminded me of Sushi Gen's well known Sashimi Lunch Special: a platter of sashimi, a bowl of miso soup, a dish of sunomono a bowl of rice and a bowl of tofu in a beef broth all for $15. I had not had this deal in a few years and was curious to see if it was still good or was coasting on its reputation so stopped by for an early lunch on Friday.

The menu was on the menu when I sat down and a waitress came by to take my order within two minutes before I had even had a chance to look at the menu. Fortunately I knew what I wanted - the sashimi lunch special. After ordering the lunch special ($15) and a hot tea ($1.50) the waitstaff set a land speed record for delivering waiter ordered food to the table. Not two minutes later the sashimi platter, miso soup, sunomono and tofu all arrived at the table, followed by the bowl of rice a minute or two later.

The sashimi platter is generously portioned and included tuna, yellowtail, toro, spicy tuna, diced yellowtail with scallions and cooked salmon among others. While the fish is plentiful, some of it is cut more like scraps than like sushi, so purists be aware. The toro was rich and buttery, full of fatty flavor and mouthfeel. Toro is not something I expect to see on a combination or special plate, let alone one priced at $15, so that is even more of a special treat.

The tofu is cubed and cooked and arrives in a broth in a bowl, like Agedashi Tofu, only not fried. It is a fine prelude to the main event but not especially flavorful or interesting. The miso soup was piping hot.

The overall verdict was that the sashimi lunch special at Sushi Gen is not only a great value but a great lunch. The deal is no secret so crowds begin to form from 11 am onwards through the end of the lunch hour and expect a wait of ~30 minutes or longer at peak times and ~15 minutes early or late. They turn the tables quickly here, so this is not the place for a leisurely lunch to catch up with friends you haven't seen in a while. I was probably at my table for about 30 minutes and when I left the line to get in was longer than when I had arrived. The fast turnover accounts for both the fresh fish and the lickety-split arrival of the food.

Note that the sashimi lunch special (and all lunch specials) are only available at tables, not at the bar. The bar requires a minimum of four orders of sushi/sashimi.

Sushi Gen is located at 422 east 2nd St @ Central, in the Honda Plaza minimall. Parking is available for $1.50 with validation at lunch time ($2.50 at dinner time). Telephone: (213) 617-0552

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