Sweet 15

Sushi of Naples is as good now as when it opened in 1996

By Erica Wayne 05/26/2011

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It’s a blessing to dine at a restaurant where everything (food, service, etc.) is under control.  Sushi of Naples on Green Street is such a place and has been since its birth in 1996. Of course, it had a mother in Long Beach (quite renowned and still going strong) and a big sister (the restaurant’s first local site on Colorado Boulevard — now closed) to learn from. So it’s easy to understand how it got so good. 
 
The name is a bit odd. “Sushi of Naples,” I said to my dining mate, announcing our destination the first time we tried it. “Oh,” he responded. “Is that next door to Luigi’s Tempura?” The juxtaposition of sushi and Naples may not be as jarring to you, especially if you’re a longtime fan. The mystery is explained by the location of the original on Naples Island (encapsulated by the Long Beach mainland adjacent to Belmont Shore). 
 
For novices (are there any left in California?) or sissies, the sushi list is filled with simpler and more familiar items, e.g., tuna, yellowtail, salmon, shrimp and crab; slightly more adventurous eaters will find eel (fresh and saltwater), squid, octopus and the like. For the cognoscenti, there are roe (smelt, cod, flying fish and salmon), live raw sweet shrimp, raw scallop and buttery toro (sliced from the fatty yellowtail, tuna and salmon bellies). 
 
Some of the niftier concoctions are to be found in Sushi of Naples’ list of (almost 50) rolls. I like the Caterpillar Roll, fashioned of avocados wrapped around fresh eel and rice and topped with eel sauce ($13.50); the Naples Roll (tuna, yellowtail, salmon, shrimp, avocado and smelt roe wrapped in soy paper ($10.50) and the rolls fashioned with tempura seafood (calamari, soft shell crab, shrimp, etc. - $10.50-$11.50)
 
For a literally brighter meal, try the Rainbow Roll ($12.50). This masterpiece is made up of tuna, salmon, halibut, yellowtail, shrimp and avocado spiraled around a full size California Roll (with crab and avocado). The roll is almost large enough to serve as an entire dinner, although it’s hard to refrain from ordering a few other delicacies. 
 
Loyal locals may want to sample the Pasadena Roll ($14.50), a house original of tuna, salmon, whitefish, yellowtail, cream cheese, avocado, smelt roe, cucumber and sprouts. I’ve got to admit a skepticism for sushi with cream cheese and a downright dislike for the spicy fish mixtures and hot peppers that have proliferated (even at Sushi of Naples) in the past couple of decades. The fish here is so delicate that I want to savor it almost naked (the fish, not me). Hence my preference for simpler sushi over many of the more baroque rolls.
 
Even if you’re not a raw fish fan, you can enjoy a really good meal at the new Sushi of Naples. Among the appetizers and side orders are yakitori (grilled chicken breast on skewers), kara-age (deep-fried chicken), baked green mussels, various tempura dishes and fried oysters, all at prices ($3.50-$7.95) that invite mix ‘n’ match orders.
 
Our favorite non-sushi entrees are the dinner boxes, which consist of two or three items (among them sashimi, sushi, tempura, teriyaki, grilled mackerel, sweet soy squid and black cod) for $13.95-$17.95. Each box also contains a scoop of rice, a small salad and a fruit garnish. The meal includes a steaming bowl of fragrant miso soup. 
 
The tempura is masterful: two huge tender shrimp, a thick slice of onion, another of yam and a massive blossom of broccoli, crispy until devoured and practically grease-free. The fishes are moist and delicate and both teriyaki sauce and salad dressing are more subtle than the norm and mercifully short on sugar.
 
Other dinners include bowls (sashimi, eel or poke) over rice ($16.50-$18.50); a la carte teriyaki, noodles (soba, udon and ramen), katsu (cutlets) — $6.50-$13.50; and five different sushi and show boats to share with friends and family ($39.90-$69.90). The most expensive includes 10 pieces of sushi, 18 pieces of sashimi, some sort of roll and tempura. The $47.90 “Dreamboat” (more of a luxury cruise) contains lobster, teriyaki, tempura, gyoza (Japanese pot-stickers), yakitori and fruit.
 
Sushi of Naples has a fairly extensive beverage list, including a number of premium sakes, sochu, Japanese beers (both bottled and draft), and red and white wines. Alcohol is half-price from 7 p.m. until closing. And the desserts, which oddly enough we’ve never gotten to, include mochi and tempura ice cream, tempura cheesecake, fried banana and something, probably alcoholic, called an ice kiss($3.50-$6.95).
 
The interior of Sushi of Naples is cozier than many “hard edge” Japanese restaurants, with lots of banquettes, carpet and dark wood, subdued lighting and barely audible jazz background music that doesn’t interfere with conversation. The interior arrangement is dandy for the enjoyment of food and friends, either in the main dining area or at the sushi bar, which stretches across the rear of the restaurant in its own space. 
 
The restaurant, thank goodness, is open seven days a week, service is always prompt (but not rushed); and now that the Pasadena Playhouse has reopened, its location a block from the theater is a definite plus for our Sunday series tickets and for the Playhouse’s special events (like the Hershey Felder sing-along) scheduled  on Monday evenings.

Sushi of Naples
735 E. Green St. | Pasadena
(626) 578-1123
Beer and wine/
Major cards

 

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