Tonight I got to work on the first of several new sushi restaurants that have opened recently. Of the last four restaurants that have opened lately, three of them are Japanese/Sushi joints. UMI is the latest of the bunch and opened about a week ago, perhaps slightly earlier. I’ve been on a small sushi kick lately, so this is working out great for me. I met up with my mom and grandma for dinner tonight just after 5.
UMI is located in the old Roseville Gourmet location. It’s an odd place for a restaurant. Other than Burger King, it doesn’t seem like food really belongs back on this little S-curve of a road known as South Harding Blvd. Roseville Gourmet somehow managed to survive for a very long time. I was surprised to see, not more than a month ago, their sign abruptly replaced by the new one for UMI Sushi. Walking inside I was a little taken aback by the change in decor. With Roseville Gourmet, the interior was a bit drab. UMI Sushi really stripped everything out and started over. It has a clean, modern feel to it and manages to set itself apart from many of the dark, nightclub-inspired sushi joints with colorful LED mood lighting. Instead, they opt for a fairly spartan approach. The ceiling and tables are the only really dark parts. The seating is light wood chairs with white seats and a soft-looking white bench along one wall. As you enter, you walk between some interestingly repurposed blinds hung from the ceiling. It serves well to somewhat isolate the centrally located entrance from the diners all around it.
Straight back is a small sushi bar that seats maybe six. They were slow, with just 2 or 3 tables occupied at the time we arrived. They’re brand new, and it’s a Monday night, so that didn’t surprise me at all. I was actually behind the others by a few minutes so I joined them at their table. Two narrow menus awaited me. I quickly got started with an Asahi Black as soon as the server came by. The menu is small to medium sized, compared to the average for the area. It is broken up into cold and hot appetizers, nigiri, entrees, drinks and rolls. Before long we had picked out two appetizers and three rolls. We were planning on doing the Sashimi appetizer (7 pieces of assorted salmon and blue fin tuna)[$12.95] and the Mixed Tempura (deep fried and battered prawns & daily fresh veggies)[$7.50]. When the server came by, actually a different person this time, he recommended the Umi Tacos (assorted fish in taco shell, fresh veggies and Umi special sauce)[$11]. We thought that sounded interesting and ordered that instead of the sashimi. This server turned out to be the real server, and I believe the other one was more of a hostess, though she seemed to be doing slightly more than just that. Both were very friendly and seemed eager to please. Since we already had the rolls picked out we went ahead and ordered those at the same time.
I sipped on my Asahi Black which was very smooth and light tasting despite it’s color. We soon received a small bowl of sauce for the tempura. This arrived a few minutes later on a neat little folding wooden stand. We demolished this quickly. I usually say that tempura appetizers seem to be hard to screw up, and I still mean it. I’ve never had bad tempura. It’s always straight out of the fryer and often dangerously hot. This was crisp and exactly as expected. It had several shrimp along with asparagus, carrot, broccoli, potato and zucchini. It felt like we were off to a good start, however this was about in the meal where the pacing pretty much fell apart.
It was another 25 minutes before our other appetizer, the Umi Tacos were brought out. With them was the Umi special sauce which our server stated either was, or was like, ponzu sauce, which apparently is a citrus/soy sauce kind of blend. I felt like it was more in the soy sauce category, much thinner though. The tacos were really, really good. Inside the shell, which was made from fried soy beans, I found some fresh greens (more of a garnish than anything) salmon and a white fish that I am unsure of. It was a very interesting delivery method for what was essentially chopped sashimi. The crunchy texture of the shell is not something I’ve ever experienced along with soft, delicate pieces of raw fish.
Once we were done with the tacos, which didn’t take more than a couple minutes, we waited again. This time it was about 20 minutes before our rolls were delivered. About halfway through this wait our server came by to apologize for the wait and explained that it was his fault for apparently not putting the order in.
Our rolls came on a single large platter. From left to right we had the Bulldog, the Great White and the Paris. The Bulldog is deep fried soft-shell crab, snow crab, avocado, salmon, yellowtail, fish-roe, wasabi sauce and unagi sauce [$10.95]. It was definitely the wildest-looking on the plate and had the largest pieces. On top were bonito flakes for a little crunch. This was a very flavorful roll with lots going on. The yellowtail perched up top, drizzled with unagi and wasabi sauces seemed to dominate the flavors slightly, but I was still able to enjoy everything else it had to offer. This did not have as much of a kick to it from the wasabi sauce as I was expecting and instead was fairly mellow.
The Paris was tempura-asparagus, scallops, snow crab, unagi sauce and black tobiko [$10.95]. This was one of my mom’s picks and I didn’t even realize, until now, that this had scallops. They must have been very small or chopped, because usually that’s a texture that really stands out to me. The asparagus still had a bit of a snap to it which was nice. I got the couple pieces that were loaded with tobiko and they had a nice crunch to them and their apparently smokey flavor came through strong. My mom commented on the smokey flavor of this one and wasn’t sure where it would be coming from. I did not realized that tobiko had this quality.
Our last roll, the Great White, was seared butterfish, hamachi, avocado, garlic ponzu and green onion [$10.95]. I have the say that I have disliked nearly every piece of seared sushi I’ve had so far. My first bite of this one was no exception. Something changed with the next bite though. I know butane is basically flavorless, yet my brain wants to associate a gas-like taste to seared fish. This is the first time I’ve ever heard of or tried butterfish. I think it’s deliciousness allowed me to overcome my dislike of seared fish. Just past that thin, crisp layer was an amazingly soft and smooth piece of buttery fish that just melted in your mouth. It’s name actually does it justice. This turned out to be my favorite of the three, and the Bulldog was damn good.
Throughout the meal my stomach was craving still more, I was exceedingly hungry, and at the end I decided I wanted to get an order of unagi nigiri (BBQ fresh water eel)[$5] to finish the dinner off. I should had realized that it was going to take a while and just picked a little something else up on the way home, but it was too late. It took about 16 minutes for this to come out. These gaps were annoying, there’s no denying that. This was perhaps one of the best orders of unagi I’ve ever had though. They were really big pieces which were wonderfully tender and almost like the butterfish in how they practically melted in your mouth. A fine way to end a long dinner.
Overall I was very surprised by UMI sushi, probably mostly due to the drastic change in decor from Roseville Gourmet, but the food was rock solid too, not to take anything away from that. Splitting the service and pacing out I would be able to call the service excellent and the pacing awful, together making it OK service. If they can improve that then this could end up another one of Roseville’s plentiful selection of excellent sushi spots, and in an area of Roseville that was lacking one too! Price-wise it was perhaps a touch above the norm. Overall I’d give this visit a 3.5 (-1 for pacing and -0.5 for price). It has great potential as the pacing should be fairly easy for them to correct.