#205: UMI Sushi

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.

Website: http://umiumiumi.com

(Scanned) Menu: Click Here

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#204: Bhan Thai

Yesterday evening I was in the mood for Thai.  I had a small lunch and was already hungry on my drive home from work.  Once home, I didn’t waste much time before grabbing my camera and heading out to Roseville’s newest Thai restaurant, Bhan Thai.  Bhan Thai is located on Cirby at Rocky Ridge and in the same building as Cool River Pizza, just on the other side.  They’ve been open for a little over a month now.

I showed up pretty early at about 4:30.  After taking a moment to photograph the exterior, I headed in.  The inside is nice looking, though a bit oddly laid out.  I’m not sure what business was here before but I got the impression that maybe it was a coffee house or something.  There is a counter in front as you walk in where they have placed seats.  I bet baristas worked on the other side.  In the opposite corner of the restaurant, where I ended up sitting, looked like it could have been an area for live music, based on the ceiling-work that remained above.  Overall the dining room itself is decent enough, there is one odd table way off by itself against the back wall, I bet the employees use that one more than anyone else.  There is a good size patio that faces Cirby, though they only have a single table and umbrella set up there, again, I think more for employee use than anything.  I laughed a little when I saw this photo on their Facebook inviting customers to eat outside, I guess only one party can fit at a time!  Hopefully they will add some more tables.

As it was pretty early there was not a soul to be seen when I entered.  In fact, despite the door beeping to announce my arrival, I didn’t even see any staff.  I made my way up to the main counter and stood for a moment, expecting someone to come around the corner to greet me.  After about 30 seconds it was obvious that no one had heard me enter.  I was curious how long it would take someone to notice so I stood there quietly, picking up a menu from the main stack to thumb through.  I soon noticed that there was someone sitting out at the lone table and facing the street.  I figured that was probably the staff.  A minute later she got up and came inside.  When she realized I was there she seemed both surprised and embarrassed, apologizing.  I wasn’t in any hurry so I didn’t mind, I actually thought it was kind of funny.  I told here I’d eat there and I picked a table in the front corner.

I already knew what I was ordering but gave the menu another once-over to make sure.  It’s a pretty typical Thai menu.  One thing they have that most don’t is duck, one of my favorite ingredients for Thai food.  When she came back a minute later I ordered the Duck Curry [$11.95], Pad See Ew (Stir fry wide rice noodle with broccoli and egg)[$9.85] and a Thai Tea [$2.50].  The tea was out in just a couple of minutes, ready to be stirred up and reveal the deep orange coloring.  This was a fairly strong Thai tea, and it was delicious.  With it came a water, and as I took a sip of that later I noticed, looking down at the bottom of the glass through the water, that they are IKEA glasses, specifically the POKAL glass.  For whatever reason, I thought this was interesting.

Exactly 10 minutes after placing my order I had the two dishes brought out to me.  She didn’t bring me dedicated dinner plate but since it was just me it didn’t really matter and is probably the reason.  Strangely enough, the serving utensils were still there anyway.  Both dishes looked fantastic and were very well presented.  The pad see ew was maybe one of the prettiest ones I’ve seen with the fluffy egg on display at the top and sprinkled with green onions. The duck curry was laid out with a serving of rice on a long dish.  One thing about this that I haven’t seen before was the white sauce/cream on the top.  I didn’t think to taste it on it’s own before mixing everything together so unfortunately I’m not sure what that was or if it’s a typical ingredient or not.  There were plenty of pieces of duck in this along with bamboo shoots, red and green bell peppers, carrots, zucchini and pineapple, all of which sat in a shallow red-orange pool of hot coconut milk mixed with red curry.  I spread the rice out evenly and mixed it all up.

The flavor of this was perfect, from the curry to the ripe, sweet pineapple and dark, rich duck meat.  I ordered both dishes with medium spice and it was just what I was in the mood for.  Well below sinus-clearing territory.  The one major problem I had with this dish, and basically the only reason I didn’t give Bhan Thai 5/5, was that I encountered three pieces of duck which still had a little bit of bone in them.  I really hate that.  I somehow picked those three pieces back to back, so after I hit them it was smooth sailing through the rest of dinner and my leftovers for lunch today.  As for the pad see ew, when I first started to dig around in it, and mix in the egg a little, I saw some noodles stuck together.  This is usually a precursor to disappointing rice noodles for me.  It tends to leave many noodles unexposed to the sauce when cooking and therefore somewhat bland, and in some extreme cases they don’t get cooked all the way through.  Somehow this dish did not seem to suffer from either of those problems.  The flavor of the sweet soy sauce was strong enough that even the couple noodles here and there that didn’t get in much contact with it were not noticeable, and they seemed to be cooked just fine, sharing the same slippery-soft texture as their brothers (is that weird?  Should I not call them that?  haha).  Anyway, this dish was basically perfect aside from those stuck noodles, which didn’t even have an impact.  I had ordered this with pork and there were lots of tasty pieces in it.

Aside from the duck bones, which will probably keep me sticking to Ruen Thai for my duck curry needs, the flavors and textures here were top notch.  The service, which had a rocky start, ended up being fine.  Both the server and another woman that popped out of the kitchen later checked up on me while I was eating, and my server packed up my leftovers at the table for me.  I left full and happy.

Website: They have an address on their business card but it does not work: BhanThai.com

(Scanned) Menu: Click Here

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bhanthaicirby

#202 & 203: Colorado Grill & Deli Delicious (Guest Starring Final Gravity)

I had intended to write this up yesterday but the pool was calling my name.  Recently we had a couple new openings.  These were interesting to me at first because for some time I had seen that they were going into the same shopping center at Eureka and Sierra College and were both Fresno-based businesses.  It seemed like a hell of a coincidence at the time.  Now that I’ve been there it makes some more sense.  These two places are Colorado Grill and Deli Delicious.

When I pulled up last week to see if they were open yet, and see what they looked like, I was surprised to find both logos over one door.  In a somewhat unique setup, both share the same suite in this oddly chosen shopping center.  I thought this was a weird location for both Swagat as well as La Huaca, though the latter has proven able to survive and seemingly even prosper here.  The Fresno eateries are located just a few doors down from it at the end and right across the walkway from Final Gravity, a craft beer taproom and bottle shop.  A bit more on that later.

Stepping inside the long space, it’s clear that this is not a Carl’s Jr. /  Green Burrito type relationship.  Both have their own distinct sides, counters and registers.  Colorado Grill is closest to the front door and has a red paint scheme.  Deli Delicious is towards the other end and sports green.  I asked who I suspect is the Manager (owner even?) of Colorado Grill, or perhaps both, if this co-location thing is normal down in Fresno and he said that this is the first time they’ve done it.  He also mentioned that Deli Delicious is a franchise while Colorado Grill is family owned.  An interesting benefit of this cooperation is that they have both Coke and Pepsi fountains.

So what do these places serve?  I ate at both over the weekend starting with dinner at Colorado Grill on Saturday evening so I’ll start there.  Colorado Grill is primarily a burger joint, but they have other things like hot dogs, chicken sandwiches and tuna sandwiches.  One item that caught my eye briefly was a pastrami burger.  I considered that for a moment but decided to go with a basic cheeseburger for my first time.  The basic burger options were the Big Burger (1/4lb)[$3.29/6.45-meal] or the Boulder (1/2lb)[$4.99/8.45-meal].  You can add additional beef patties to these for $1.59 or $1.99 respectively.  Standard toppings on these are mayo, mustard, pickles, onions, tomatoes and lettuce (grilled onions, relish on request) and additional options are guacamole, pastrami, grilled jalapeños, cheese, chili, egg, turkey bacon, mushrooms, avocados and bleu cheese.

Of course I went with the Boulder.  I kept all the standard toppings and added turkey bacon and mushrooms.  There was a bit of a hiccup at the register when the cashier, only on her second day as I overheard earlier, looked confused and said she didn’t see turkey bacon, just bacon.  I assume that it probably was indeed turkey bacon and they had just dropped the “turkey” on their screen to save space.  I made it a meal with fries and a drink, paid and headed off to get my soda and grab a seat.  It was fairly quiet this evening, at around 7, with just a few other customers spread out between the two businesses.  Despite this, it took about 13 minutes for my food to come out.  It felt like a long time but as soon as the basket was set in front of me I forgot about that and set about chowing down.  I was quite hungry.

The first thing that I noticed were the steak fries.  I’m not a fan of this type of fry.  I recall seeing it on the menu before hand and not reading further to see if there were other options.  They have home made onion rings as well as curly/skinny fries (I’m not sure if the curly and skinny fries are the same thing or actually curly seasoned fries and also regular more traditional fries at the same price).  I’ve made this mistake enough times that I should have learned it by now, but I mentally shrugged and started on the thick fries.  They were visibly salted but the sheer size of them vs the light coating on the surface made it hard to taste.  I resorted to ketchup to enjoy these.  Additionally they could have been crisper.  Some of the small fires were good but the majority were a bit limp (they were cooked throughout though).

On to the burger.  It was a decent sized thing to hold onto and had two big strips of bacon placed in an X through the center.  Mostly visible was a ton of shredded lettuce.  From some other angles I was able to see bits of mushroom, tomato and pickles, but they were mostly buried under lettuce.  I forgot to mention that this comes with cheese, or at least that’s what it seemed like when I ordered because without any prompting by me she had asked what kind of cheese.  It did seem a little pricier ($12.31 after tax) than what I had mentally added up when looking at the menu, so it must have been extra.  Anyway, they had about a half dozen to choose from and I went with provolone.  This was about half melted as I bit into it and it stretched out a couple inches as I pulled the burger away.

The patty reminded me a bit of Smashburger’s beef.  The texture was similar but though less greasy.  Also similar was the way it started to fall apart on me about halfway though.  I did not find it to have a whole lot of flavor to it, unfortunately.  The mustard and pickles pretty much dominated this thing.  There wasn’t even that much mustard on it.  The bacon was…OK.  taken as a bite on it’s own I was almost certain it was turkey bacon based on it’s minimal flavor and very lean consistency.  As a bite with everything else it was difficult to notice.  I didn’t really detect the mushrooms either, save for when they would occasionally fall out of the burger and I’d pick them up and eat them on their own.  Overall this was fairly bland and disappointing.

The service, on the other hand, was pretty great.  Bringing the food out was nice, though many places will do that when they’re slow enough.  Several different people checked on myself as well as the other patrons at least two or three times, offering a refill on the last one.  Everyone was extremely nice.  As I was leaving I overheard a new customer ordering fries and had the different options listed to her.  This list included beer-battered fries which were definitely not on the menu.

Website: http://www.coloradogrillfresno.com

Next up was Deli Delicious for lunch on Sunday.  I was joined by my grandmother this time and we headed in at about 11:45.  Our plan was to get our order to go and take it over to Final Gravity for a beer.  As we walked past Final Gravity we saw that they wouldn’t be open for another 15 minutes.  No problem, we’d wait a bit if necessary.  We walked in and were greeted by the Colorado Grill staff as we walked past that counter.  The owner remembered me from the day before and greeted me by name.

Over on the green side we stepped up to the register to read the menu, which was a bit on the smaller side from a few steps back.  This business deals primarily in sandwiches and have everything you’d expect for a deli/sub shop.  I had already looked at the menu online and knew I was ordering the #26 (turkey, bacon, avocado & provolone).  I went with the 8″ medium for $8.  You get a choice of sourdough, white, wheat or having it as a lettuce wrap.  All sandwiches come with mayo, mustard, lettuce, tomato, pickles, wax peppers, red onions, black olives, black pepper, oil & vinegar.  I had them leave out the pickles and wax peppers.  I should have got the peppers on the side to try since I’ve actually never even heard of wax peppers.  Wikipedia says they are very popular for canning and pickling so I would guess they have a fairly strong flavor and I probably made the right choice in leaving them off anyway.

My grandma went with a 6″ small Philly Cheesesteak (she loves them) with nothing but steak and cheese (available with grilled onions and peppers)[$6.50] and we decided to get an order of fries to share.  The fries on this menu included the beer-battered kind I heard of on my way out the night before.  It seemed really strange to me that the deli would have these available while the grill did not (at least not obviously available).  We were handed our bag in just under 10 minutes and headed off to Final Gravity, which had opened a few minutes early and already had a couple of customers.

Final Gravity is the only place of it’s kind in Roseville that I’m aware of.  Owl Club down in Old Roseville used to cary a good selection of craft beer but closed recently after a city ordinance, imposing a cover charge on Firday and Saturday nights, came into effect.  Boneshaker Public House in Rocklin is the next closest thing.  Final Gravity boasts 24 or so taps, most of which are usually beers I’m not that familiar with or have flat out never heard of.  You won’t find Bud or Coors here.  On top of this they have 5 big coolers with a ton of bottled beers ready to crack open there or take home to enjoy.  While they don’t serve anything other than some basic snacks like crackers/pretzels themselves, they have menus from La Huaca, Colorado Grill and Deli Delicious and a good relationship with all three so you can have orders delivered directly to you as you enjoy your beer.

If you want to see this place in action and try a very interesting beer style, stop by on Saturday, June 21st when they will be having their 2nd annual Mother Pucker event.  That day, all 24 taps will be loaded with different sour beers.  That’s right, sour.  Intentionally so.  It’s weird but it kinda grows on you after a couple sips.

To go with my sandwich I ordered the Double Chocolate Stout from Rogue Brewing and my grandma, after tasting a couple lighter beers, went with (I think) Alaskan Brewing’s White Ale.  You can see the full list of beers that was available at the time here, but this changes very quickly and most likely is already out of date.

Back to Deli Delicious.  We cracked open the styrofoam containers (an odd way to pack sandwiches to go, I thought).  Soon we realized that we didn’t have our fries.  I walked next door and let them know.  They apologized and got it going immediately as well as upsized it to a large.  I walked back to FG and got started on my sandwich.  Aside from the olives it reminded me a little bit of beach hut in appearance and how the turkey was very much on display in the well-constructed sandwich.  This was great.  All of the ingredients were well balanced, fresh and able to shine through to be enjoyed in each bite.  The mayo and mustard were applied just right.  The sourdough was vey tasty, though maybe could have been a bit on the softer side.

My grandma said that she liked the place down the street more (Cheesesteak Grille) but that this one was still good.  I was a bit underwhealmed by it’s appearance.  About a third into my sandwich the owner came in from next door to deliver the fries.  These were EPIC.  Obviously they were crazy hot since they were right out of the fryer.  Once they cooled down though we both snacked on them until we were stuffed and could eat no more.  They were perfectly crisp and had an additional crunch and nice texture from the beer batter.  I’ve had beer battered fries a few other times randomly when I see them and they are usually pretty awesome no matter where I get them.  This was no exception.

All in all, pretty happy with the deli side of things.  I can see myself returning here as I’m often in the area.  It will for sure be a welcome additional food option at Final Gravity as well.