#230: Sushi Kuma

Today I got a message from my mother asking if I knew about a new sushi place by Kohl’s, which I didn’t.  She wanted to check it out, fast forward to this evening, so she and my grandma picked me up to go for dinner.  I’ve done quite a few restaurants with very little info, often just the name of the place, but this was the first time when I didn’t even know that.

The restaurant is Sushi Kuma.  They opened just over a month ago.  This is their 2nd location.  The first is out in El Dorado Hills.  The menu is primarily sushi but they also carry some Korean-inspired dishes as well.  We arrived at about 5:15 and were just the 2nd group to be seated.  It’s very nice inside and well decorated.  I really liked the brick wall/structure up by the front doors with little plants perched on the ledges.  Everything is clean and new.

Soon, after being seated with menus, our server came by to take drink orders.  We were all in the mood for a beer, and we each ordered a different one.  They didn’t have anything on draught tonight (not sure why).  The bottle selection was light, but about what you’d expect in a sushi joint.  We soon had a Kirin, a Sapporo and a Bud Light delivered with three cold glasses.  We skimmed over the menu for a bit and had already picked out some appetizers, which we ordered when the drinks were delivered. The appetizers took about nine minutes to arrive, which gave us plenty of time to look over their long list of rolls in detail.  in the middle of digging into the appetizers we placed the main order.  To start we were enjoying the Vegetable Tempura (lightly fried assorted seasonal vegetables)[$7.50] and the BBQ Albacore (grilled albacore tuna, with green onion spicy BBQ sauce)[$12.95].  Both of these were pretty good.  The tempura had a mix of onion, sweet potato, zucchini and broccoli.  It was nice and crisp and very hot, so pretty typical tempura.  The BBQ albacore was decent.  The sauce was fairly mild, very little spice at all to be had, but it did not disappoint on flavor and it was still warm from the grill.  The fried onions that came with it were really delicious.  I find that this appetizer varies greatly from place to place and I can never remember who makes a truly awesome version.  The search continues.

There was about a 15 minute wait for our rolls.  Some of that time was passed by playing a game where we guessed if people just pulling into the parking lot were going to either Nutrishop or Wingstop next-door.  It was a pretty easy game.  We heard a bell ring from the sushi bar and our server collected the two plates and brought them over.  On them were the Dragon (Tempura shrimp, crabmeat | avocado, eel, masago | unagi sauce)[$6.95], the Yummy Yummy (Tempura shrimp, avocado, cucumber, cream cheese, crabmeat, masgo – 5pcs)[$5.95], The Las Vegas (Tempura aspragus, crabmeat, cream cheese | avocado, tuna, salmon, masago | spicy mayo sauce, unagi sauce)[$8.50] and a roll from a bulletin board of specials called the Valentine (crabmeat, cilantro, lemon, tempura shrimp | avocado, tuna, salmon, green onion, masago | spicy balsamic sauce)[$8.95]. The Yummy Yummy had some nori rolled up in it, which I found to be a little chewy.  This roll had the largest pieces too, so it was a bit of a mouthful to be working on for a bit.  Other than that it was a nice and mild roll.  The Dragon had the delicious and savory bbq eel along with it’s companion unagi sauce.  These drove the flavor in that roll while the shrimp added some nice crunchy texture.

I dislike cilantro with a passion, so I only had one bite of the Valentine, and I found the it to be overwhelming in it.  Both my mom and grandma really enjoyed that one though, despite that they aren’t big on spicy foods.  The spicy balsamic sauce must have not been too bad.  She did comment on a particularly spicy bite with lots of sauce on it towards the end however.  The Las Vegas was probably my favorite, just ahead of the Dragon.  This had the most going on in it with the smooth cream cheese and crunchy asparagus, avocado up top and several types of fish, not to mention the two sauces.  I should note that the sauces are not out of control here.  They are drizzled on and accent the roll rather than drowning it out, both physically and in flavor.

The service staff was very good, all were very friendly and checked on us at just the right times.  I’d definitely return and I’d like to try some of the Korean items next time.  I hope they get some more business because it was very slow while we were there.  Not a single other customer came in during our stay.  Only the group that was there before us remained when we left just after 6.

Website: [None]
(As of this posting the Facebook page is pretty bare, they only have a photo of the restaurant from outside up.  Their El Dorado Hills page is fully up and running though.)
(Scanned) Menu: Click Here


#229: Monsoon Cuisine of India

Last night I finally made it out to Monsoon Cuisine of India.  This Indian restaurant seems to have moved here from downtown Sacramento, taking the place of Bombay Bistro in the Hobby Lobby shopping center.  They opened back in March.  I tried to come here for dinner last week but they were closed when I arrived at around 5.  The website says they close after lunch at 3 and reopen at 4:30.  So either that’s out of date or they had some issue.

Anyway, last night I made sure to wait until later and arrived at about 7:15.  The place has had a significant makeover inside.  Gone are the carpeting, white walls and cramped seating.  The walls are now painted a bold red with black trim and the flooring is all a dark hardwood.  The seating is much more sparse.  In fact when I first walked in I didn’t think they are busy at all, but once my eyes adjusted to the lighting I realized that they were nearly packed.  Had there not been the little 2-seater table available I would have either been sitting at the one remaining huge table for a group, or waiting until someone left.  There are big gaps where there is just empty floor space.  It’s a little weird.  Decorations are limited to some colorful paintings on a couple walls and a fountain near the front door which was dry, probably due to the drought.  It’s fairly dark due to the tinted windows, however the front doors and window above them are not, so there is a bright beam of light shooting in down one side of the restaurant (where the buffet is).  If you happen to be facing that direction it’s probably a little annoying.

I was greeted within 10 seconds as I meandered up to the front desk/counter area and the host (/manager/owner?) appeared from the middle of the room to seat me.  Behind me was the buffet, sitting unused for dinner.  They serve it 7 days a week for lunch and, I think, only on Wednesday for dinner.  I looked over the menu for a minute, hoping for a saag paneer and maybe butter chicken.  Not seeing saag paneer I kind of did a flip flop and picked out a chicken dish with spinach and a paneer dish with a butter masala sauce.  These were the Paneer Butter Masala (cottage cheese cooked in butter-infused tomato sauce and dry fenugreek)[$11.95] and Chicken Palak (chicken smothered in creamy spinach sauce)[$11.95].  I got a mango lassi (refreshing mango yogurt drink)[$2.99] and a water to go with these.  Rice is not included, so I added some for $2.

The mango lassi took about 7 minutes.  It was a very light orangish-yellow color with a thick and creamy consistency.  It was more tart than sweet and was also close to room temp, which I think contributed to the tartness.  I did not really enjoy this. A couple minutes later I was served a complimentary appetizer of papadum, a crisp, seasoned cracker-like sheet, rolled up in a basket.  It was accompanied by green and tamarind chutneys.  This was very good on it’s own and even better in both of the chutneys.  I tore through this quickly.

From here it was a fairly long wait until the main dishes were brought out.  About 30 minutes.  There was a large group of 12 or more that were served sometime in the middle of that, so the kitchen may have been backed up with their order.  Anyway, once they arrived, my little table was packed with three large bowls and a big plate.  I was kind of surprised with the serving size, it was huge.  I ended up taking probably 2 more meals home with me.

The paneer butter masala was basically just the cubes of firm cheese (which were in huge supply), swimming in a thin, bight red-orange sauce.  While enjoyable for the most part, it was a bit one-dimensional.  The sauce just wasn’t very complex.  It was a good thing I had the chicken palak to go with it.  That was very good.  The spinach sauce was delicious and creamy and had a nice texture.  The chicken was tender and flavorful itself as well.

One of the servers came by and asked if I was finished, and I asked to take the rest to go and also for an order of the mango crème brûlée (rich mango custard base topped with hard caramel).  They had several delicious-sounding desserts that I wanted to try, but I knew I would always wonder about this if I didn’t check it out now.

He came back with some containers and a bag and left them at the table.  Admittedly I was a little annoyed that I had to box this up myself.  Within another minute or so he returned again with the dessert.  I thought that was awfully fast, and I quickly found out why.  They don’t torch it when you order it.  The whole thing was cold, including the caramelized top which was soft and almost leathery.  Instead of a mango flavored custard it was a pretty traditional custard with chunks of mango in it.  I was hugely disappointed with this.

Overall the food was very hit and miss.  The service was about the same as well.  Some interactions were very brief and not fulfilling, although the host/manager was very nice.  The whole experience was unfortunately lackluster.  Considering we have quite a few good Indian restaurants here in Roseville, including Mehfil just one shopping center over, I doubt I will find myself here again.

AM6: Sparkles Ice Cream

Here’s a fun treat, ice cream!  But not just normal ice cream.  You can get that anywhere.  Sparkles Ice Cream is located in the Quarry Ponds Town Center in Granite Bay (on Douglas before you hit Barton).  They don’t keep ice cream frozen and ready to eat in the store, instead they mix and freeze it right in front of you using liquid nitrogen!  The claim is that, by freezing it nearly instantly on the spot, they avoid larger ice crystals from forming due to temperature variations in transport/storage with traditional ice cream, resulting in a smoother, creamier final product.

I headed in with my grandma at about 6:20pm.  We were greeted right away by the three people behind the counter.  We were given a quick rundown on how they make the ice cream, the flavors and mix-in items.  It was a bit overwhelming and we took probably about 5 minutes just going over all the options.  While we were deciding what to order we were handed a couple samples as they worked on other orders and, as it sounded, worked on perfecting a salted caramel flavor.  Finally we settled on our selections and stepped up to the counter, luckily right before a bit of a rush hit.  She went with the smallest size in black cherry and no mix-ins [$4.75].  I went with a regular size vanilla with cookie dough and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups [$6 + 0.50 for the 2nd mix-in].

ETR AM 6 Sparkles Ice Cream 005 2015-07-15 18-49-57

They start with a metal mixing bowl and add cream, sugar and syrup for flavoring, then toss in the mix-ins and head over to the corner where the nitrogen vessel is (there are windows where you can walk around to get a closer look from) and fill it up with the -376ºF liquid.  Nitrogen boils at -320º.  With the ambient temp of the store probably close to 400º warmer than that it’s almost violently vaporizing from the moment it leaves the nozzle.  From there they bring the bowl to the front counter where they stir constantly, scraping the bottom now and then to keep it from freezing to the bowl, and rapidly cooling the ingredients.  See the bottom of this post for some video of them making our orders.  They went back for another quick blast of nitrogen once or twice, then scooped it out and put it in a cup (waffle cones/bowls also available).

When we were ordering, the cashier warned us that the serving size was generous which prompted my grandma to go for the smaller size.  I definitely should have followed suit because mine was a monstrous tower of ice cream.  Most of it was well above the rim of the cup.  I might have eaten half of it.  So the verdict, was this ice cream better than most?  I would say yes, but not by a huge margin.  It did seem creamier and smoother than a lot of ice creams.  Flavor-wise it was pretty on par with the majority.  Both the cookie dough and Reese’s cups were in huge supply.  If I were judging strictly on flavor I would go with Gunther’s and possibly even Cold Stone.  But what no other shop can match is the cool factor (pun intended) of watching them make it with liquid nitrogen.

My only major complaint here is that the viewing area is fairly limited, which is a shame since it hampers their biggest strength.  I mentioned that they have some windows over by the nitrogen tank.  The problem with those is that there is a counter with stools right up against them, which is a shared space for Sparkles and some other Quarry Ponds eateries, so if anyone happens to be sitting there you’ll be peeking over their shoulders.  As for the area up front where they mix, there is a window, but it’s at a strange height.  I am 5’11” and I felt too tall to see though the window, but not nearly tall enough to look over top of the frame.  They need a bigger, solid piece of glass to look through.  Adding to that, the counter where they were mixing was right at the front door, which gets crowded quickly with just a few people in line.  They do have another counter that faces the seating area, but they only used it briefly when they were in the middle of the short rush.

I still think it’s really neat and would recommend checking it out for the show alone.  Of course, the ice cream is pretty good on top of the physics display. 😉

Website: http://www.sparklesicecream.com