Asian Excellence

From starters through dessert, the offerings at Bushi are impressive

Bushi sits in a nondescript building at the intersection of Swan Road and Speedway Boulevard that could easily be missed.

However, it would be a mistake to miss out on what's inside.

A smiling hostess seats you, and within minutes, a generous portion of edamame is at the table, along with the menus. Earth tones dominate the room, while splashes of green on the tables are provided by bamboo plants. A few pieces of metal artwork hang indiscriminately on the walls. You can sit at a table, a booth or—of course—the sushi bar. The space features smooth, clean lines and a low-key vibe.

On the menu, you'll find appetizers, salads, soup, noodles two ways, and rice dishes. The lunch side offers a choice of sushi specials along with a list of lunch-size entrées; you can have one item ($5.99) or two ($9.99). Dinner choices include sushi combinations and about a dozen entrées from all over Asia. Everything comes with a decent version of miso soup, a nondescript salad and rice; depending on what you order, you may also get a smattering of greens, an onion-heavy potato salad or steamed vegetables.

All of the appetizers we tried were impressive. The soft shell crabs ($8.99) were quite good. Two decent-sized crabs were tempura-battered and served on a humongous and unnecessary pile of greens; ponzu sauce came on the side. The crab was sweet and tender, and the batter was as light as air. This dish could've been great had the crab been served right out of the fryer instead of coming out lukewarm.

The gyoza ($4.99) were a great surprise. These ubiquitous dumplings are a throwaway item at many Asian restaurants, on the menu just because people expect them to be. Bushi fills their version with finely shredded veggies and then cooks them to a golden brown. A sesame-based dipping sauce was an ideal match. The dumplings were small and light, so it was easy to clean the plate.

The egg rolls ($4.99) also exceeded our expectations. The three medium-sized rolls crackled as they were bit into, and like the gyoza, they had a filling that actually had some flavor.

We also tried the octopus salad ($5.99). Tender strips of octopus, tiny quarter-moons of cucumber slices and an assortment of finely shredded vegetables were tossed with a bright, tangy marinade. While most of the portions at Bushi were generous, this one was a tad small, and I could've easily eaten more.

As for sushi rolls, we tried the Bushi crunch roll ($10) and the rainbow roll ($10.50). I found both to be bigger than bite-sized, and both were great takes on traditional rolls.

The Bushi crunch roll was big and beautiful, with fresh tuna, yellowtail, asparagus, jalapeño, avocado, cukes, mayo, scallion, "crunch" and eel sauce. All the flavors and textures were in perfect balance.

The rainbow roll consisted of imitation crab, cucumber and avocado as filling, and tuna, salmon, shrimp, yellowtail, white fish, shrimp and avocado on top. This was as delicious as it was pretty.

Dinner entrées come from all over Asia. We ate the katsu pork ($10.99), the teriyaki beef ($13.99), the spicy Korean pork ($11.99) and the spicy shrimp ($12.99). (We had the katsu and teriyaki at lunch.)

The katsu pork may not have been the most flavorful katsu I've tasted, but it was nicely done. The meat was tender, while the breading was light. The portion was large enough to take some home.

The teriyaki beef was cooked rare, and the savory sauce helped the already-tender beef seem to melt in the mouth.

Reminiscent of shrimp DeJonghe, a "sophisticated" dish in the '50's and '60s, the spicy shrimp was utterly delightful. Ten butterflied shrimp were topped with buttery, garlic-powered breadcrumbs, and then arranged around a mix of well-seasoned sautéed vegetables. The dish was rich, but oddly, it seemed light in the mouth and popped with flavor.

The best dish of the evening was the spicy pork. This was one hot dish—but the heat hit the tongue with a flash, lingered at the back of the throat for just a bit, and then dissipated. All of that heat was tempered with an earthy tone of what I'd guess was fermented soy paste or something similar. The portion was big enough for two, and although we tried to stop, the dish was so good that we couldn't help taking just one more bite—and then another. And then another.

Our perky young server talked us into ordering a dessert, her favorite, called chocoyza ($5.99). It consisted of a gigantic scoop of ice cream topped with chocolate sauce and two chocolate dumplings that had been filled with almond paste, as well as thinly sliced strawberries. The texture of the dumpling dough was airy but slightly crunchy, and full of chocolate flavor.

A free, eggcup-sized serving of coffee from Savaya was offered at the end of each of our meals. I'm not sure why, but the coffee was lukewarm on both occasions.

Although Bushi wasn't swamped on either visit, it was obvious that most of the diners were regulars. The sushi bar eventually filled up, and the conversation was definitely the type of chatter you hear among friends and acquaintances.

The corner of Speedway Boulevard and Swan Road is home to two of the city's more- unique and delectable restaurants (Sir Veza's for modern Mexican, and CeeDee Jamaican Kitchen). Now with Bushi and its mixed-Asian fare, that busy intersection is practically a culinary mini-United Nations.

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