Culinary Fusion

Wok n' Sushi brings Southwestern-influenced Asian food to the southside

The motto on Wok n' Sushi's business cards reads: "Where the Far East meets the Southwest." The very fact that Wok n' Sushi features a sushi bar and Mongolian stir fry amidst all the amazing Mexican restaurants on South Sixth Avenue drives home the motto.

The sushi part of the menu further backs up the motto with some items that seem inspired a bit by the Southwest. A chili relleno roll ($9) blends green chilies, cream cheese and spicy tuna tempura with a special sauce. A jalapeno roll ($5.50) takes the title ingredient and adds cucumber, avocado, kani (crab) and yamagobo.

Thus, we can safely affirm this motto. Fortunately, Wok n' Sushi's charms don't end there: It's a fine place for Mongolian barbecue and sushi, although it could use some improvement with some of the details.

Garrett and I visited Wok n' Sushi on a recent Friday evening. The restaurant had a comfortable, casual feel. Motown and oldies played in the background; televisions all around the restaurant were showing sports--the one in my sightline was featuring bowling, of all things. A fireplace and a mixture of nice wooden booths and chairs added to the comfy feel.

We were in a sushi mood, and I was looking forward to some all-you-can-eat sushi. During a pre-visit look at the Wok n' Sushi Web site, I had learned--so I thought--that the restaurant offered all-you-can-eat sushi for $19.95. It turns out the Web site is wrong; that's only offered on Mondays, so said our server. (As of this writing, the Web site is still wrong.) Garrett and I plunged ahead anyway. We ordered shrimp ($3.50), octopus ($4), two orders of fresh-water eel ($4 each), a California spicy roll ($3 during happy hour; normally $5), a shrimp tempura hand roll ($6), a soft-shell crab roll ($7.50) and an order of gyoza ($2.48 during happy hour; normally $4.95). Finally, we chose one of the house specialties, the Sixth Avenue roll ($9.50).

It was a lot of food, and it was all delivered promptly. The gyoza tasted great, but disappointingly, the dumplings were delivered lukewarm--and the accompanying sauce was downright cold. Overall, the sushi was pretty good, with some minor complaints. Garrett thought the octopus was tough, and the eel sauce had less flavor than I've come to expect from eel sauce. But the positives outweighed the negatives. The California spicy roll had a nice kick to it, and my shrimp tempura roll was delicious. Garrett relished his soft-shell crab roll, and the meal's highlight was the Sixth Avenue roll. Its lengthy list of ingredients: cucumber, avocado, spicy kani, jalapeno, masago (smelt egg), cream cheese and "crunch," topped with shrimp and a special sauce. That's a lot of stuff to put in one roll, but the creation worked out nicely.

It was a fine meal, well-served; we had at least five different people wait on us at various times, which was a bit odd. But it worked.

Garrett and I returned for lunch on--you guessed it--Monday. We each got the all-you-can-eat sushi ($19.95), and I also decided to try the Mongolian barbecue ($6.95 lunch, $8.95 dinner), which is always all you can eat. Unfortunately, if you want both all-you-can-eat sushi and the barbecue, you have to pay for both; seeing as you'd be eating less of each, I'd think a price break should be in order.

I got my Mongolian barbecue first. It works about the same as it does at other Mongolian barbecue places in town: You go through the buffet and choose whatever you want from three meats (chicken, beef or pork) and, according to my count, 14 vegetables. Then, you top it with whatever sauces you'd like (suggestions for tried-and-true sauce combinations are written on a board above). Finally, you give it to the person at the barbecue. When it's cooked, it's brought to your table. As long as the sauces are well-prepared and the ingredients are fresh, it's hard to do Mongolian barbecue wrong, and Wok n' Sushi does it well: My concoction of beef with mushrooms, baby corn, onions, pea pods and all sorts of sauces (highlighted by lots of garlic water and wine sauce) hit the spot.

For the sushi rolls, we tried to mix it up a little from the previous visit, ordering a California tempura roll ($5), a dragon roll ($8), an octopus salad "roll" ($6.50) and a shrimp tempura roll ($7). For the nigiri sushi, we repeated the shrimp and eel from our previous visit, then added tuna ($3.75), crab ($3), salmon ($3.75) and salmon roe ($4.50).

There were a few surprises: The crab came shredded and wrapped in seaweed, rather than being in a stick on top of rice. And then there was the octopus salad; why they call it a roll, I don't know, seeing as it was simply salad in a bowl. It was quite delicious, though. The lowlight was the shrimp tempura roll, which included too much cream cheese, to the point that all one could taste was the cheese. The highlight was the dragon roll, with cucumber, avocado, kani, yamagobo and masago, topped with eel. It was delicious, with the only flaw being--again--the relatively weak eel sauce.

Wok n' Sushi has much to be proud of. It's taken two tried-and-true food genres--the sushi bar and Mongolian grill--and added some Southwestern flair, in a location known almost exclusively for Mexican food. The folks at Wok n' Sushi have some minor wrinkles to work out before the restaurant can be truly top-notch--but they're only wrinkles. I'll be going back.

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