Walter Mencken 1 p.m., May 1
Ever since I watched Jiro Dreams of Sushi, I can't get Japanese food off my mind. While it's very unlikely that sushi of the caliber depicted in the film will ever be served in town, the Hillcrest sushi restaurant that shares its name with Chef Jiro from the movie offers a pretty good sushi dinner that, while a bit more expensive, is more upscale than the other sushi places in the area. It's also open a few hours later than most of the competition, which can be great when Saturday night gets late too quickly.
Being on the same block as a few major Hillcrest nightclubs, Ono Sushi has a somewhat clubby atmosphere. The music was loud and the clientele seemed to be getting a little drunker and laughing a little louder than the expected average. It was dark inside and lots of seating was devoted to bar space, both sushi bar and cocktail bar.
The menu was pretty accessible if one stuck to the maki ($3-$7) or the regular nigiri ($5-$10). It's when the specialty rolls, which can cost up to $17, and the sashimi ($14-$18) get into the mix that things can get a little pricey. Still, an order of hot or cold house sake wasn't very costly and a $20 "dinner for one" sushi platter included a selection of nigiri and a California roll. It's not like Ono was a real drain on the bank.
The sushi was well prepared and seemed to be made of high-quality fish. The California roll was excellent, as was most of the nigiri. The octopus, rather sadly, was on the tough side and most of the sushi could have benefitted from just a touch more rice. The fish portions seemed generous and everything had been expertly cut. The scallop nigiri was a particular standout, as was a spicy salmon roll. Both dishes struck the right balance of rice-to-fish and had great visual appeal.
Ono sushi does cary toro, the fatty tuna belly eat that's considered a great delicacy, which isn't exactly on everybody's sushi menu. Vegetarians also get some attention on the menu with a selection of vegetarian entrees; that's a big favor to any veggie lovers who are sick of eating cucumber rolls every time they go out to a Japanese restaurant.
1236 University Avenue