I love it when this happens — and it seldom does: One of the cheapest dishes on Sushihana’s entrée menu has just become one of my favorite new plates in town. Make that bowls.
Other entrées have been favorites in the past, the orange miso sea bass being one of them. But the bowl in question is a seafood cioppino. Yes, Sushihana is a Japanese restaurant. But it bills its cuisine as “Contemporary Japanese,” so it seems that the cioppino moniker is just there to add a degree of familiarity — assuming most of us are familiar with this Italian variation of bouillabaisse in the first place. And by whatever name, the dish arrives looking for all the world like something that might have originated in Japan.
A fan of mussels acts as a backdrop, plump, pink shrimp float on top, some scallops are more shyly submerged, but chunks of salmon are proudly apparent — and each ingredient seems to have been added to the broth at the precise time necessary to cook it perfectly. (Either that or they’re cooked separately and tossed in at the last moment.) The broth may contain tomato, but it’s taken in a decisively Asian direction by the addition of ginger and other spices.
The bowl is presented with one of those porcelain spoons that often accompanies soups in Asian restaurants, but my suggestion is to use the chopsticks at first, resorting to the spoon only to make sure you don’t miss any of the flavorful broth; in the manner of pho, it takes on more of the seafood component the longer it sits. Not that it will sit long.
I was less enthusiastic about the appetizer that preceded the cioppino. The baked salmon wrapped around marinated snow crab was an appealing preparation — three rolls arrayed on a rectangular plate and drizzled with a duet of sauces — and flavors were good if not exciting, but the rolls appeared over-baked, resulting in a texture that was undesirably soft and almost mushy. Next time we’re going back to the previously successful peppercorn-rubbed tuna served over shredded daikon, or maybe the tempura-fried soft shell crab with ginger, pepper, and ponzu.
Sushihana’s décor also trends Contemporary Japanese, with blond-wood lattice dividers and geometric paper lamps. But the sushi bar and the servers behind it appear staunchly traditional, and so does the sushi. In the past, we’ve had some very handsomely presented nigiri sushi and have especially liked the pricey but luxurious fatty tuna and the reassuringly firm uni. Sushihana recently hosted a tasting with experts from Joto Sake, so it should also be assumed, and past experience confirms, that its credentials in this department are also impeccable. Just be sure you order the good stuff, meant to be served chilled, and don’t settle for anything coming out of a dispenser box.
1810 NW Military Hwy