Team Y hits up the popular franchise to see if Japanese fare for the masses can hold its own in authenticity.
This Team Y tester was a late bloomer when it came to embracing sushi. Long before it became our go-to craving after spending a stint teaching English in Japan, our unaccustomed palate was marred by an initiation to the cuisine via the pre-packaged cold-case in a university cafeteria.
Not the best introduction to what is, inarguably, one of the world’s most beautiful and delicately crafted cuisines. Call us a food snob, but since that benchmark moment never had we ventured back to the fast-food sushi counter.
Until now that is.
Located along The Walk at Al Mouj, Chez Sushi had long caught our eye with its inviting green façade and bold call to action – ‘Let’s roll!’ it exclaims. Let’s indeed. So, roll in we did one work-day weeknight after a late shift at the office (deadlines!) had us demanding a take-away and craving sushi.
The Al Mouj branch of Chez Sushi (they have another in Qurum) is a splash of primary colours – orange and green – with light-wood tables, a small banquette seating area, and a window-front bar-stool counter making up the cozy dining room.
The walls are adorned with Japanese kitsch – large plastic maki rolls and the like that lend the space a pop-art feel. We place our order for takeaway at a large counter where, samples of ingredients used in their sushi rolls are laid out on display similar to the plastic food displays you see in restaurant windows in Tokyo – true to Japanese style.
We put in an order for portions of their Spicy Tuna, Prawn Tempura, and Spider Maki Rolls – 6 pieces each and one of their Creamy Chili Rock Shrimp Tempura. Their menu is vast with an array of entrées, mains, ramen bowls, sushi ‘burrito’ bowls, sashimi, maki, and bento boxes.
Eyeing their mains, we decide against our better judgment to also go for an order of Fried Chicken Katsu Curry – only to have our waiter inform us that tonight they have a buy-one-get-one offer on main courses. So, an extra Beef Teriyaki it is!
Reaching home with our feast, we spread out its array and tuck in in front of the telly. Unsure what to expect of Japanese food from a franchise chain, we’re more than pleasantly surprised by the freshness and quality of the generously-sized maki rolls. The Spicy Tuna is piquant and flavoursome, the rice moist and not dry and fish extremely fresh. Ditto the Spider Maki roll topped with delicate, flaky unagi (eel) and plump prawns. The Tempura Prawn rolls were also nicely fresh with their batter still crisp – though a little heavy on the dollops of spicy mayo.
Armed with ample condiments included we’ve got enough pickled ginger and wasabi to last us through the meal, with small (re-fillable!) bottles of soy sauce thrown in for good measure.
Moving onto the Fried Chicken Katsu Curry, the slices of chicken cutlet – delicately-breaded in panko crumbs manages to retain both its heat and its crispness on the ride home, while the rice is cooked to a glutinous-perfection that makes it easy for even the greenest chopstick novice to pluck up with ease. The curried Katsu gravy was a little thin for our liking, but its flavour was strong – albeit wee bit over-salted.
The only two letdowns were the Beef Teriyaki and the Creamy Chili Rock Shrimp Tempura. The teriyaki sauce earned points for flavour but its vehicle – the strips of steak were over-cooked and a bit tough on the tooth. While the Rock Shrimp Tempura, which came in a bowl over a tossed green salad weren’t at all what we’d expected – although maybe this was down to us.
We’d neglected to ask our server to include the sauce on the dish itself and, instead, they put it on the side so what we had were naked, somewhat soggy-batter shrimp that didn’t hold up so well when you glopped the sauce on after the fact. The tossed salad, however, was lovely and came with a miso-sesame dressing that we couldn’t get enough of.
While there were some misses, there were more hits; bulls-eyes in fact with all maki rolls and the chicken katsu curry massively exceeding our expectation to prove that sometimes food for the masses can be done right – and ‘franchise’ doesn’t have to be a bad word in our on-the-go search for fast and fresh Japanese cuisine.
The Walk, Al Mouj
Opening hours: 12 noon to 12 midnight, daily
Contact: (+968) 8007-8744
Dinner for two: RO24.9
Fast and fresh sushi and Japanese dishes on-the-go with upmarket ingredients at franchise prices.
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