shochu or sake – both, actually – I settled for a draft beer, then proceeded to order mixed sushi (the “matsu” set) and a vegetable salad (cabbage, tomatoes, cucumber, onion, and what was about three times more mayonnaise than was called for).
Last night, after losing a battle against inertia, and deciding not to shop, not to cook, and not to stay in my neighborhood where phở cuốn reigns, we decided to indulge ourselves. On this night, that meant going for sushi in West Lake.
There are a few Japanese restaurants in West Lake, but driving past the ones on Xuan Dieu Street, and guessing they were either too pricey or more Vietnamese-Japanese than Japanese-Japanese, we decided to hit Sushi Bar II. In Saigon I ate at Sushi Bar several times, and the service and quality of food was always pretty good. Nothing to get too heated up about, but still good enough to recommend and patronize often enough that the staff came to remember my name. Here in Hanoi, my experience has been much the same: good service and above-average (but not great) sushi. Definitely worth going to, though, especially if you find yourself in West Lake.
Due to the aforementioned inertia, we arrived fashionably late for dinner and found perhaps three other tables with customers. We grabbed seats at the sushi counter, because it’s fun to see the fish up-close and it's interesting to watch sushi chefs ply their trade. (Also, if you’re lucky, and if the sushi chef is feeling generous, you can sometimes score free food.)
Not long after devouring our complimentary starters, we were served a salad that appeared two or three times larger than the menu photo indicated it would be. Don't you just love when that happens? For $1.50, it was a good amount of food, and it took us the entire meal to get through it.
The sushi set came with miso soup, but since there were two of us they threw in an extra one for free. When does miso not hit the spot? It certainly did on this night.
The sushi set consisted of two pieces of salmon, two pieces of red snapper, one piece of tuna, one of fatty tuna, one red clam, one squid, one sea urchin, one caviar, one shrimp roe, and one salmon roe. All this for U.S. $12.
As I said, the quality of the fish wasn't the best I've had in Hanoi, but it was better than most. I certainly liked the presentation of our food, and the service was good, too.
The caviar and roe sushi, especially, looked almost like jewels.
After piling through our starters, the giant salad, the miso soup, and the matsu sushi set, we decided this wasn't enough food. We took another look at the menu, but it just wasn't doing anything for us. I gazed longingly at the display case of raw fish, then asked if they had salmon skin (sakekawa) on hand to make a maki roll.
Sushi Bar II is located at 1F Syrena Building, Xuan Dieu Street, West Lake. Tel/Fax: (043) 715-3894. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Web: www.sushibarhanoi.com.