California trend chasers flock
these days to hip new places serving "raw food cuisine",
totally vegan ingredients never heated above 118 degrees. Holistic
chefs, claiming this the healthiest way to eat, apply gourmet methods
and recipes to vegetables, nuts, fruits and the like. And charge accordingly,
I've been pursuing my own raw food trend recently, a trend hundreds
of years old. With a surprising number of college and post-college
clientele still in baggy clothes and shaggy hair, I've been eating
sashimi and sushi at Saeko and Rick Symmonds' Sushi Gin restaurant,
9559 Nall, Overland Park. I've gotten hooked on the raw fish, sticky-sweet
rice, the sinus-clearing wassabi stirred into soy sauce and the palate-cleansing
"B" Combo (top) and a Bento Box Combo at Sushi
Gin. (photo by Saeko Tsunashima)
The prices validate my trend also. My friend Karen the caterer
and I made two trips, spending under $25 both times. We both
felt satisfactorily full, although not stuffed.
In a phone conversation, Rick Symmonds told me his wife designed
the decor of the dining room as well as the menu. "Saeko
wanted the restaurant to reflect the style and tastes of modern
Tokyo, he said. She didn't want it to look traditional
like most places."
Black trim and upholstery accents stark white walls. Red tabletops
jar the stark décor along with bright prints and kimonos
hanging on the walls. Sushi Gin has three raised booths with
mats for seats for customers who want to dine Japanese style
shoeless and cross-legged.
Sushi Gin offers a wide array of sushi (more composed tidbits
of vegetables wrapped in kelp or other edible wrapper with or
without the raw fish) and sashimi (raw fish and rice) in many
different ways: single pieces for a $1 from one menu, while
another menu offers a double serving of larger pieces, ranging
from $3 to $6.95. The restaurant also offers sushi and sashimi
as parts of combinations with their tempura, teriyaki and noodles.
Dinners range from $13.95 to $24.95 for the "Sushi/Sashimi
Combo" Karen and I had on one of our forays. Served with
soup or salad and a bowl of rice, the platter came filled with
nearly two-dozen assorted pieces, allowing us to sample a wide
variety of the raw tidbits and more complex sushi bites with
the vegetables and other ingredients. We both liked the salmon,
different tunas and the other fish. Although I tried the more
exotic species of squid, eel and octopus, their textures weren't
to my taste. The shrimp surprised me, even raw it had the complexity
enjoyed in its cooked forms.
I have to mention the pickled ginger. While only a garnish,
it refreshed the palate like nothing else I know and offered
a most civilized way to convey the sophistication of the ancient
Japanese culture. It is the perfect refresher to ready the taste
buds for the next bite.
Two of the appetizers surprised Karen and I. We tried them along
with the sashimi on a second visit. We each found one worthy
Karen fell in love with Nasu Dengaku ($4.99), unbreaded deep-fried
eggplant in a Miso sauce. The pungent sauce accentuates the
sweetness of the silky smooth eggplant. While dipping her chopsticks
in for a second bite, Karen said, "I love this, this is
really good. I want the recipe."
I liked the macho Dynamite ($6.50); baked clams, fish and mushrooms
in the appropriately named, mayonnaise-based sauce. The mayonaisey
flavor and texture of the sauce hits the taste buds first; then
tender morsels of clams, fish or mushrooms pass by and finally
a fiery explosion that lights up the whole mouth. It's almost
too much of a burn, but I still couldn't resist poking my chopsticks
back in for another bite. The second bite proved even more fun
as the fire in my mouth enhanced the briny clam and earthy mushroom
flavors. Along with some generously stuffed dumplings (Gyoza,
$4.95) and the sashimi, we filled up enough to forego the rest
of our appetizer adventure.
When I dined at Sushi Gin another time, Emily and I tried the
tempura and teriyaki dinners more familiar to American palates.
My other half had Seafood Tempura ($16.95), a collection of
deep-fried seafood and shellfish with vegetables in a light
batter. The rice flour tempura batter gave the dish a light
crunch and refreshing alternative to American battered, fried
My plate of Shrimp Teriyaki ($14.95), served over noodles and
accompanied by Sushi Gin's concoction of Wassabi potato salad,
had a dusky, smoky flavor. It wasn't as sweet as Karen had suggested
it would be. And to my surprise, the serving of medium-sized
shrimp proved generous enough to make me feel like I'd eaten
more than enough..
The Symmonds have one of the town's strangest restaurant mementoes
hanging by their cash register in the lobby. They have an autographed
endorsement from former Chiefs quarterback Steve Bono. When
the overpriced, underachieving Bono got cut by the team, he
reportedly said the restaurants here weren't as good as San
Francisco restaurants. .
Regardless of Bono's departure, the Symmonds have continued
serving their wide array of reasonably priced Japanese cuisine
and sushi for more than eight years. And I know I'll be going
back whenever I have a yen for a taste of a centuries-old raw
Mike Taylor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or publisher_editEKC@kcactive.com.
by Jessica Chapman)
9559 Nall, Overland Park, KS
Lunch: Mon.-Sat., 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m.
Dinner: Mon.-Thurs., 5 p.m.-9:30 p.m.;
Ratings: (out of four stars)
Key: $-under $10
$$-$10 to $20 $$$-over $20