Dining review: Best to stick with the sushi at Sushi One

CorrespondentMay 1, 2014 

  • Sushi One

    8470-100 Honeycutt Road, in Lafayette Village, Raleigh


    Cuisine: Japanese, pan-Asian

    Rating:* *  1/2

    Prices: $$-$$$

    Atmosphere: contemporary Asian bistro

    Noise level: low to moderate

    Service: generally friendly, variably experienced

    Recommended: traditional sushi, lettuce wraps, Shinkai sea bass

    Open: Lunch Monday-Saturday, dinner nightly

    Reservations: accepted

    Other: full bar; accommodates children; modest vegetarian selection; patio; parking in lot.

    The N&O’s critic dines anonymously; the newspaper pays for all meals. We rank restaurants in five categories: * * * * *  Extraordinary * * * *  Excellent. * * *  Above average. * * Average. *  Fair.

    The dollar signs defined:$ Entrees average less than $10. $$ Entrees $11 to $16. $$$ Entrees $17 to $25. $$$$ Entrees more than $25.

In the fertile restaurant soil of the Triangle, where sushi bars have been sprouting up like edamame shoots for more than a decade now, it’s common to see a newcomer resort to one of the genre’s proven tricks of the trade in its effort to put down roots.

Backing up your Japanese offering with another popular Asian cuisine – Thai, say, or even a trendy pan-Asian concept – is one popular approach. Offering buy-one-get-one-free sushi rolls is another.

Sushi One, which opened last year in Lafayette Village in Raleigh, pulls out all the stops.

You want BOGO rolls? You can get them here, all day, every day. The list, which includes 30 oversize rolls from the familiar Rainbow, Dragon and Volcano suspects to house specialties such as the Lafayette Roll (avocado and spicy seafood mix, topped with tuna, spicy mayo, eel sauce and masago), is helpfully labeled with symbols indicating whether a roll is spicy or contains raw seafood.

In the mood for Thai? An entire section of Sushi One’s extensive menu is devoted to the cuisine. The list isn’t comprehensive, but all the usual suspects are present and accounted for, from coconut curry (red, green or yellow) to basil beef (or chicken or shrimp) to pad thai.

Feeling adventurous? Check out the Signature Dishes section, where you’ll find fusion fare such as spicy chicken with steamed broccoli and an Asian riff on surf and turf pairing filet mignon and scallops. Shinkai sea bass, pan-seared and served over a colorful medley of bok choy, red and green bell peppers and carrots in a fragrant broth, is especially worth angling for.

Or head for the Noodles & Fried Rice section, where a creation called Dynamite Noodles turns a popular spicy sushi roll sauce to novel use by pairing it with stir-fried chicken. Other dishes under the same heading are more traditional but nonetheless varied, freely ranging the continent from udon to chow fun to Singapore noodles.

Then again, the restaurant’s name might actually have put you in the mood for Japanese. The menu has got you covered with a broad selection of tempura, teriyaki and hibachi entrees, all served with fried rice and your choice of ginger-dressed salad or miso soup.

As is often the case with such ambitious something-for-everyone menus, however, the efforts of an overextended kitchen can be hit or miss. Tempura shrimp and vegetables can be commendably light and crisp one night, and fried oysters so doughy as to be almost inedible the next time you visit. Even a single meal might start with a thoroughly delightful appetizer of chicken lettuce wraps, only to be followed by an undistinguished red Thai beef curry.

Happily, the sushi bar is not plagued by such inconsistencies. That should come as no surprise, given that the restaurant’s owner is sushi chef Larry Yang, who plied his trade for more than ten years before setting out on his own to open Sushi One. Yang’s experience shows, not so much in those BOGO rolls (which, let’s face it, are as susceptible to cost-cutting measures here as everywhere else) as in his traditional nigiri and sashimi.

Reliably fresh fish and skilled knife work are hallmarks of his presentations, which – depending on the catch – may feature less common delicacies such as Japanese pink snapper and the prized toro in addition to the usual lineup.

But clearly, Yang’s education as a sushi chef has gone beyond knife skills and sourcing of quality fish. You might even say that his work in local restaurants ranging from the traditional (Kanki) to the more contemporary sushi-bar-Asian-bistro concept (Sushi Love) has earned him a master’s degree in marketing.

If his own restaurant’s style leans more to the contemporary (including the East-meets-West Asian bistro decor), the traditional sushi that is his strength hasn’t suffered for it.

In the highly competitive Japanese restaurant market, I suppose you can’t blame a sushi chef for playing every card he can to broaden his restaurant’s appeal. And, thanks to Sushi One’s location in an upscale shopping complex with a large central courtyard, Larry Yang has another card up his sleeve that few of his competitors can play: a patio.

Where else can you sit in the shade of an umbrella and sip on a Japanese beer or a chilled sake while you wait for your Sushi Love Boat for two to come sailing up to your table? Or better yet, in keeping with the contemporary mood, how about a cocktail? How does a Lychee-tini sound? or

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