By page three of nine, it was apparent that perusing the menu at Jin Sushi was going to take a few extra minutes.
Baked sushi rolls? Raw sushi rolls? Funky sushi rolls? Straightforward sushi rolls? It took a good 10 minutes to thumb through all five pages of sushi at Lakewood’s newest sushi restaurant. I stopped counting at 70 rolls. That doesn’t include the nigiri, sashimi, sashimi plates or sushi combo plates.
Jin Sushi opened on South Tacoma Way more than a month ago in a neighborhood filled with a jackpot of Korean and Japanese eating.
Across the intersection is a personal favorite — the sushi restaurant Kyoto — with a koi pond and dining room with a sense-of-place like no other in Lakewood.
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Lakewood is a city filled with a broad intersection of sushi: Everything from the more meticulous presentation at Kyoto to the casual Happy Teriyaki to the region’s best food-court sushi at Sushi Niwa inside Paldo World.
Sushi eaters looking to classify Jin Sushi in the region’s sushi pantheon, here’s my five-second analysis.The presentation leans a little toward the oversized, heavily sauced style of sushi rolls that made Trapper’s regionally famous, but the presentation and selection at Jin probably is a little closer to Sushido, an all-purpose sushi and Japanese restaurant on Mildred near Tacoma Community College.
Jin Sushi also is tucked into a strip-mall, just like Sushido. And Kyoto. Yes, we’re a region heavy on strip-mall sushi, which is something to celebrate. Some of the region’s most interesting restaurants are nestled between check-cashing emporiums and dry cleaners. Look beyond that nail salon to find your next best destination for sushi, your soon-to-be-new-favorite Thai food stop or the region’s only Mexican steakhouse.
Beyond sushi, Jin Sushi also specializes in three kinds of ramen, udon, katsu and a broader range of Japanese classics.
Here’s a first-bite look.
The dining room: Gone are the pool tables and sports bar decor of its predecessor, Hammer Time Bar & Grill. There’s seating for about 70 across a row of four-seat booths, four-top blonde wood tables spanning the broad dining room, a sushi bar with room for six and another dozen at a cocktail bar. The palette of the well-lit dining room is earthy with lots of natural wood tones.
The sushi menu: Five pages listing 15 specialty fresh rolls with complicated sauces and oversized presentations ($10.50 to $13), 15 baked rolls with everything from eel to chicken ($11 to $18), 14 tempura-fried rolls ($9 to $14) and five specialty rolls featuring the talents of the sushi chefs ($9 to $13.50). A list of four vegetarian-friendly rolls ($4.50 to $7.50), 11 basic rolls ($6.50 to $8.50) and a menu of six maki for spice lovers ($7 to $8.50). Also, small ($22), medium ($33) and large ($60) sashimi plates and a list of 25 nigiri or sashimi ($5 to $13).
Japanese classics: Classic tonkotsu, shoyo or miso ramen ($9 to $11), udon ($8 to $12.50), donburi ($8 to $9), katsu ($14), teriyaki ($14 to $16), eight salads ($5 to $13.50) and one page of appetizers with some izakaya favorites such as chicken karaage ($8.50), tempura ($8 to $8.50), edamame ($5 to $6.50), plus salmon or yellowtail collar ($7 to $9).
Korean sushi: Check out the Korean sushi salad called hwe dup bap ($15).
Lunch specials: A dozen specials ($10 to $16) including teriyaki combos ($14), katsu ($10), tempura ($10) and more.
Adult beverages: 15 sakes ($12 to $38), flavored sojus ($13), Japanese beers Sapporo and Kirin and Korean beer Hite ($4.50 to $8), wine and full cocktail spirits list.
For kids: Kids meals, $8.
On a first visit: Dig into a broad selection of maki long rolls. From the specialty fresh roll menu, check out the Hawaiian roll with spicy tuna inside and raw tuna layered outside, with a tease of spicy from poke sauce ($12). The rainbow roll overlapped jiggly slices of raw tuna and red snapper with a California roll inside ($12).
Spice lovers will be pleased with the blast of Sriracha in the spicy tuna ($8). A spider roll — with soft-shell fried crab — was a solid choice from the tempura roll menu ($12).
Skip it: From the baked menu, the house special roll looked nothing like the menu picture and was covered in a heavy layer of mayo sludge ($12).
Ramen: With such little ramen in the area, dig into a trio of ramen choices. The tonkotsu was a basic presentation with a milky bone broth, requisite chewy ramen noodles, broad slices of chashu (pork), seaweed, sprouts, bamboo shoots, but no egg ($11).
Note: On two separate visits, the sushi bar was out of toro (market priced tuna belly sushi) as well as a number of entrees and several sushi rolls, including some on the chef’s specialty sushi menu.
Where: 8904 South Tacoma Way, Lakewood
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday-Saturday.