Cheap sushi, much like gas station sushi, should be approached with caution. I’ve been burned before, but I think I’ve found a a decent find - a tiny restaurant serving economical maki and nigiri.
Filling a long-vacant spot that once contained Chicky Pub, Sushi Niwa opened Oct. 18 in the Paldo World Food Court. It’s owned by Su-Wook Hong, whose parents are the smiling duo in the kitchen.
I asked Hong by phone how he could price sushi so inexpensively and he said he’s keeping his profits low in an effort to draw in — and keep — customers. Operating in a no-frills restaurant space also allows Hong to pass along savings to diners.
The menu mimics the other restaurants in the food court at Paldo world: It’s fairly priced cuisine served in a cafeteria-style dining room.
Sushi Niwa’s sushi might be bargain-priced, but the fish was decent for the price paid, with pretty plating. Nigiri starts at $1, with rolls priced up to $8.99.
Rolls were discounted on my visit, with an offer of a free regular roll with the purchase of any specialty roll. (The special is ongoing.)
A fire engine roll ($8.99) with spicy tuna and tempura shrimp harnessed spice and sea — crunch came from daikon sprouts and sweet tempura bits, and cucumber and green onion added crispness. Spice was low, but noticeable. A Valentine roll ($8.99) with raw tuna and salmon was slightly less successful, if only because the tuna tasted overly assertive to me. The heart-shaped presentation on that roll, however, looked absolutely stunning.
The freebie rolls — off the regular menu — were outstanding values, even if they return to full menu prices. A bistro roll ($4.95) with cooked tuna was interesting if only because it’s an unusual find for South Sound sushi menus. A straightforward California roll was another buy-one-get-one freebie, although it was worth more than the $3.75 charged at full price.
Rolls came in eight-piece portions.
Order sushi or donburi rice bowls ($7.99) at the counter and a server will shuttle your food to your table. Sushi was served with roasted corn tea. Salad and miso also was brought with the rolls.
I’ve got a special affinity for restaurants in and around Paldo World, a Korean shopping destination situated along a stretch of South Tacoma Way that’s a regional destination for Korean dining.
Along the outside wall of the Paldo World store is Tacoma Szechuan, a personal favorite and a Chinese restaurant every food lover should have on their list (get the Chong Gin hot chicken). It’s also one of few Chinese restaurants around here with hot pot. Neighboring Cho Dang Tofu serves some of the best Korean soon dubu I’ve eaten along South Tacoma Way. Soon dubu is the bubbling cauldron of soup that comes with a chile-flecked broth and soft clouds of tofu.
Move inside the Paldo food court to find Nak Won, serving fast-style Korean cafeteria eats and Peking Garden, a modest restaurant with a Chinese-Korean menu. Paldo World also is home to the bakery Boulangerie. Find all those restaurants at 9701 South Tacoma Way, Lakewood.
Kabuki closed; Miyabi on the way
The longtime Tacoma sushi haunt
has closed. The restaurant operated for more than 20 years in a shopping mall near Tacoma Mall. It was an unusual find in an area full of chain restaurants. Joe Kosai and Kazuko MacKinnon opened Kabuki in February 1992. At that time, it was one of only a handful of sushi restaurants outside of Fujiya, which still operates in downtown Tacoma.
I was a fan of Kabuki’s straightforward sushi, but not the restaurant’s ventilation system. It was a destination for family dining, and for private parties in the restaurant’s tatami rooms.
It appears a sushi restaurant called Miyabi, which already has locations in Southcenter and Wallingford, will open in the Kabuki space. Miyabi’s menu looks similar to the menu that was offered at Kabuki. I’ll have more details soon, I'm trying to reach an owner.