Sushi: In the Raw… Or Not



Kate Preziosi

Most restaurant-goers looking for fine Asian cuisine tend to expect that the decor fit accordingly. A Homer Simpson caracture waving to me from a poster by my table at Sushi Blues was unexpected.

In fact, nothing about this small sushi bar in downtown Hamilton seems to make sense. The owners, Arthur and Candi Ramer, are former realtors from New York City who were in search of a change of pace from their urban lifestyle. Following this whim, the Ramers moved to Earlville twelve years ago to join Candi’s sister, who owned the Corner Cafe, a once popular destination for Colgate students.

When the restaurant closed, the couple struggled in deciding how to move forward. One evening, during a heated argument in a car, Mr. Ramer furiously, but seriously suggested opening a sushi bar. As he retold the story to me, Mr. Ramer laughed. As random as the idea may have seemed, Mrs. Ramer did know how to roll sushi as a hobby.

After exploring the idea for a while, the pair finally came to Hamilton with the intent of putting this idea to bed, and as luck would have it, a space emerged for them to set up shop. Given the high start-up costs, the couple was in need of finding funding for their new restaurant. Fortunately, Mrs. Ramer was able to borrow enough money from a relative to rent the space, and the two then devoted all their energy to getting the business off the ground.

“We built everything. The tables, the sushi bar, the tiling. Everything,” Mr. Ramer remembered.

As the pair soon realized, they couldn’t have chosen a more drastic change of pace. “My city skills were irrelevant here,” as Mr. Ramer recalled. “Unless I knew how to milk a [freaking] cow, I didn’t know a damned thing!”

However, the couple did know a thing or two about how to make great sushi. Over the past nine years, they have developed their little sushi bar into one of Hamilton’s premier destinations for good eats.

While it’s clear that the restaurant lacks a traditional Asian atmosphere, its owners make up for this deficiency with their hospitality. Over time, Sushi Blues has been able to accrue an extensive family of regulars, many of which that have become good friends with the owners.

“If we have you once, we have you forever,” Mr. Ramer proudly declared.

The menu boasts a broad variety of traditional sushi rolls, and an “invent-a-roll” feature, allowing diners to customize their own sushi dinner. The salads are also delicious – I would especially recommend the “Almond Joy,” made with sesame chicken, mandarin oranges, and candied almonds, topped with a sweet dressing. The tempura California roll is also of note, although at first I was skeptical about the quality of the ingredients; how can a tiny sushi bar in Hamilton, New York, get fresh fish on a regular basis?

Mr. Ramer was quick to point out how important it was to him that his ingredients come from the very best fish brokers, noting that he uses the same distributors that provide for New York City’s popular sushi bar, Nobu.

Many students on campus lament about the prices at Sushi Blues, deeming it too expensive. Mr. Ramer insists it is because he is paying “top dollar for everything.” Furthermore, he assures the customers that they have many price options to chose from.

As I started toward the door, Mr. Ramer called across the room with a few more things to share.

“I can say, without fear of contradiction, that Candi and her friend Lynette Wilcox are the only two Caucasian female sushi chefs in the country. Without contradiction!” Mr. Ramer declared as he crossed the room to rejoin his wife behind the bar.

Sushi Blues is located at 18 Broad Street in downtown Hamilton. It is advisable to call ahead at (315) 825-0225 to arrange reservations.