I normally have strict geographic requirements about my seafood: if it has to travel more than 50 miles from the ocean to my plate, I’ll pass. Sure, I miss this part of my diet while at Colgate, but I always hold out (especially after a friend’s bad experience with tilapia at a restaurant downtown) and make sure to fill up on fresh seafood when I go home. Recently though, my roommate has been trumpeting a sushi place in New Hartford that was both reasonably priced and tasty. Thus far this year, she’s 3-0 in not feeling ill after her visits. After countless reassurances that I would not end the meal hugging the toilet bowl, we hopped in the car and made the journey to Sumo (4671 Commercial Drive, New Hartford, NY).
Conveniently located near Target in a strip mall (I have found most restaurants in central New York are either in strip malls or next to a cow pasture), Sumo initially seemed like the last place to be on a Friday night. Despite having a reservation, the five of us had to wait about ten minutes for our table. The restaurant was buzzing with activity, much emanating from a separate room filled with hibachi tables and screaming adolescents.
When we were finally seated, I took stock of my surroundings: open sushi bar to my right, Japanese screens attempting to divide the main dining room from the chilly entrance way and many statues of angry looking sumo wrestlers. The table agreed with my roommate that Sumo closely resembled a Benihana restaurant: filled with almost over the top Japanese decorations that were anything but authentic, but made me forget momentarily that I was still in central New York. The room was filled with a plethora of plants, including a particularly low-hanging fern that kept “combing” one of my friend’s hair every time she moved her head too far left.
Sumo’s menu is extensive and would be able to satisfy many diverse appetites and levels of culinary gallantry. Everyone was focused on the sushi, though, and, encouraged by my dining companions’ enthusiasm and the boisterous atmosphere, I was persuaded to throw my aquatic principles to the wind.
I chose to skip over the selection of specialty rolls because I was simply too overwhelmed, and opted for the basics. My roommate and I both ended up ordering the same dinner combination: an eel and cucumber roll, a spicy tuna roll, and a salmon and avocado roll. Served with miso soup for $15, this was a steal. Each roll was neatly prepared and tasted fresh; not a hint of fishy flavor or smell. The eel had a nice sweet brown sauce, and the spicy tuna was not overwhelmed by mayonnaise.
My other dining companions chose a variety of rolls with resounding approval: there were a few specialty rolls, including two crazy salmon rolls (salmon and avocado wrapped with crispy salmon) and a tiger roll (salmon, yellow tail, avocado and eel topped with panko bread crumbs). Everyone had the miso soup, which was a nice salty accent to the meal but would have benefited from more seaweed. One of my dining companions also had shrimp shumai – delicate steamed shrimp dumplings that she said were superb. Also present at the table was a spicy tuna hand roll. This ice cream cone-like concoction was the focus of everyone’s attention, and something I will be sure to order at my next sushi outing.
While I cannot say I’ll be shedding my general seafood paranoia anytime soon, Sumo stands as the exception to the rule. To all those non-believers out there, make the drive to New Hartford and taste for yourself: fresh, reasonably priced sushi does exist in central New York.
Contact Jen Lauro at [email protected]