Review: Umi Sushi--Too subtle?
Umi Sushi’s owner, Mike Kim, spent a year learning the trade at Saline’s Biwako, where I enjoyed monstrous, occasionally weird, and generally delicious sushi rolls on several visits last year. So I was very eager to try Kim’s own venture in Plymouth Green Crossings. Although it’s not by any stretch a swish restaurant, it is an attractive one, with good lighting, well-spaced tables, and a handsome sushi bar as the focal point of the dining room. We were greeted by an enthusiastic young woman, who quickly showed us to a table and within seconds delivered a cup of hot tea. Over the course of several visits I found much to like about Umi Sushi. The one problem was that the food often crossed the line from subtle to blah.
In the generous $13 dinner bento, the fried foods stood out. Two gyoza dumplings were stuffed plump with well-seasoned ground meat, and the panko-breaded shrimp and sliced vegetables (onion ring, broccoli, and sweet potato) were, if not classically tempura-airy, admirably crunchy outside and cooked in a way that let their essential flavors shine through. The tempura’s biggest drawback was that the accompanying dish of dipping sauce was stingy, both in quantity and flavor—and the flavor shortage was a recurring problem. Friends and I tried various bento permutations—those built around spicy chicken, beef bulgogi, and salmon and chicken teriyaki. Of these options, only the spicy chicken bound with a moderately hot chili sauce was robust enough for my taste—the bulgogi was passable, while the teriyakis were tame enough to pass for hospital food. A bowl of udon can be a wonderfully understated dish, but it takes the right touch to make it interesting; Umi Sushi’s stopped short, presenting its thick noodles in a virtually unseasoned watery broth.
The best I can say about Umi’s California roll is that it was well constructed, tightly rolled and sliced into a size that would fit into a normal mouth in one piece. But the rice and crab had almost no flavor—the only notable element was a crunchy cucumber. And the spider roll, although artistically arranged on a pretty blond wood cutting board, tasted only of deep-fried-ness, not the real soft-shelled crab, nor any of the roll’s other components.
After those busts, I went back to focus on the specialty rolls. The “Michigan” was not just nicely turned, it actually carried some flavor and had lots of varied silky textures from a layer of pale salmon and slivers of avocado on top to a creamy crab salad in the middle. The “Biwako” had similarly great textural variety, with four kinds of fish and tempura crunchies, but all those flavors were wiped out by a spicy crab salad—the one case in my meals here where the spicing was too strong. Super spiciness worked better in the “Texas” roll, with the sweet snap of asparagus and sourness of pickled daikon radish, among other elements, all rolled up and deep fried, then drizzled with eel sauce.
Umi Sushi has several key pieces in place—fine service, pleasant surroundings, and a proprietor who seems genuinely concerned about his guests. I could tell they’re competent back there in the kitchen, and the food is beautifully presented; now they just need to develop the same mastery of flavor. They’re new, so I’m hoping that will come with time.
3393–B Plymouth Rd. (Plymouth Green Crossings)
Mon.–Thurs. 11 a.m.–9:30 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 11 a.m.–10 p.m. (lunch daily 11 a.m.–3 p.m.) Closed Sun.
Appetizers $2.95–$8.25; entrees, ¬noodles, and bentos $7.95–$14.95; sushi rolls $1.99–$12.95; sushi and sashimi $3–$4.50; many lunch specials
Easily accessible to the disabled.
This review was first published in the Ann Arbor Observer, June 2009.