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Thursday, March 27, 2008

$13 at ... Sushi Rock's half-price night

Posted By on Thu, Mar 27, 2008 at 8:10 AM

The Sushi Rock lettuce wrap: tasty, but not on the half-price menu.
In this weekly feature, C-Notes stretches your dollar at restaurants around the region, because the stimulus check hasn’t arrived yet and man cannot live on PB&J alone. This week … Sushi Rock’s half-priced “Tsunami Night” Downtown (Wednesdays): 1276 W. 6th Street, (216) 623-1212. Beachwood (Thursdays): 2101 Richmond Road, (216) 378-9595 For Scene food critic Elaine Cicora’s full review, click here. What $13 got us: Miso soup, a split order of edamame, 1 tofu roll, 1 shrimp tempura roll What else $13 can get you: A large assortment of half-priced sushi The Verdict: Catch the wave another day. ... Our quest for $13 dining deals has taken us, and will take us, to some of the finest tables in the city -- places where you might not think $13 could get you properly fed and watered. But through judicious ordering on special days or times, 13 bones can indeed fill you up with hearty, gourmet vittles. But in our quest for deals, we must take into account the other factors that make dining out such a pleasant experience -- namely, service and ambience. It’s all fine and good to score some delicious grub at a bargain, but if the experience leaves you waiting in the parking lot for your server, the deal ceases to be a deal and becomes instead something you have to disclose on future job applications. Such was the case with my foray to “Tsunami Wednesday” at the downtown outpost of Sushi Rock, in the heart of the Warehouse District. It’s no secret that the swank sushi spot serves up half-priced sushi on Wednesdays (and on Thursdays at the Beachwood location.) The night has a solid reputation among bargain-hunters. I was pre-warned about it filling up quickly, so I called ahead for two reservations at five — earlier than I normally dine, but dining on the cheap requires the occasional sacrifice. The place was packed, even when I arrived at five. Apprently everyone had the same bright idea that I did, and those with reservations – as long as their entire party had arrived -- were escorted to their tables while the envious reservation-less watched attentively from the bar. I like to see a joint jumping as much as the next person, but the crowd was antsy and rather annoying, apparently the norm at half-priced night. And this general vibe seemed to have affected service: servers were brusque and rather inattentive. It was hard to blame them: I wouldn’t have wanted to serve this crowd either. The menu offerings are strict on Tsunami night; not all forms of sushi are half-priced, and no apps or non-sushi entrees are marked down. And at times, the menu even takes on the tone of a belligerent school teacher: half-prices are based on a two-hour maximum dining “experience,” which would be way more tolerable if I could get my server’s attention. I refrained from ordering a drink, as the happy-hour drink specials aren’t in play on Tsunami nights. And the high-priced ‘tinis, vino, and sake would have squelched half of the budget or more in a sip. So I contented myself with water and a split order of $6 edamame—I swear I could live on edamame alone—and theirs was very good, a heaping portion of warm soy beans liberally sprinkled with lip-licking coarse salt. The miso soup, at $3, was just as it should be: a mix of rich broth, cubed tofu and briney, dark green wakame. When our sushi arrived, it was plated beautifully, as is standard at Sushi Rock. I enjoyed the tofu roll for $2.25, which was an innovative roll of avocado, cucumber, and rice draped with a sheet of sweet tofu. Also good was the $3.25 shrimp tempura roll, with two flavors of battered shrimp nestled in the roll. (Yes, I realize that my meal didn’t contain raw fish. I have an irrational fear of uncooked seafood. Blame spending my childhood swimming in Lake Erie.) My less pychologically scarred companion greatly enjoyed her order, which included a Manhattan roll of rosy tuna and chunks of creamy, perfectly-ripe avocado; a Philadelphia roll with smoky salmon paired with cream cheese; and a crab salad roll with thin-cut slivers of crabstick mixed with a creamy dressing, surrounded by rice. She deemed her eats fresh, tasty, and well executed. As we enjoyed our morsels from the communal service tray, or server grew impatient. She asked us several times if we were finished long before we were, and offered the check on several occasions. I understand the need to turn a table quickly, especially with the glaring folks at the bar eyeing our table, but we were well within our two-hour “experience,” and the ungraciousness of it really threw me. The prevailing attitude was that Sushi Rock was doing us a favor by serving us half-priced sushi, so we should be fawningly grateful and get the hell out of our table as soon as possible. So we did, and repaired to D’Vine, where no one rushed us and we enjoyed half-priced flights of wine. The sushi? Good. The experience? Not so much. Despite the menu deal, for my $13, I’d have been better served by going during happy hour another night, so I could have at least had some booze, and then just ordered within reason. Their standard food prices are reasonable, and the restaurant is typically more pleasant on other evenings. This is one Tsunami I don’t suggest riding. -- Tori Woods

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