By Todd Barron @ FoodieCuisine.com
I had dinner at the Sushi Cafe in Little Rock, Arkansas with my wife and son this weekend and the first thing I noticed is they are now at least twice as big! My wife had told me they expanded but I didn’t know the full extent. They are least twice the size if not bigger. They have a new area complete with a new bar, a front room, a middle room, and a glass enclosed private area. My only complaint with the space is that the large private tables were empty while over a dozen people stood around waiting for non-private tables. Maybe they had reservations in the back?
Sushi Cafe has what is best described as a fusion menu with a huge variety of sushi along with many cooked items. They have everything from cheeseburgers, to hot dogs, to specialty sushi rolls and sashimi. They have several pages of items to choose from with inexpensive goods such as baked salmon ($9) to more expensive items such as the duo of lobster tails ($38). Judging from the huge crowd I’d say their menu appeals to quite a few different tastes.
The place was packed and our wait exceeded the initial 25 minutes with another 30 minutes tacked on. The host did warn us after 25 minutes that it would be another 30 or so but we opted to wait. Our total wait time hovered around 45 minutes. There was no room at the bar so we stood around while we waited. Both my wife and I have lived in larger cities (Philadelphia) and are used to multi-hour waits so it was no big deal really.
We were seated and ordered our drink orders right away. It did take about 15 minutes to place our appetizer order since the waitress appeared quite busy serving the other tables. I had been to the Sushi Cafe once before and wanted to try the Creamy Wontons ($5) again along with the Tigers Den ($9). The wontons are filled with cream cheese and crab meat and then deep fried. The serving comes with 5 wontons and is plenty for the price. The Tigers Den has Wontons, Mini Harumaki, and Wasabi Shumai and includes two sauces.
The Creamy Wontons were wonderful with just the right amount of fry to them and with a sweet interior. My son commented “We get to eat dessert first!” and I don’t disagree. They came with a drizzle of teriyaki sauce that complimented them well. The only improvement I would suggest is to have more teriyaki sauce on the plate (maybe in a small dish?) It was so good that I ran out quickly.
The Tiger’s Den also had wontons on it that were identical to the ones on the wonton only plate (great!) The three spring rolls (also called Mini Harumaki) were good and crunchy and without too much grease. Sometimes spring rolls drip with grease but that is not the case at Sushi Cafe. They didn’t have a huge flavor to them but the sauces worked well with them. The wasabi flavored dumplings were good but not exceptional. I’ve had a similar item in Scottsdale (Arizona) and they add sticky nuts to the dumplings along with a sauce made just for them (drizzled over the top.) They are good at Sushi Cafe but could be great with some more effort.
We ordered our entrees next with my son having the Chicken Katsu ($13), my wife had the Fish and Chips ($15), and I opted for the Kobe Burger ($16). Our food took a while to show up (once again, due to them being very busy) but it all looked good on arrival. The chicken katsu had some cheese sprinkled over it and had a BBQ dipping sauce in the middle. The chicken was well fried and very tender. I give them high marks for doing such a great job with a simple dish.
The Fish and Chips were not quite what I expected based on my experience with English food but it was fried well. The fish was in the form of fish-cakes and not strips and it came with sweet potato fries but it all tasted good. This is where it got a little too strange for me though. It comes with a sweet remoulade. That’s right, it’s sweet. I expected the remoulade to be spicy (ala cajun style) or to have a tartar sauce taste to it but no, it tasted like it was blended with strawberries or cherries. My wife really liked it but I felt it just didn’t work with the dish. I can appreciate them trying to be different but would prefer they offer a spicy sauce OR the sweet one when you order. Other than the really odd sauce it tasted good.
I’m saving the worst for last because I really like the Sushi Cafe and am sure their other dishes are much better. I will give them another shot in the future and don’t plan on making the following my basis for return. With that said, let the sad show begin! I had ordered my Kobe Burger Medium-Rare. Most people will tell you that in order to really taste the meat you shouldn’t cook it past Medium-Rare. You can get away with this with meat such as Kobe because it is supposedly fresh and of very high quality.
Well, my burger came out and it was cold. It wasn’t luke-warm, it was cold. The other thing I could tell is that the meat patty is pre-formed and pre-frozen. Kobe burgers I’ve had in Las Vegas and in Ft. Lauderdale were fresh formed and you can tell the difference almost immediately. I wasn’t surprised but I think $16 is too steep for a previously frozen American Kobe burger. I informed the waitress that my burger was cold and she promptly took it back to the kitchen. After a few minutes she returned with the news that “The chef said it’s supposed to be cold since it’s Medium-Rare.” Um, no. It’s not supposed to be cold. The problem is that they are grilling it frozen and by the time it’s thawed, it’s cooked to Medium-Rare. In order to keep it from cooking further they have to remove it from the grill. This creates a problem since it’s not hot yet. While technically the chef was right, he was right for the wrong reasons. What they should do is thaw the patties overnight in the refrigerator and cook them only after they have thawed. This would allow them to be cooked to any done-ness without problem.
After a back-and-forth debate with the kitchen I capitulated and requested to have it cooked “like they normally do it.” She warned me it would take a little while but I was in no real hurry. I waited about 20 minutes and received my new burger and this time it was completely cooked. Here comes the latest problem though. It was COOKED. It had a burnt smell to it and although it wasn’t burnt on the inside, it was burnt on the outside. Once again the frozen patty hurt the food as they had to burn it to cook it through and to the right external temperature. The bottom line here is that you should NEVER cook frozen food if you want decent results. I ate half of the burger (was hungry) but left the rest behind. I’ve eaten the Cowboy Burger from Sushi Cafe and it is much better than the more expensive Kobe Burger. Needless to say, I will never ever order the Kobe Burger again.
Except for the Kobe Burger and the sweet remoulade, the food was very good. You can tell the non-sushi items aren’t made with the highest quality ingredients but the price reflects it too (it’s a decent deal for the money.) I like the newly expanded area and everyone was very nice to us. The host was super helpful and the patrons were friendly. I actually had a great time and will return to try out some of their sushi items.
Give them a try and let me know what you like on the menu. I’m sure there are good items, I just haven’t found a broad selection yet.
5823 Kavanaugh Blvd
Lunch MON – FRI 11am – 2pm
Dinner MON – SUN 5pm – Close