Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Sui Ren

after many months of construction work, Sui Ren, the Japanese place underneath my apartment soft-opened for business yesterday (?). I popped in to try it out and get some first impressions.

The website seems unfinished, so it was a real crapshoot. I found that the place had completely changed from the dirty office where I signed a lease last year--it was beautifully appointed, with a nice-looking backyard garden, dark wooden fixtures, and a chalkboard-wall bathroom covered with "We'll be back!" and "Good luck!" graffiti (clearly the work of opening-night friends).

I'm not very well versed in Japanese food, but it appears to be an izakaya-style place (a drinking establishment that serves snacks) with fancy snacks and no liquor license (until next month, according to my server). There were hot and cold dishes, but most of the food took the form of skewers (so is this considered a yakitori place?). Most of the skewers were prices between $5-9 (with two skewers per order), although their was a foie-gras-accented unagi dish that was $11 (for three skewers) and a $4 skewer of grilled iceberg lettuce (sounds unappetizing).

the menu actually looked pretty great overall, and I immediately saw six or seven things I really wanted to order. I limited myself to two, though--a cold skewer and a grilled skewer. I snapped some quick pictures with my enV; it was really dark and of course they look horrible, so just consider them to be for reference purposes only.

First they brought out bachi maguro to udama (marinated bigeye tuna, boiled quail egg with a runny yolk, and korean seaweed). The tuna alone tasted excellent, and when consumed with the quail egg (which was cooked perfectly, the albumen not rubbery at all, and the yolk not even close to overcooked; I could almost swear it was sous-vided or something) and seaweed, it was pretty awesome. $8 for three skewers.

Second, an order of shishamo (grilled Japanese smelt, salt, and something that made it spicy). For $5, I received three whole smelt impaled on two skewers. Larger than sardines, the bones were a clear presence in the dish, imparting a crunchy texture that took me some getting used to. By the end of the third smelt, though, I decided I would probably order it again.
again, I apologize for the horrible-quality pictures.

so, the verdict? The food was indisputably very good. The service was pretty fast and friendly (little kink: they gave me change for my meal with a $5 bill, so I had to ask for $1s before I could leave a tip. that's the mark of a new waitress, right?). I'm still weighing the value...the bang for the buck. I spent $17 on a fairly light meal (no drinks). I can't justify making this a regular place, but it would be a nice place to splurge on with some friends, get a few drinks, five or six plates of skewers, etc...

well, they're right underneath me. hope they're not too loud!

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