robongi vs. ALL

Robongi RER 10.4.12

Robongi RER 4.5.12
We all have our favorite places, to get our favorite meals, in our favorite styles. Sometimes we have more than one restaurant that offers the specifics we deem delicacies, but sometimes we do not. Robongi, for me, is that restaurant for sushi. I can’t say that I have had a ton of experience with sushi, high end, internationally or even in the City. But I know what I like, and I like Robongi.

I have to been to various places, some Asian fusion restaurants claiming perfection of the art of sushi, and not all have been terribly successful. But I can always count of Robongi for a smile and a belly full of yummy sushi.

Robongi is kind of a trendy spot in Hoboken, always full and raucous on weekend nights, but maintains a kind of friendly calm during the day. They play loud Top 40 music, or David Guetta dance music at night, and it’s BYOB so people bring it and their friends and get loud and have fun. But BYOB makes many things fun. It is a small place, but there still manages to be a lot of tables, and when it’s warm (or just almost warm enough), there are a bunch of tables outside. In the summertime, those are tables to be fought for. There also can be a wait, sometimes, which adds hype and reiterates popularity.

For me, it is not quite all of this, it is the delicious sushi and the fond memories.

I do not remember always being a huge fan of sushi; raw fish, small portions, combinations and things that I can’t always identify or pronounce. However, Robongi is my current go to. They feel the freshest, most delicious, and creative in my area (but as I mentioned before, I have not done a tremendous amount of exploring the New York City sushi scene, it is overwhelming). I would say, I have mostly only had sushi from Robongi, and random other tidbits on the menu, but I tend to stick to my staples.

Now, I have actually been to other places, and have tried other things, but my mouth tends always to compare to Robongi as its base.
Honshu RER 11.17.12
Rock Shrimp
I was on a lovely little lunch date, a meeting for girl talk and our favorite Robongi. It was this time that I first tried the rock shrimp appetizer, on the hungry suggestion of my company. It was so delicious and memorable to the point that I now crave the appetizer. Each little morsel of shrimp is like a tempura fried gem, glistening with a pink orange sweet and spicy sauce, speckled with hot pepper flakes. There is a crispiness as well as the unctuous texture of the shrimp, colliding with the saucy sweetness, and a tickle of heat. The appetizer is most often pretty, garnished with a little iceberg lettuce and grape tomatoes, along with orange pieces. Absolutely delicious.

Once I tried rock shrimp there, I was hooked. So hooked, that I ordered it at other places, even with mild skepticism.

That friend who transformed my world with the mere suggestion of rock shrimp and I ventured to try out another place in Hoboken that has a sushi offering, Teak. Teak is another one of those trendy places, fancy d├ęcor, fancy drinks, music, convenience, and oh yea… it turns into a lounge late nights. Here the rock shrimp was ushered to us in an iceberg bowl, beautiful and delicate. But with the flavors of Robongi’s rock shrimp in my mouth and mind, I was disappointed. They really put the shrimp in the rock shrimp at Teak. There was less breading and less sauce, so the sweet and spicy was lacking, and the shrimp really prevailed. It was pretty, but milder, less of a dance with less risk.

I also tried this appetizer at a Jersey City sushi joint called Honshu Sushi. This place like Robongi and Teak have the loungy type atmosphere, asking its guests to stay just a little bit longer and indulge just that much more. Here the rock shrimp was more like that of Robongi, very similar in flavors, though the shrimp was fuller, larger pieces.

Illuzion 11.3.11

Robongi RER 4.5.12
Special rolls
Robongi has set the bar pretty high for me. Their Sex on the Beach Roll is a little bite of heaven (more like 8 not so small bites, but it works). It is literally a mouthful, boasting so many favorites in one roll, so many flavors and textures, but in the end it is balanced and almost orgasmic. It is topped with eel sauce, baby fish roe, and spicy tuna, filled with some rice, avocado and shrimp tempura. All the ingredients are fresh, and that freshness is perceptible. They also can stand strong and tall on their own, because of the freshness and flavor. But once combined it is like a song. To me there are hardly words to describe what this roll makes me feel, other than pure happiness. I tend to close my eyes and relinquish.

Though Sex on the Beach is delicious (I tend to have it every time I visit), there are other delicious combos like the Zab roll or the I-Mate that tickle my fancy. Robongi also always have special rolls that are fun to try because they are always different. I really appreciate the ratios and attention to detail at the sushi restaurant. It is not only the freshness that makes a difference, but it is the care and expertise.

Illuzion, just a block and a half away from Robongi, is no comparison. Though I did not try any of the special rolls (none called my name while I was doing my pre-meal research), I did venture there for a lunch special date. There was something mildly off putting about the sushi. The meal was bland; none of the ingredients or items had any flavor. Because most of the rolls contained tempuraed items, the severe blandness was due to the thick and tasteless tempura batter. It made everything a shadow of what it could have been.

Teak, was another place where the fancy rolls kind of fell short. The imagination and creativity of the rolls were there, but the ingredients did not taste the freshest. There are some wild combinations that do make my mouth water. The balance of the ones that I have tried in the past was decent, but the seaweed, in the end was the roll’s downfall that day. The seaweed was chewy and difficult to process, rather than a subtle wrapper. It dragged all the taste down with it due to its near inedibility.  I would love to try out some of their other rolls because the flavors and concoctions look amazing, inventive and telling.

Honshu sushi, also has a large number of Chef rolls, varied, and stuffed with things from the sea. On a date date, we had the fancy Godzilla roll and found that there were too many distinct flavors that did not blend into harmony. Maybe the ratios were off, or there were far too many things going on in the roll, but the ingredients did feel fresh. The other rolls (the less special varieties) had much better balance and it is apparent that the art of rolling and creating is there.
Teak TA 7.6.12
I cannot stress enough how important dessert is to me. But, unfortunately, we do not generally think of dessert when we imagine sushi bars. This is really upsetting to me. Though Robongi has some of my favorite sushi experiences and memories, it does not have an extensive list of dessert offerings. Robongi does have yummy ice cream, that I most times I do not leave without. Green tea ice cream has been a long time favorite, but I am pretty sure red bean is coming up fast. They even do not carry mochi anymore (which is one of my favorite things). The rice dough covered ice cream is a treat beyond treats, but it is becoming increasingly hard to find.

Now, Honshu, on the other hand, has a little more by way of desserts and desserts in the way that we generally think of them, with an Asian twist. They have the mochi in the most typical flavors, generic but still delicious. But, what really shocked me and took my mouth on a great adventure, was this fried cheesecake dealie. It was amazing. It was cool and warm at the same time. The cheesecake was wrapped in like an egg roll wrapper and fried, in the shape of an egg roll. The sweet and creamy insides were a lovely cheesecake filling, perfectly flavored, an ideal cheesecake (to me). With the crunch and soft insides, each bite was unexpected and delicious.

Teak RER 3.29.12
Even though Robongi is my favorite, I am willing and excited to try out new sushi places. I will almost definitely enjoy the excursion even if the food does not measure up to what I have grown accustomed to at Robongi.

Are there any sushi places in the Metropolitan area worth a try? Let me know.
Honshu RER 11.17.12

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