Sushiya Express, Isla Vista’s only seafood restaurant, advertised a grand re-opening on Oct. 10 and 11, offering customers 50 percent off any menu item. Many had never heard of or tried this fairly hidden spot and this was a great way to grab the attention of many potential customers in the area.
Seeing how Sushiya offers the rare delicacy of sushi in an unlikely location, a college campus, it was a great opportunity to test the waters. Because I had never tried the old Sushiya, this review will have to be taken at face value and I cannot give any opinion on if the current menu items are better than the previous ones.
Although I had not tried Sushiya in the past, I had heard a lot of bad rumors. For example, a post on Facebook’s Free & For Sale group by third year biology major Jared Ining told the story of him and his roommate’s food poisoning experience at Sushiya. This post garnered a lot of attention, as many responded with second thoughts about eating at Sushiya. I, too, was a bit skeptical about trying the restaurant. Regardless, a review was commissioned and I fulfilled my duty. Spoiler alert, I didn’t get food poisoning.
A glance at the menu tells me that Sushiya is a low-to-mid range sushi restaurant. It’s not anything fancy and the prices are around $10–15 for the most part. When looking into a sushi restaurant it’s smart to gauge the prices to understand the quality of sushi you will be served and what to expect. Under $10 means a low tier sushi spot, where you would expect quick and simple cuts of fish at a cheap price (or in other words, don’t expect much).
Spending $10–20 will get you a standard quality restaurant, where rolls and sushi are quality controlled to an extent and there are more varieties of fish. If you’re spending more than $20 per item in a sushi restaurant, you better demand fine dining and good quality seafood.
I ordered three items, each a sampler of different categories: tuna sushi ($5) from the nigiris, yellowtail roll ($7) from the traditional rolls, and crunch roll ($7) from the non-traditional rolls. These items came to be around $20 with tax. These items were fairly cheaper than the chef’s special rolls, as those averaged around $12 per roll. Sushiya did make one minor mistake with my order, as it came out in styrofoam boxes when I specifically asked to dine in.
The tuna sushi was surprisingly the best item I had. The color of the fish looked appealing and bright red, which meant that the fish was not old. Its smell had no trace of fishiness, so this was confirmed edible tuna. The tuna nigiri was acceptable, but I don’t think it was worth the $5 for two pieces.
Yellowtail roll is a different story. The seaweed covering the roll tasted a little weird and was a bit discolored, not containing the dark green, almost black pigment of regular seaweed. Instead, the roll had a lighter green complexity and a different, more watered down taste. The yellowtail in the roll was, again, not fishy or old. This roll came with a good amount of fish, so I’d say it just met the $7 price mark.
The crunch roll was one of the biggest disappointments. Common crunch rolls contain the staple tempura shrimp. However, Sushiya’s crunch roll only had imitation crab for its fish. It was definitely not worth the $7 for just imitation crab, avocado, rice, and tempura flakes.
One notable thing to mention is the absurd wait times that many had to suffer during these opening days. Although I personally did not experience a long wait time (I ate on Oct. 13), many were frustrated at the times they had to wait idly for their orders to exit the kitchen. This apparently became so frustrating that Sushiya enacted an impromptu policy to take only 10 orders at a time in order to counteract the issue of excessive queue times.
Overall, the items at Sushiya were quite overpriced even at their under $10 price range only because of the content of the items. I would not recommend this restaurant unless someone had a life-threatening craving for sushi, as it really isn’t worth the money spent. Perhaps there will be another day where I will come back to take a chance at the Chef’s Special Roll, but until that day, my mouth will not be eating at Sushiya in Isla Vista.