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Sushiya-US
*** 1/2
Out of a possible five
$$$

Sweet treats reign at tasty sushi spot

One would expect to read about how fresh the fish was or what the best sushi roll was, but the most impressive things at Sushiya-US Sushi & Steak on DuPont Road were shockers.

Ice cream and mashed potatoes.

Yep, that’s not a misprint.

Located in a strip of stores just a little west of Interstate 69, Sushiya is, indeed, a sushi place with traditional Japanese and some Korean offerings. And though I was not expecting much in terms of dessert Sushiya, part of a three-restaurant group with other locations in Holt and Kalamazoo, Mich., offered cheesecake, Key lime pie and a couple of ice cream dishes that were fantastic.

The tempura ice cream channeled Americans’ favorite Mexican dessert, fried ice cream. But instead of being rolled in crushed cereal, nuts or cinnamon and sugar, the vanilla ice cream was wrapped in bread then dipped in batter before frying. The combination created a thick, soft, cakelike element in addition to crunch. Drizzled with chocolate syrup, there was nothing not to like.

But my favorite sweet treat was the plum wine ice cream. This orange ice cream was flecked with bits of the sweet, tender fruit and had just a subtle hint of alcohol. It was a refreshing end to my meal and is something I will crave.

So, mashed potatoes; really?

Sushiya offers a Kobe steak dinner – should actually be called a Wagyu steak as true Kobe beef can only be found in Japan and is never exported – and a Kobe tataki appetizer. Both are accompanied by something called tempura mashed potatoes.

The tataki was delicious with strips of beef so lightly seared it was almost carpaccio resting on top of a sweet, dark, soy-based sauce, carrot and onion. But in the corner of the plate were four tempura-covered sushi rolls, or so I thought. I popped one into my mouth and was delighted to find the crispy rolls filled with creamy mashed potatoes, a stalk of crisp asparagus and a little carrot. It was a genius side that almost outshined the melt-in-your-mouth, beautifully marbled steak and I could have eaten about 30 pieces of it.

Three of the four sushi rolls I tried were fabulous:

•007 – This roll was so big around it consisted of six pieces instead of the usual eight or 10. It was by far my favorite with its deep-fried spicy tuna, cream cheese, crab and cucumber wrapped in rice and nori. It was also topped with spicy mayo and a sweet sauce. Combined, it was the perfect mix of sweet and spicy and tender and crisp.

•Diablo – My server touted this roll as the spiciest offered, and she wasn’t lying. Shrimp tempura, crab, cucumber and avocado were joined by spicy scallops, crab and shrimp in this roll, which was arranged in a foil tray and then baked until warm. It was topped with a little white cheese – which melted and added some chewiness but not much flavor – and a sweet sauce that did little to tame the spicy seafood. It was an addictive treat.

•Mountain Fuji – The person working the sushi bar said the salmon had just been delivered, so I had to try some in this roll, which also had crab, tuna, avocado and cucumber. The salmon was great, but the real highlights were the heaping portions of dark red masago (capelin roe) and bright orange tobiko (flying fish roe) that topped the roll.

The last roll, the Red Dragon, was cute with shrimp arranged to look like a dragon head on one end, and its star ingredient, eel, was nicely grilled and sauced. But its tiny sliver of crab was undetectable and stood no chance next to the flavor-strong eel.

The biggest disappointment was the only Korean dish I tried, the beef bibimbob (bibimbap?). Not only was it incorrectly named, it was incorrectly made. It did not have enough beef and had a boring vegetable blend of just wilted greens, shredded lettuce instead of cabbage, carrot and mushrooms. The rice was OK, but the dish fell flat.

The service was fantastic at Sushiya-US with servers who stayed on top of everything and made solid suggestions. The sushi bar is one of the longest in the area and I was pleased to find it wider than the norm, which allowed me plenty of elbow room. The booths, however, were the opposite with sleek, narrow, modernly designed tables that looked cool but left me reaching and struggling for space.

The décor was also flawed. Although neat and new with nicely placed dividers to help cozy up the huge dining room with its high ceiling, it lacked artwork or memorable accents and was too sterile. It felt more like a hospital waiting room than a restaurant.

Restaurant: Sushiya-US Sushi & Steak

Address: 2882 E. Dupont Road

Phone: 444-4263

Hours: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4:30 to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday; noon to 10 p.m. Saturday; 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. Sunday

Cuisine: Japanese

Handicapped accessible: Yes

Alcohol: None

Credit cards: Yes

Kid-friendly: Yes, but no menu

Menu: 007 ($9.95), Mountain Fuji ($13.85), Diablo ($13.95), Red Dragon ($13.95), tataki ($17.95), bibimbob ($11.95), plum wine ice cream ($3.95), tempura ice cream ($5.95)

Rating breakdown: Food: ** (3-star maximum); atmosphere: 1/2 (1 maximum), service: * (1 maximum)

Note: Restaurants are categorized by price range: $ (less than $20 for three-course meal), $$ ($20-$29); $$$ ($30-$39), $$$$ ($40-$49), $$$$$ ($50 and up).

Ryan DuVall is a restaurant critic for The Journal Gazette. This review is based on two unannounced visits. The Journal Gazette pays for all meals. Email him at rduvall@jg.net; call at 461-8130. DuVall’s past reviews can be found at www.journalgazette.net. You can follow him on Twitter (@DiningOutDuVall) and he can be heard every Thursday from 3 to 4 p.m. on 92.3 FM, The Fort.

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