By Bob Sacks |
Yes, I have to admit that “I Heard it Through the Grapevine.” Had it not been for a heads-up from some loyal readers of this column, I might’ve totally missed a very good dinner at Sogo Sushi in Red Bank, but happily I did not!
The Two River Area does not want for restaurants, and new ones open all the time, which sometimes allows older ones to get lost in the shuffle and go unnoticed as diners flock to the latest and greatest. Happily, many of these established eateries have strong fan bases who support them.
Sogo, with its modest exterior, is easy to miss as you are driving down Monmouth Street. Entering through the glass door, main entrance, lands you right in a middle of the busy, brightly lit, take-out/kitchen half of the restaurant. But fear not, a few short steps away, through an archway, lies the other half of Sogo, a softly lit, simp
le but soothing, dining room.
It was apparent from the moment we arrived that the waitstaff and owners are truly devoted to ensuring the happiness of each and every diner.
I was impressed with the Seafood Tacos ($8.95). Two crackling crisp wonton shells holding tender diced tuna and salmon with a sweet chili sauce and dusted with sesame seeds, were spot on. The combination of textures and flavors, irresistible.
Beautifully plated Crispy Tuna Dumplings ($10.95) had a totally different mouthfeel; softer and more luxurious. Four pieces of spicy tuna and a gently spicier chili sauce, wrapped in a bun-like wonton skin, sitting atop the “chef special salsa,” were too easy to pop in the mouth and eat in one bite.
How could we not try an appetizer called Salmon Pizza ($10.95)? Triangles of pan-fried pancake, formed into a star, were topped with thin slices of tender salmon, more of that tasty salsa, spicy mayo sauce, and crunchy little white pellets meant to evoke the look of cheese, which popped like Rice Krispies, but tasted even better.
Yam Yam Noodles ($6.95), listed simply as stir fried vegetables with yam noodles, was very tasty. The translucent, cellophane noodles, made from the konjac yam, had a delicious taste and silky texture, which belied the fact that they are low in carbs and calories as well! Bits of crispy broccoli and cabbage provided contrast. Bravo!
The ingredient list drew us to order a Sumo Roll ($14.95): real crabmeat, toothsome shrimp tempura, spicy tuna and avocado wrapped in soy paper made for a lush tasting combination.
An entrée of Veggie Delight ($13.95) exceeded the sum of its humble ingredients. Savory pinkish-purple cylinders of Japanese eggplant, firm discs of green zucchini, and crispy string beans, coated with a light teriyaki sauce, were made special. Served with miso soup, a small salad, and a bowl of brown rice, this would make a good meal in itself for vegetarians.
I liked the aptly named Yummy Roll ($12.95). Tuna, yellowtail and mango topped with thin strips of salmon, crabmeat, fish roe, and drizzled with honey wasabi. It should be noted that all of the rice used in preparations served at Sogo is brown rice, which has a different flavor and texture than the usual white rice used elsewhere. The restaurant feels that the enhanced taste, nutritional value, and health benefits are significant. They also employ a technique of heating their tempura in the oven after removing it from the fryer to drive off any residual oil. Kudos for this even healthier approach to Japanese cuisine, which is already very “clean food” to start with!
Dahlia Roll ($12.95), mixed yellowtail and scallion seaweed salad, was topped with strips of salmon and refreshingly tart lime zest and a “special sauce.”
Sogo Sushi is BYO, so the eternal question of what to drink with this food should be addressed. Of course, beer or sake is an obvious and easy pairing, but I am always interested in experimenting with wines. I chose an Austrian white wine: 2008 Rudi Pichler Wosendorfer Kirchweg Riesling Smaragd. OK, that’s a lot of words on the label, no argument here. Pichler is the producer, Kirchweg the vineyard, Reisling the grape, and Smaragd the degree of ripeness. The takeaway is that Austrian Rieslings are far drier than their German or Alsatian counterparts, and lend a citrus-like counterpoint to the richness of raw fish. Much like squeezing some lemon on seafood, these types of wines add another dimension to the food, rather like a sauce. I also like German Gewurztraminers with this food, as they are a bit spicy, off dry, and bold enough to stand up.
My appreciation to the readers who directed me to try Sogo Sushi; I had not heard of it before you alerted me “through the grapevine.” I will be returning. Thank you!
60 Monmouth St.,Red Bank
Bob Sacks, longtime food and wine buff, reviews restaurants in this bimonthly column. Follow him on Instagram @dinnerwithbob. Read more reviews on The Two River Times.
This article was first published in the Nov. 23-30, 2017 print edition of The Two River Times.
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