Dear Foodies,

I understand many people are afraid to try new things, especially anything having to do with raw fish. But, sushi is nothing to be afraid of. There are many rolls that don’t contain raw fish. For example, the shrimp tempura roll. Sushi is made for anyone and should be enjoyed by everyone — so give it a try!

Whenever I’m in a rush and don’t have time to cook, I like to pick up some delicious sushi at my local HEB grocery store. The one I go to is located on Trenton and 10th and has a mini “Sushi To – Go “cooking station with a wide variety of Japanese delights. They use the freshest shrimp, fish and shellfish from the Texas Gulf Coast and around the world. Those looking to save a little money can buy an “obento” or lunch box (sold individually) consisting of sushi rolls, seaweed salad, dumplings, sashimi (fresh fish eaten raw) and more. I recommend the California roll if you’ve never had sushi before. This roll has crab, avocado, cucumbers, sticky white rice and, if you’re lucky, cream cheese. I know everyone likes wasabi (Japanese horseradish), ginger and soy sauce for their sushi, but, I prefer eel sauce (sweet).

My husband Dan (thanks to his golf connections) said we were invited to the “Zushi Restaurant and Bar” soft opening the first weekend in August. We invited our friends Jenn (excellent cook) and Andrew Brown, who love to try new places. We were all curious about this new sushi restaurant opening up. In fact, many of us had driven down Bus. 83 and wondered who was going to be the lucky person taking advantage of that fabulous space (used to be the Loft Gallery).

Where do I begin? The minute I stepped out of the car I felt as if I had been transported to another city (Los Angeles, Dallas, Mexico City). The interior is stylish (orange and black colors) and contemporary, and the bar is absolutely stunning. The attention to detail is truly amazing — they created an atmosphere that is sure to impress even the most discerning of eyes. The paintings (local artists), large black rotating chandelier, cozy booths, dim lighting, and easy listening lounge music set the mood. I was impressed. The manager welcomed us in a friendly manner and made sure all our needs were met. “Zushi” serves an elegant fusion of traditional sushi and also modern, creative sushi with a Mexican twist.

The menu was made to please fastidious food connoisseurs as well as attracting those who like to explore new tastes. Our gracious and attentive waiter made some excellent recommendations. I began my venture with their octopus salad, which is served with cucumbers in a light vinegar dressing ($4), which was refreshing and tasty. The white slices of fresh octopus, mild yet unmistakable, are pleasantly chewy. Then came the Adri Roll ($13), which is not made for those on a diet. The presentation was remarkable. My roll arrived on beautiful black square plate and looked like a masterpiece. This particular roll has breaded shrimp (inside), avocado (outside), white rice, eel sauce, and furikake seasoning. It was also topped with tampico paste (mayo and crab meat) and has the tempura finish. It is obvious that the chef’s approach to art and food make this dining experience unique. I also enjoyed sharing Sukiyaki Udon ($14) with Jenn — we savored every spoonful. This was a bowl filled a hearty beef broth, udon (thick, Japanese-style wheat noodles) and succulent slices of beef. This Japanese comfort food is considered a filling, warming treat.

There were so many mouth watering options on the menu. For instance, there’s the crawfish bowl ($6.50) which is baked crawfish topped with spicy mayo, chives and masago caviar. How about some Kushiage, which is a variety of breaded and deep fried goodies. For example, there is plantain with cheese balls ($3), shrimp with cream cheese ($5.50) and other combinations. For the traditional sushi lover, there’s the Chirashi ($14) which has tuna, yellowtail, salmon, shrimp, octopus, albacore, eel, mackerel, kanikama crab, ikura, bonito, shitake mushrooms, kampyo and is served on a bed of sushi rice. Of course, there are other standard dishes like nigiri, yakitori, hand rolls and teppanyaki. The prices were comparable to the other sushi restaurants I have visited in the Valley (if not less). That evening I just happened to order some items that were a little bit more expensive, but worth every bite. Why should I go any where else? Zushi Restaurant is the ideal place for families, dates, business meetings (private room), and getting together with friends for drinks and appetizers. They even offer complimentary valet parking (beats the $20 we paid for valet parking downtown) for their customers. “Zushi” strikes a winning balance between intimate and casual that seems to fill that hard-to-reach gourmet (Asian-Latin fusion) void within McAllen’s dining scene.

I congratulate Owner Adrian Ramirez for beautifying our city and being another terrific addition to our historical district area (Bus. 83). I highly recommend this restaurant for lunch or dinner if you’re craving something original and satisfying.$$

I think I’m turning Japanese,                   

Madame Gourmand                          

(956) 668-Roll  

501 W. Business 83 McAllen, Tx.

www.ilovezuzhi.com