NOTE: Everest Sushi is now the sushi bar at Bamboo on 2nd.
Now for the original post:
What I love about this town is that JUST when you think you’ve found every last [fill in the blank], you find one that has been right under your nose, that you’ve never heard of before, and that is as good or better than all of your favorite places.
To find these hidden gems, I
occasionally obsessively peruse Yelp and Urbanspoon. Sushi being one of my favorite things in the world, as I have done many times before, last week I did a Yelp search for all the sushi restaurants in the Ham. Imagine my surprise when I found one that is ON MY WALK HOME FROM WORK. In Five Points, Southside. An area I know like the back of my hand, or so I thought.
Now as excited as I get about sushi, I’m also wary. From a food standpoint, there is nothing worse then bad sushi. So, I did some investigative work. I looked through the photos on Yelp-all were beautiful. Found nothing on Urbanspoon (all my hidden gem radar signals were beginning to go off). Found a Facebook page with 25 four-five star reviews. Just one problem…. Where in the world is this place? The address suggested it was somewhere between the Pancake House and Dave’s. So I sent the restaurant a Facebook message and received a very quick reply. It is a sushi bar that is located in the Red Zone Sports Bar Monday-Thursday 5-9 and Friday and Saturday till 10. On Fridays and Saturdays, they reopen from 11pm till 2am (!!) at the Blue Monkey, also in the neighborhood.
I discovered all of this on a Friday and so…. as part of our bloggerly duties, we headed out for a romantic date nite at the Red Zone. Not that I’m mocking the location, but well, could you fault me for being a little timid? I must admit I’ve never eaten sushi, or heard of eating sushi, at what appears to be typical sports bar. I must admit we drove there, chickened out, drove three blocks past it, and then turned around with the understanding that we would eat just one fully cooked roll before doing anything more adventurous.
As we walked down the street, we noticed a moderately sized neon sign for Everest Sushi hanging in the window of the Red Zone. How had I missed this before? When we walked in, we realized the sports bar is actually really nice-spacious with lots of TVs and not overly loud.
Somehow they realized we were in pursuit of sushi and ushered us to the sushi bar. And sho nuff, there it was. A neat and tidy little sushi bar complete with the usual sushi refrigerator and soy sauce canisters. We were immediately greeted by a gentleman who introduced himself as Abhi, the sushi chef. He introduced the two sous chefs as his “helpers” as the bartender quickly took our beverage orders. Something about all of this convinced us that this was more than just a legit operation – it was a true diamond in the rough. Mr Foodie and I exchanged a knowing glance and a text or two to confirm that we would order whatever Abhi said.
Before I get into what we ordered, I’ll show you the menu. Also note that they have a full bar food menu-but we barely glanced at that. Who could eat bar food at a time like this?
So we put ourselves at Abhi’s mercy. Here’s what we got. Note that some of these are not on the official menu but can be made on request.
First, the Wham Bam Birmingham roll. Tempura shrimp and avocado on the inside. Salmon on the outside. They actually torched it right in front of us.
Finished with toasted sesame seeds, which gave the roll an ever so slightly nutty taste, and horseradish mayo. First of all, I’ve never tasted anything like this. The flavors of the salmon and shrimp with the horseradish worked together perfectly and it was just spicy enough to allow me to breathe well through both nostrils-a good thing. And I mean, just look at this. So beautiful:
Here’s another look in cross section. Like a work of art:
Next up, the fire roll (this one’s on the menu). Spicy tuna, avocado and cucumber inside, fresh tuna outside. Topped with house made aioli. On this roll, you could really taste the quality of the ingredients. The tuna tasted so fresh and smooth. Like the ocean. Delicious.
Next, the hot Asian. Crab on the inside, tuna topped with tempura crunchies on the outside. Again, the freshness shone through. This one was the lightest of the rolls which made it an excellent pairing with the others.
We initially told Abhi that we didn’t want anything deep fried – after what I’ve been eating lately (see ALL previous posts) I’m working on my cholesterol. But he absolutely insisted on having us try the beer battered roll, which he says is his number one seller, without charging us. We couldn’t resist accepting his generous offer. Soon we understood why he was so insistent. I usually dislike fried sushi rolls because they end up being so heavy. This one was light (ok, not healthy, but not greasy or heavy). Filled with salmon and cream cheese, topped with sweet and spicy sauces. We were already stuffed when he brought it to us, but we ate each piece slowly, deliberately, and with our eyes rolling back in our heads from happiness just a little. Fantastic and worth each and every calorie. Here’s the aerial view:
Now the yummy underbelly:
As soon as Mr Foodie took his first bite of this feast, he looked at me, then looked at Abhi, and quietly asked, “Where did you learn how to make sushi?” The sushi was such high quality, and so creatively designed, we knew there had to be a good story behind it. And of course, there is. Abhi is from Nepal and worked at the bar at Surin, just around the corner, for many years. After observing the sushi chefs there, he taught himself how to make his own. He tested his recipes on friends until he had perfected them. He loves to make different types of food, especially Asian food- he told us he’s testing out a recipe for Nepalese dumplings that he said we should order next time (yes, please!). Abhi is a genuine restaurant entrepreneur-one that we hope will continue to grow his business. And we hope he will let us interview him for a future Backstory post!
This is what we love about this town. When you take a foodie adventure, not only do you find amazing food, but you meet inspiring people who are eager to share their stories and delighted by people who enjoy their food creations. Everest Sushi is as good as our favorite sushi places in Manhattan and Philly-no doubt. So come for the sushi, but stay to talk to Abhi, watch the game (after all, it’s in a sports bar with a million TVs!), and have an unexpectedly fantastic and unique all-around experience that’s as Birmingham as BBQ or shrimp and grits.