By Gena Mangiaratti
The Japanese restaurant Samurai is immediately impressive upon walking in. It looks small from the outside, but once inside it extends far back. At the end of the long corridor-like dining area, Christmas lights surround the threshold of a dark-looking room, which I found out was a Karaoke bar with songs available in 10 languages.
The restaurant is clean and well-lit. A penny fountain surrounded by bamboo sits near the entrance.
Despite being a Friday night, the restaurant was surprisingly empty. We were seated immediately.
As we sat at our table, our voices were all that could be heard save for the romantic-sounding foreign music. Within the awkwardness of this almost silence, the waitress came to take our drink orders. I hadn’t even looked at the menu yet, but I figured I’d save the particulars for the food.
“Do you have seltzer?” I asked, out of habit.
The waitress asked me if I wanted it in a bottle. I said OK.
After she left to get our drinks, I opened the menu. I glanced upon the beverage section and realized that I just ordered a $4.75 bottle of sparkling imported Pellegrino water. A glass would have been about half that price. Next time I will be more careful when asked if I’d like a bottle.
The miso soup, which is a soy-based soup with tofu, scallions and seaweed, came quickly. I had never had miso soup that included scallions before, but I thought it was a good complement to the seaweed, which, like lettuce, does not have a distinct taste. The onion flavor introduced by the scallions was not overpowering.
For sushi, I ordered the cucumber rolls ($3.95) which consisted of small strips of cucumber surrounded by rice, rolled together with seaweed. As a seasoned sushi eater, I found this to be good sushi. If you’ve never eaten sushi before, I would suggest the cucumber roll as a good one to start off with because of its simplicity and lack of raw fish. While it is good on its own, it adds flavor to have it with the pickled ginger or a pinch (smaller than the tip of your pinky finger) of the wasabi.
The main entrée was chicken teriyaki, which could be heard sizzling from all the way down the hall. Thirty seconds after it was set down on the table, it was no longer sizzling and was at a perfect temperature. The entrée consisted of white meat chicken with bean sprouts and cooked onions, sprinkled with a small but decorative amount of sesame seeds. There was just the right amount of teriyaki sauce, enough to flavor the dish but not to be messy. The bean sprouts complemented the chicken almost like noodles would. The onions were cooked to the point where they added flavor and texture, but not so much that the taste was overpowering. The entrée was served with white rice, which can be mixed with soy sauce. I would recommend mixing in some of the vegetables from the chicken teriyaki. The rice and the miso soup were included with the entrée, which costs $12.95.
Including the tip, the bill came to over fifty dollars for two people. Though the price was high, we got high-quality Japanese cuisine with quick and attentive service. If you’re looking for some culture and are a fan of Japanese food, or are trying sushi for the first time, I would recommend this restaurant for a nice change. Even if you are not interested in sushi or other signatures of Japanese cuisine, the menu will accommodate you.
Samurai is located on the Ithaca Commons, at 113 E. State St.
Gena Mangiaratti is a freshman journalism major who would like to domo arigato, Mr. Roboto. E-mail her at email@example.com.