Does Milwaukee’s sushi make the grade?


Photo by Laura Bulgrin
Photo by Laura Bulgrin

An Internet search for Milwaukee sushi restaurants brings up more than 10 options. How is a student to know which places are good?


Most importantly, how are they to know which are affordable? After all, fantastic sushi can get expensive, but for good reason. It takes sushi artists many years to perfect their craft, and with such timely product, we should be glad they do.

It is not uncommon for apprentices studying the art of sushi-making to spend several years solely learning to make rice. After boiling it to the perfect consistency, the rice is placed in a shallow container, fanned and seasoned with a delicate blend of rice wine vinegar, sugar and salt dissolved together.

Affordable, delicious sushi options do exist in Milwaukee. In a comparison of three restaurants, I ordered miso soup, salmon avocado maki and a mixed vegetable maki. Price totals listed below are a la carte, before tax and tip.

Sake Tumi, 714 N. Milwaukee St., serves a large variety of appetizers like gyoza dumplings, as well as maki, nigiri and Japanese and Korean entrees. For the best deals, go at lunchtime for a $9 half-roll specialty maki and a three-roll maki lunch for $16.

The miso soup here was the best of the three restaurants. The fish broth was rich and satisfying and not overly-salty, with ample additions of tofu squares, sliced green onion and seaweed.

I ordered the three-roll maki lunch with the sake avocado maki, futo maki and the spicy tuna maki. The sake avocado maki was made with fresh and buttery salmon, masago, which is roe from the capelin fish and avocado.

The futo maki was a rather sweet combination of avocado, cucumber, pickled vegetables and spinach. All ingredients were fresh and easy to eat, and it pleasantly cleared the palette between bites of fish.

Grade: Miso Soup: A, Futo Maki: A-, Sake Avocado Maki: A ($14.00)

Izumi’s, 2150 N. Prospect Ave., serves sushi, sashimi, noodles, tempura and teriyaki dinners, among other choices. Although the restaurant has been rated well in the past, I was not impressed on my visit.

The miso soup tasted flat. It lacked that whole-mouth flavor I desired, but did contain plentiful amounts of tofu, seaweed and green onion. My dining companion said it was overly salty.

The maki was nothing special and included unnecessary pieces of leaf lettuce. The Alaskan Maki, made with salmon, avocado and cucumber, was large and extremely difficult to eat. The salmon tasted fresh, but lacked a smooth finish in flavor. The garden maki, with asparagus, avocado, pickled ginger cucumber and spinach, was nicely arranged, but lackluster and bulky.

Grade: Miso Soup: B-, Alaskan Maki: B, Veggie Maki: B ($13.75)

Ichiban, 2336 N. Farwell Ave., is the smallest of the three restaurants, but has the largest menu. Their Web site boasts the largest selection of sushi in Milwaukee, and lunch prices are about half as expensive as dinner prices.

Ichiban’s miso soup was my least favorite of the three. It contained no seaweed or green onion, and barely five small pieces of tofu. The restaurant can make the soup vegetarian by special order.

The maki was beautifully presented on a thick, wooden pedestal. The jewel box maki, consisting of cucumber, spinach, gourd, radish, shitake mushroom and inari (sweet fried tofu), was sweet, as expected, and enjoyable. However, some of the vegetables were a bit too crunchy.

The flake sake, a roll of salmon avocado with tempura flakes, was made with nice fatty salmon. This made the roll moist and flavorful. The tempura flakes gave a textural contrast to the soft center. It was one roll I was happy to finish.

Grade: Miso Soup: C+, Jewel Box Roll: A-, Flake Sake: A ($15.15)

Sushi Ettiquette

Chad Trepanier and Jeong H. Kim, both sushi chefs at Marquette’s Alumni Memorial Union, gave advice on how to eat sushi.

When eating maki, use your fingers or chopsticks and add wasabi according to personal taste, Trepanier said. If eating nigiri, he said to dip the fish in soy sauce but not the rice.

Kim said pickled ginger should be eaten between different types of sushi to clean the mouth.

Maki, the roll familiar to most, consists of a piece of seaweed, layered with perfectly-cooked and seasoned sushi rice, then topped with the filling of one’s choice. This is expertly rolled and cut, served with pickled ginger and wasabi.

Nigiri is raw fish, shellfish or even a sweet omelet called tamago, placed on a piece of cooked rice and sometimes tied with a strip of seaweed.