Baton Rouge is lucky enough to have several good sushi restaurants to choose from, and Umami is a welcome addition to that list. Located in the former Hello Sushi on Burbank Drive, the space and décor is essentially the same.
When you enter, you might expect and order the standards — the Philly roll, the crunchy roll. But there were some surprises sprinkled throughout that we had to order. One of those was a special — the smoked salmon crostini ($12).
The smoked salmon bagel and lox is a Jewish deli staple, and crostini are more commonly found in the appetizer section of an Italian menu, but somehow the combination worked. Once we tasted it, we agreed that it didn't seem out of place. The smoked fish and cream cheese are a proven winner. The balsamic reduction and roe over the top provided tangy contrast to the creaminess.
Another item you may not expect to see on the menu at a sushi restaurant is Brussels sprouts. Umami's version ($6) are flash fried and covered in a sweet chili glaze. The combination of the glaze and jammy red onions on top made the dish a tad sweet, but it was still delicious.
The Tokyo egg rolls ($7) combine shrimp and snow crab into a creamy mixture surrounded by a thin, crispy wrapper, served piping hot. The dish doesn't reinvent the wheel, but it's done well.
A dish that caught my eye was the umami salad ($9), which has salad greens, cucumber, seaweed and red onions in a miso vinaigrette. Fairly standard, right? Oh, but it's also topped with feta cheese. Feta's not an ingredient often found in an Asian restaurant, so we decided to go for it.
The cucumber noodles were refreshing, the seaweed was salty and delicious, and the miso dressing was an excellent earthy finish. And the cheese? I don't know if it really added much to the dish, which already had a similar brininess from the seaweed, but it wasn't bad.
I love a grilled mushroom, so we decided on the grilled enoki nigiri ($4.50). The complex, peppery flavor of the mushroom paired with a simple rice bundle was just right, although the texture was a bit chewy. The spicy salmon roll ($6) also was well done, with the crunchy cucumber taking a bit of heat out of the fish.
The last item we tried was from the signature sushi section of the menu, where all of the rolls are $16. The snow crab, avocado and cucumber are covered with crawfish and served warm with eel sauce and a blanket of tempura crumbs. The amount of crawfish on the roll surprised and pleased me, but I didn't think they were as spicy as advertised.
That's not to say I didn't enjoy the roll. No, it was quite good with all of the flavors and textures working to create sushi that had the advertised Cajun flair. A creamy Creole sauce was nicely set off by the crunchy breading on top.
If you are over by LSU and you feel a sushi craving coming on, which happens to me about three times a week, you should stop by Umami. You won't be disappointed.
3930 Burbank Drive, Baton Rouge
HOURS: 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m Monday-Thursday; 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday; 4 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sunday
INFO: umamibr.com or (225) 768-8808
PROS: Menu has great variety, enoki nigiri
CONS: Some dishes try a little too hard