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Umami Sushi Lounge and Grill Fusion

Umami Sushi Lounge and Grill Fusion
500 Amity Road
Conway
(501) 358-3880

The Situation

She Said: I was supposed to be fasting (it was a Monday, on which I usually eat only about 500 calories), but we had also had a big weekend, with Jay being named a distinguished alumnus of his undergraduate alma mater and me earning my registered yoga teacher certificate (200 hour). So, we thought a mini celebration before the big celebration was in order, and after a gentle yoga flow class, Jay wanted to go out. So we collected my 90-year-old mother from home after Savasana and went out to a Japanese restaurant on our (east) side of Conway.

Sushi is often a go-to for me when choosing restaurants because I’m more comfortable eating fish and seafood than birds and mammals, and because the lack of added ingredients to the fish and rice makes it feel to me like a cleaner meal. That is, of course, before the tempura and cream cheese are added, but we all have delusions we cling to, right? Another thing I like about sushi is that it is possible to get slightly smaller portions of food than the heaping plates of entrees and sides we’ve become accustomed to in America when dining out—such heaping platters have actually changed portion sizes at home, as we now think we need to eat as much food at home as we would be served at places like Applebee’s.

He Said: Yoga makes me hungry. And Japanese seemed appropriate. They do yoga in Japan, right?

Ambiance
She Said: Umami is a large, open restaurant, well lit, with pretty red round banquets, benches and booths. Patrons can select tables or Hibachi, and we almost always get the former for a quiet dinner. While it’s not loud, it’s actually hard to hear: I had trouble hearing my mother across the table or Jay when he turned his head away from me. It’s a white noise factor, I think, with music and fountain water that can overwhelm your dining companions (but not the dude-centric table 2 yards away that was dropping the F-bomb every other word, which I would normally not be sensitive to, but am aware of when my mother is with us).

He Said: I didn’t really have a problem hearing. Though maybe I just didn’t know I did, since I didn’t hear the guys at the other table. The atmosphere is not exactly cozy—more sports-bar like, with TVs around where NBA playoff games were being broadcast. I will say that the chairs are nicely padded and really comfortable.

Drinks
She Said:
As usual, the cheese stands alone. I was the sole imbiber, and I chose a cucumber cosmopolitan off the cocktail menu. Both of those words are irresistible to me on a drinks menu and combined, all I can do is say yes. It was delicious, “grown up” enough to feel like a cocktail, but not so strong that I couldn’t taste the drink’s flavors mixing together in the glass. Once I finished my food ahead of everyone else, I had a glass of Cupcake Cabernet, also tasty and a generous pour.

He Said: If you’re like me and can’t drink for health reasons (or just don’t drink for your own reasons that are none of my business), you appreciate a place that actually has something to drink that isn’t alcoholic. I got the unsweetened iced tea, though the waitress was a little taken aback when I asked for actual sugar, instead of Sweet and Low. She managed to find some. Look, sweetened iced tea is way too sugary, and I like to control what I put in, all right? So don’t shame me, server. Anyway, you can probably find something to drink other than water if you come here.

Food
She Said:
We ordered to share but pretty much stuck to our own plates as we were all pleased with what we got. I tried the mashed potato karokke, which the menu said had ham in the center, but which, I, thankfully, didn’t notice (not being a big mammal eater, I almost didn’t order it because of this). This is a deep fried mashed potato cake with veggies—and theoretically ham—with a special house sauce, and it is like the crack of the plant world. I shared bites with #mymom and Jay, but I did so reluctantly. I might not fit into my stretchy jeans tomorrow, but it was worth it. These were like little potato amazeballs.

For my entrée, I ordered my go-to here at Umami, the Crazy Monkey roll, which has mango slices and tempura flakes on a roll with cream cheese and shrimp. I noticed with the first bite that something seemed a little tough and bland, and I realized the shrimp was overcooked. That’s not usually a problem at sushi restaurants! It was a little disappointing, as this was a caloric splurge on a day I was not supposed to be doing that. Oh well, the mango was tasty and fresh.

#mymom had egg rolls and the Asian sesame chicken salad, and she really enjoyed both.

He Said: Though I may sound like the impossible restaurant patron, in addition to the drink abolition I also have a very restrictive food diet, one that a good number of Americans share, or should. I really have to stay on a very low-fat diet, and that precludes my eating red meat, deep fried foods, heavy cream or butter sauces and whole eggs, and miscellaneous other high fat foods, like nuts, olives, and even avocadoes. All of this is to say that I’m usually going to be ordering the healthiest things I can find on the menu—fish and poultry, vegetarian, and such, while looking longingly at my wife’s entrée. I have to say that the small bite of karokke that I tried from her was to die for–which might not be a figure of speech if I had eaten the whole thing.

At a Japanese restaurant, there is usually a wide selection of things I can eat, though since I don’t actually like sushi myself, that narrows the choices down for me. I ordered the edamame appetizer, which was very tasty and tender—the beans were a bit younger and more tender than the kinds usually used for that dish, I thought. For the meal I had the Miso Glazed Salmon. The salmon was pan-seared, perfectly cooked (the biggest danger I’ve found with salmon is overcooking), and the miso glaze sweet and delicious. It came with two spears of asparagus tempura which were a perfect accent, and lay on a generous bed of steamed rice. Under the rice was hidden a little surprise: a helping of green beans. Part of the surprise was that the beans had a bit of a kick to them—they were peppered and had another spice which made them just the slightest bit zingy. They formed a nice contrast to the rice, which was, well, steamed rice. All in all, it was a delightfully tasty meal.

Service
She Said:
I thought our waitress was great. She was prompt once we sat down, she dealt with others around us efficiently, she asked us when wasn’t sure what we meant to avoid a problem later, and she was friendly and attentive without being overbearing or “pulling focus” (when you find yourself at dinner paying more attention to the wait staff than the people you came to talk to). She did bring the check really fast at the end of the meal, when I was feeling like I might have a sweet tooth. Do they have dessert? I have no idea. That was not suggested or offered. I found myself pondering a DQ run on the way home…

He Said: All true. I kidded about the sugar in the tea, but the waitress was attentive but unobtrusive. I couldn’t’ have eaten dessert anyway. But I’m guessing if she had asked for some, she’d have been glad to take the check back and refigure it. But yes, it seemed like we might have been getting rushed a little at the end.

What We Got and What We Paid: Appetizers and entrees for three, a cocktail, a glass of wine, and an iced-tea: $76.16.

Rating

She Said: I’ll be back. It’s close to my neighborhood and there are a lot of things on the menu I’d like to try. The korokke alone was worth the price of admission.

He Said: Obviously, I’m going back if she is. But I’d certainly come back again for the salmon. They did have a couple of other things on the menu (like a salmon-burger, for instance) that I’d like to try myself.

So…He Said and She Said “Go Here to Eat.”

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