Rice brewhaha

The Blue Fish menusinks in a river of sake

Japanese mushroom salad, a collection of Asian fungi including strips of warm, marinated portobello spread over a bed of greens, was fresh and tasty. But at 12 bucks, it lacked bang.

Launched by Julie Lee--whose family owns two Asian restaurants in Los Angeles--and her brother Alex, the Blue Fish is loud, just like those hip, dark sake bars in New York and L.A. Even with a light scattering of sake sippers, the noise level makes conversation difficult.

Julie Lee, who explains the noise gives the spot a "rock-and-roll atmosphere," says she moved to Dallas explicitly to tap into the city's energy with her sake-based dining concept. And its decor--with slate-like floor tiles, black ceiling threaded with exposed ductwork, and sheared sheets of corrugated metal with tiny green lights sparkling through the metallic rips--lends a techno-industrial, rock-and-roll backdrop. Corrugated metal sheathing the base of the long, curving sushi bar adds a roughened luster.

Location Info

Map

The Blue Fish

3519 Greenville Ave.
Dallas, TX 75206

Category: Restaurant > Japanese

Region: East Dallas & Lakewood

Hip whimsy is provided by orange and red plastic fish sculptures, and mirrors framed with chopsticks, soup spoons, and servings of sushi. One even has a full bottle of Kikkoman soy sauce welded to it.

A note at the bottom of the sake list points out that overindulging in premium sake causes a less pronounced hangover than the gluttonous consumption of other alcoholic beverages--with or without fugu sperm.

It's hard to figure out why Dallas is exploding with sushi restaurants. Is it possibly a collective, archetypal response to the preponderance of steak houses infesting the city as of late?

Sushi was the rage in the '80s, and up until recently, only a handful of such restaurants had sunk roots in Dallas. Now, they're sprouting like weeds: Tokyo One in Addison, Sushi Rock in Plano, Tekno Sushi on McKinney, the above Blue Fish on Greenville.

Cafe Sushi, parked between an auto parts store and a couple of seedy nightclubs in a Cedar Springs strip mall, is among the latest entrants in the raw-fish rage. Its clean and simple decor, marked by green indoor-outdoor carpeting and white cinderblock walls, is spruced up with two doll-like figurines locked in frames and mounted on the walls.

This is a hole-in-the wall slot dressed up with white latex, a swipe from a vacuum, and a Windex spritz, but little else.

Too bad the food doesn't supply the sparkle needed to make this hole worth digging into. Chicken teriyaki was a tangle of dry, fatty bird gristle choked in a syrupy sweet sauce. The tempura was no better. Though void of excess grease, seafood tempura--shrimp, squid, and fish with vegetables--had pasty, tasteless batter armor. A batter-caked potato slice was the culinary equivalent of florist's clay.

Despite these stumbles, the sushi made some heroic lunges toward adequacy. The rolls were fresh and moist. The hamachi and tuna were unspectacularly cool, moist, and rich, though the slices were a little thin. The smelt roe was fluffy and crunchy with a decent brine flavor. The only specimen that rustled up the stomach butterflies was the taco (octopus), which was so soggy it drooled when squeezed. The sake was served piping hot, usually a solid indication of inferior quality--a fact borne out by its distracting sour-cheese aroma.

This is the kind of place that you desperately want to shine with good food. After all, it's fun to sit in boringly clean digs and plop bits of tantalizing nutrition into your mouth while watching seedy barflies go by. Is this too much to ask?

The Blue Fish.
3519 Greenville Ave., (214) 824-3474.Open for lunch Monday-Friday 11 a.m.-2 p.m.; open for dinner Sunday-Thursday 5:30-10:30 p.m., Friday & Saturday 5:30 p.m.-2 a.m. $$-$$$

Cafe Sushi.
4028 Cedar Springs,(214) 219-0095. Open for lunch 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday-Friday; Open for dinner 5-11 p.m. Sunday-Saturday.

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