From a strip mall in Middletown Rhode Island, next to a marine supply store, to a Bristol, Rhode Island banquet hall to a New Bedford waterfront seafood restaurant, I’ve found that you might be surprised where you get the best sushi.
So when my editor, Beth Perdue, mentioned that she had heard good things about 168 Sushi & Kitchen in Fairhaven, I jumped on it for my next Dine Out.
Like New Sea Shai, the Middletown spot next to a boat prop dealer, 168 Sushi is somewhat hidden away, part of a strip mall of assorted businesses. 168 Sushi is nested among a Cardoza’s Wine and Spirits, a UPS store, a nail salon and assorted other eateries.
Having Cardoza’s next door is great since a sign on the the door proclaimed the restaurant was a BYOB establishment. We grabbed a nice crisp white wine and headed in for dinner.
I do want to point out that the other signs hanging in the front windows of 168 Sushi do little to entice a prospective customer. The photos of sushi rolls and nigiri are so faded by the sun they have almost turned into abstract pastels open to interpretation. Is that a swan swimming languidly on a picturesque lake … or lunch combo?
But undaunted, we proceeded inside.
The interior features a sizable waiting area up front for what seems to be a consistent take-out clientele, set aside from the dining area.
A bar ran along one side of the room, with the sushi chef and kitchen behind it. Though it didn’t seem the bar was used for seating.
There was one other occupied table on this Saturday evening, so we grabbed a spot along the wall.
Our server, who hustled throughout the night to keep our orders flowing to the table, quickly brought us wine glasses and then a corkscrew before I could even ask.
We were presented two large laminated menus with what I thought was a perfect number of options. Sometimes sushi restaurant menus turn into tomes with pages for cuisines from different Asian cultures, long lists of hibachi items, bento boxes and much, much, much more.
The menu starts with a large selection of soups, more than just the standard miso, and numerous salads.
The appetizers include the usual suspects along with a couple surprises like a scallion pancake ($5.99) and nanuto (tuna, salmon, white fish, kani — or crab stick — and avocado with a ponzu sauce for $10.99). There are also a handful of tempura appetizers.
We decided to start with a couple family favorites, shrimp shumai ($5.50) and shrimp summer rolls ($5.99).
The menu also includes a selection of “kitchen entrees,” which included fried rices, yaki soba noodle dishes, udon noodle dishes and teriyaki selections.
There was also a number of standard maki rolls, priced well for 8-piece servings, including spice scallop roll ($6.99) and smoked salmon roll ($5.99) or even chicken tempura roll ($6.50).
For beginning sushi eaters, it’s nice the menu is broken down between raw rolls and cooked rolls.
The other side of the menu featured a few sushi and sashimi entrees — mixed-and-matched combos for $20.99 — as well as chirashi (which we had to Google), assorted raw fish on rice (kind of a deconstructed sashimi) for $22.99.
Among the special selections, there are nine cooked rolls, 11 raw rolls and 7 “tempura syte rolls.”
The menu also features some lunch specials including “kitchen lunches” with teriyaki chicken, steak, shrimp of salmon and some tempura choices as well. There were also some bargain-priced lunch roll combos.
Before we chose our sushi, our appetizers came out of the kitchen, with the shumai leading the way.
Boy were we surprised.
At first I thought there were eight large tater tots on the plate before us. But upon closer examination, the shumai — little dumplings filled with a tangy, savory filling with a thin dough wrapper — had been pan fried to a crispy golden brown.
My Googler tells me this isn’t unprecedented, but I do find it uncommon. Barbara and I are frequent shumai orderers and this was the first time either of us had encountered the fried version.
And to be honest, we both found we preferred the steamed variety. These dumplings were tasty and frying added a nice texture crunch, but I thought a hint of flavor from the oil was an unwelcome addition.
Really, I think that came down to expectations and looking for a familiar flavor rather than something different.
Our spring rolls quickly arrived as well, and we dug into the incredibly tightly wrapped rolls. (Seriously, I’ve made spring rolls at home and am amazed how tightly professionally made rolls are wrapped.) They were flavorful and the sweet, sticky dipping sauce was nice, but the filling was long on lettuce and could have used a little something else joining the avocado layered in there — maybe some basil or carrot or bean sprouts or cucumber.
For our sushi, Barbara ordered two pieces each of tuna nigiri ($5.25), shrimp nigiri ($4.75) and yellowtail ($5.25).
I decided to try one of the tempura style rolls — the American roll with tempura shrimp, avocado and cream cheese ($7.95 for six pieces) — as well as a double tuna specialty roll, which includes tune inside and tuna and jalapeno on top ($12.99 for eight pieces).
Our sushi all arrived on one large white platter and was beautiful.
The slishes of fish, both on the nigiri and on top of the tuna roll were large, thickly sliced and delicious. The portions were great and quality of the fish impeccable.
The nigiri pieces were large, making them hard to eat in one bite, and the rice used in the nigiri wasn’t pressed very tightly, making it a little tough to eat. But they were excellent and the seafood really stood out. .
I’ve had a few fusion dishes which mix jalapeno and tuna and thing it’s a great match. If you like the heat of a raw jalapeno, give it a try. This preparation stood out because the chef had sliced the jalapeno paper thin — impossibly thin. That allowed for a perfect balance between the creamy texture of the fish and the kick of the pepper.
Other dishes I’ve had you have to be careful not to get too much jalapeno for fear it's all you will taste. Not here, Just plop of roll into your mouth and enjoy.
The tempura roll was fun. The roll had been assembled, then dipped in a light tempura batter and quickly flash fried. Then it was sliced.
The highlight was the cream cheese used inside, which became just a tad melty, but not runny. That melty cream cheese, paired with the crispy tempura shell was delicious. A salty, savory sauce drizzled over the top made each bite a well-rounded delight.
Our tab came to a more-than reasonable $51.55, not bad for a night of really good sushi.
Check out previous Dine Out reviews below