Flexing mussels

Photo By David Robert

Sushi is one of the big restaurant crazes in Reno. It seems like new sushi restaurants are popping up all over the place, and restaurants that didn’t previously offer sushi are placing it their menus. Heck, sushi is even starting to pop up in pre-packaged portions in supermarkets, for Pete’s sake.

Until two years ago, I was not a sushi connoisseur. Nevada is a landlocked state, and my Nevada ranch-boy sensibilities told me it didn’t make sense to snork down large quantities of often-uncooked fish. However, as the local sushi craze was starting in earnest, a friend dragged me to Sushi Club for an all-you-can-eat lunch. And I was hooked, no pun intended.

I was looking forward to my recent Saturday night trip to Sushi Pier, one of the newer contestants in the Reno sushi game. My friend, Taylor, and I met photographer Dave and his sweetie, Sandi, at 6:15; even at that relatively early hour, we had to wait 10 minutes to get seated at the all-you-can-eat bar. I am glad we didn’t show up at 7:15, because the wait for the poor saps who showed up then was much, much longer.

We were seated along the left side of the bar, and after a few minutes, the sushi chef asked us what we wanted. (A few minutes seems like an eternity when you’re hungry and staring at everyone chowing down around you.) We put in our various requests; Sandi and Dave each wanted spicy tuna hand rolls, extra spicy ($2.95 plus 25 cents for spicy sauce, separately), while Taylor ordered a salmon skin and octopus hand roll ($4.25). I went with the San Francisco roll (featuring tempura shrimp, avocado, sesame seeds and teriyaki sauce, $5.50). We all raved with pleasure.

And we were off to the races.

An all-you-can-eat dinner costs $15.95 ($10.95 for lunch), and we got our monies’ worth. The food came fast and furious. The unagi (fresh water eel, $3.25), one of my favorites, was divine. The Sushi Pier Long Roll (with cooked, warm salmon, hot pepper and cream cheese, $6.95) caught our attention and merited a second order. The caterpillar roll (avocado, crab and unagi, $7.95) looked frightening (imagine eating something that looks like a foot-long caterpillar on steroids) but tasted delicious.

But the highlight in all the wondrous food was the mussels. These mussels—garnished with hot sauce and chives—were incredible. It took a while to get them, as they had to come from the kitchen in back, but they were well worth the wait.

If it sounds like I am raving, it’s because I am. The only problem with the food was that we ate too much of it.

Sushi Pier is on its way to becoming one of Reno’s top sushi destinations, and this lends itself to its one major flaw: space. Sushi Pier is located in a small storefront—almost too small. The seating consists of the bar and a handful of tables to the front and right of the three-sided bar, and those seats fill quickly. Whenever there is a wait at Sushi Pier, there is nowhere to stand but outside or directly in front of the door. And the bar itself is jam-packed; I was sitting between Sandi and Taylor, and I received multiple unintentional elbows to the side from both of them. Taylor made a new friend by having similar close encounters with the woman to his left. In all the hubbub, the sushi chefs were overwhelmed at times, handling many people at the bar and making orders for the folks who weren’t getting all-you-can-eat at the tables. The restaurant’s volume easily merits another sushi chef, but there is no space for one behind the bar.

I don’t care much for crowded venues, but I’ll go back to Sushi Pier anyway, because I am hooked on sushi, and the food is just too damn good.