Gozilla with coffee

Photo By David Robert

Two restaurants, sharing the airspace of one central Sparks location. Café A’Roma is an espresso bar serving coffee drinks, pastries, smoothies, sandwiches; Sushi Marina is the best-named sushi place in the Truckee Meadows.

My friends and I had come looking for sushi, so we were a bit thrown off that the place had a drive-thru window listing coffee prices and interior walls painted to depict a nighttime Italian street scene. As we sat enjoying our sushi, we watched a series of under-caffeinated customers jolted aback by the unexpected dominance of a sushi counter in the middle of an unassuming coffee shop.

Hanging above the bar, a line of Japanese paper globes intertwine with plastic grapevine, no doubt meant to remind us of the continental European nations that popularized the café tradition. The two interweaving threads make for an apt, though silly, symbol for the way the two distinct restaurants can live together.

Sushi Marina does the all-you-can-eat deal for $12.95 at lunch and $17.95 for dinner. It is named, I presume, in tribute to the famed Sparks Marina. The name gives the pleasurable impression that the fish served were caught in the Sparks Marina. Considering its freshness, it does seem as though the fish must have come from a body of water less than a mile away.

The regular sushi nigiri, like the salmon sake ($3.95 for à la carte) are quite tasty. There are also exciting long rolls that were new to me, like the Pink Cadillac, a dinner-only roll with unagi (eel), shrimp and avocado wrapped in pink manemori, a popular alternative for weirdos who don’t like seaweed.

I really loved the Superman roll: spicy tuna, roasted habaneros, chili garlic, onions and tobiko. Dip that in enough wasabi, and every place in your mouth lights up. At dinner, you can also get the vividly-named Superman on Fire, a tempura-fried version.

The place has an impressive selection of handrolls. Highlights include the Sansei ($4.50), with unagi, avocado, cucumbers and teriyaki glaze and the Marina ($4.50), crystal shrimp and bay scallops in a spicy sauce. I had to order one after watching my buddy Andrew eat one.

“How is that?” I asked. “It looks really good.”

“It is. In fact, it’s so good that I’m not going to offer you a bite.”

Another great long roll is the Super Gozilla ($6.75). That’s “Gozilla,” not to be confused with any well-known nuclear monsters or any similarly named rolls found at other sushi joints. Tempura-fried with tuna, habaneros, green onions, teriyaki sauce and sriracha hot sauce, it’s a roll that is both temperature hot and spicy hot. It’ll make you squeal like a dinosaur and breathe electric fire.

My girlfriend, Danielle, opted out on sushi. The Café A’Roma menu has a design-your-own-sandwich page called the Sandwich Creation ($6.75), where you can choose from a variety of breads, meat, cheese, spreads and veggies. Danielle chose nutbread, avocado, tomato, lettuce and hummus. It was good, fresh and crisp. However, the price was high considering the sandwich was small and didn’t come with any sides.

The service was great. Café A’Roma/Sushi Marina is a great and strange place. The coffee ($1.25 for a small) we got after eating was probably good but tasted really freaking weird to mouths still reeling from the joys of quality sushi.