On a roll

"No, no, no! Don't look at the big sign! Look at the little sign underneath …"

"No, no, no! Don't look at the big sign! Look at the little sign underneath …"

Photo/Allison Young

Pisces Sushi is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Meeting friends at a new restaurant is great for both camaraderie and tasting variety. This goes double for any cuisine where it is common to order several shared dishes. Thus, I gathered a group of seafood fans to give newly opened Pisces Sushi a try.

Starting the evening off right, we were each served one small carafe of hot sake included with our all-you-can-eat dinners ($22.95). As not everyone in our sextet enjoys this beverage, my buddy and I ensured none of it went to waste.

The pickled ginger and wasabi on our condiment trays was accompanied by a small cucumber salad dressed in rice vinegar—a nice palate cleanser to start things off. There are 11 appetizers on the menu—all included with AYCE—and we wasted no time putting in our order. My bowl of miso soup was served nice and warm with plenty of scallion and tofu, though the broth was a bit more bland than the salty brew I’m accustomed to. Heart-healthy miso?

Next up were platters of mussels served two ways: broiled on the halfshell and crunchy deep-fried. The broiled variety were excellent, finished with a sprinkling of sesame oil and dashes of Japanese mayo and chili sauce. The same treatment dressed the fried morsels, coated in a crunchy tempura coating. I preferred the broiled bivalves because I generally find that breading only serves to cover up the flavor and aroma of shellfish.

A plate of gyoza (a.k.a. potstickers) emptied almost as soon as it arrived. Though most often served with a dipping sauce on the side, these remained crispy though drizzled in a soy-based condiment. Similarly, the biggest yakiton (wonton wrappers stuffed with cream cheese and crab) I’ve ever seen were crispy despite their coating of sauce—big cheesy pillows of fried goodness.

No sooner had we tucked in to starters than the first of our long rolls began to arrive. Although I appreciate the craft and creativity that goes into well-made makizushi, I’m actually more a fan of nigirizushi that allows a single piece of fish to stand on its own merits. I admonished my dining companions to go crazy with the rolls, and I’d try a piece here and there.

In general, presentation was above average as compared to many AYCE sushi bars in town. Nearly every roll was deconstructed to some degree and laid out in an artful combination of geometry and dressing. The rolls themselves were wrapped very tight with a nice ratio of rice to filling, rendering each piece perfectly bite-sized. Of all the rolls I tasted there were only a couple of things that left me cold. More than one included cream cheese, something I’m just not a fan of pairing with fish. And a deep-fried roll including Spam and cream cheese left my mouth feeling very sad. Luckily, others at the table really enjoyed it, so I guess I’m the odd one who doesn’t care for deep-fried rolls of mystery meat.

About halfway through the parade of tasty dishes with names like “Snow Flower,” “Golden Gate” and “Friendship” came my plates of nigiri. In order to rock this part of the menu the chef has to hit just three marks: a small-but-adequate ball of rice, a well-sliced and ample cut of fresh-tasting fish, and an assembly that holds together while being introduced to a bit of soy sauce and/or wasabi. The chef(s) at Pisces knocked it out of the park on all three counts. Of note, the smoked salmon was very much so, Cajun tuna was a spicy change of pace, the scallops were lightly cooked as requested, and tender slices of octopus were presented as two halves of a perfect circle. Yellowtail, snapper, tuna, freshwater eel, oh my. All delicious.

The service was great. The food was outstanding, and my dining companions agreed that Pisces Sushi is a cut above average.