Stuffed to the gills

Aloha Sushi chef Miguel Guerrero serves the lunch crowd salmon sushi and mussels.

Aloha Sushi chef Miguel Guerrero serves the lunch crowd salmon sushi and mussels.

Photo By David Robert

Aloha Sushi

3338 Kietzke Ln.
Reno, NV 89502

(775) 828-9611

Reno probably has the highest per capita rate of all-you-can-eat sushi joints in the world, and it’s a favorite local pastime to argue about which is the best. It seems like everybody in town is a devotee to one place or another. Aloha Sushi, as it’s known, has a dedicated following and always shows up on local “best of” lists.

I wasn’t too impressed with the atmosphere, which is brightly lit and eerily quiet, even with a full house. Because we had a relatively large group—me, Mike, Ali, Dave, Heather and Austin—we sat at a table. The problem with sitting at a table rather than the bar is that you miss out on the rapport with a chef, and instead of picking your sushi as you go, everything comes at once in a blinding rush. It’s the boom and bust version of sushi dining.

We all had the all-you-can-eat sushi dinner ($16.95). Everything tasted fresh and clean. Nothing was funky or gunky. And though the moments of tongue-titillating surprise were few and far between, I did get a kick out of the mountain long roll ($7.50) and especially the New Orleans hand roll ($4.75).

Mike is a joy to watch eat. He’s squeamish to the point of being food-phobic. He inspects every bite for possible traces of unsavory substances, and the merest glob of mayonnaise, for example, will force him into convulsions of revulsion. Watching him eat is like watching an underdog fighter look for an opening or a ballerina play capture-the-flag on a minefield. He eyed the fancier and spicier rolls fearfully but enjoyed the California roll (just crab and avocado, $3.50) and the mild albacore tuna nigiri ($3).

Halfway through dinner, there was a sudden burst of flames on the other side of the room. My initial reaction was to duck for cover, maybe hunt down a fire extinguisher or a heavy blanket, but since no one else at my table seemed to be reacting, I tried to play it cool, act real casual about the wall of fire on the other side of the room. Heather had been in the middle of telling me a story; I don’t remember what about.

“You’re not even listening to me, are you?” she asked, clearly miffed.

“Sorry. I’m a little distracted by the flames shooting out of the table over there.”

Well, it turns out that Aloha isn’t just a sushi place. They also do those showboating teppanyaki dinners, where they cook the food on a hotplate right at your table and do theatrical tricks with knives and, of course, fire. Which is great, always a lot of fun—just wish someone had warned me.

Later on, I talked to a friend who won’t eat at Aloha because of a horrible health rating they received at the beginning of the summer. I checked online, and though they did score remarkably low in early July, their most recent inspection has them back up to 100 percent.

After our meal, stuffed to the button-popping gills, we sat at our table for a long time, enjoying the conversation like a post-coital cigarette after our orgiastic dining experience. The highlight was the surprising revelation that both Heather and I, in separate incidences from the daredevil days of our misspent youth, had snorted lines of wasabi for paltry sums of cash and desperately sought attention from our peers. For the record, this is not something I recommend.