The first time we stepped into I-Fish, Terry Do, dressed neatly in a dark-colored vest, immediately took us in hand, laid a napkin in my fiancée's lap and explained the all-you-can-eat sushi. Throughout the meal, he would quickly review our order, depart with a quick "done" or "hai," and promptly replace the sushi menu. He offered to close the door because my guest shivered, always communicated where our food was in the process and never missed an empty plate.
We downed three meals under the careful watch of Do — who, of course, recognized us on succeeding visits and remembered how long it had been since we were in last — and I think I love him. (The only shame is that he was out of town when I phoned, and nobody else was available to speak about the food.)
The Monument restaurant itself still boasts the same bizarre, if endearing, interior it did when I reviewed it as Spicy Basil in 2012. It's got the knowing kitsch of Two-Face's suit in Batman Forever: Cutouts along the walls host random designs, a fountain, or nature scenes back-lit with a purple glow. Random-seeming woodcut tessellations greet you, while large brushed-metal structures, inset with lights, hang from the ceilings. It's like a garden store ate Lisa Frank and birthed a nightclub. This is all set against some super relaxing music and, because why not, the World Fishing Network on TV.
But setting the sights aside, the all-you-can-eat is pretty simple: It's $14.95 per person at lunch, $24.95 at dinner; sharing with those not similarly ordering is discouraged; leftover food and rice is charged at full price (though even when this happened there was no charge present); and sashimi is not included.
Generally rolls were tight, with a mild sticky rice. If not delineated as a six-piecer, each one brings 10 pieces to your table, which can require a little planning when you see specialties like the Lion King Roll, a large, indulgent beauty covered in tiny bright-orange balls of masago and tangled strings of krab running across the top like power lines. There's more inside to go with shrimp tempura, smooth cuts of avocado, eel sauce and spicy mayo. Other fun choices include the Red Dragon Roll, with spicy krab, spicy mayo and Sriracha with shrimp tempura; and the deep-fried, cream-cheese-filled California roll known as the Oh My God, featuring the little masago roe crunching under your teeth.
Simple selections like salmon or hamachi nigiri offer cleaner experiences, the rice shining as bright as the fish. Or one could go with the light crunch of an asparagus roll, or maybe an unagi roll, with the meaty, grilled eel carrying the flavor load with ease.
Away from the sushi, the tangled pile of teriyaki beef is a definite go-to. Thick, succulent cuts of tangy, sweet, sesame-flecked beef — so tender, so instantly satisfying — steal the meal every time. Less so with drier salmon and chicken versions. Otherwise, the gyoza were steaming hot in crisp, paper-thin wrappers, while a plate of large, sticky chicken wings came covered in an addicting chili sauce.
You can also fill a bento box with a refreshing seaweed salad, snappy shrimp and veggie tempura, and miso chicken. Or just pull a bowl of hot and sour soup, back-end heat offering a nice balance — and perfect thickness, just coating the back of a spoon.