If you're looking for bamboo, or Japanese music videos, or warmed wet washcloths delivered via tong, you'll be completely out of luck at Sushi Ring.
Tucked into the former Wasabi Sushi & Grill space in Southgate, Sushi Ring resembles more of an American lunch counter than a Japanese concept. Stark white with a few posters stapled to the wall, the restaurant features a large U-shaped sushi bar as its centerpiece. Behind it hangs a flat-screen (Food Network's Sandra Lee dispensed advice during my lunch), and a small shrine to Elvis graces a shelf.
The nod to the King could come from none other than owner Takashi "Elvis" Kishimoto, a former part-time Presley impersonator. On a recent visit, Kishimoto, sporting a colorful Elvis bandana, delighted customers with a few quick hip twists. Long live the King.
But aside from good humor, what could Kishimoto offer to make his sushi experience stand out, especially in a space devoid of warm tones and kimono-dressed servers?
Four little words on the menu: "All you can eat."
Guests do have the option to dine à la carte (and those prices are noted below), but for true sushi lovers, the bottomless deal is a steal at $19.95 for lunch or $24.95 for dinner. There are strict rules for the feast: no sharing with the "à la cartes," all the rice must be eaten (or you could be charged extra), and no takeaways. If you can't finish, you leave it behind, Hound Dog.
As we got started, my husband looked more like the Cheshire Cat. He purred over a bowl of steamed and salted edamame and two deep-fried gyoza, in which crunch gave way to juicy, deftly flavored pork.
And then it began: two sushi chefs working the bar in swift harmony.
This is not a place for unaccompanied novices. Using a dry-erase maker, you simply keep checking nigiri pieces on an easy-wipe menu (a great way to reduce paper waste), and those items quickly appear on a plate.
In swift succession, the sweet and bright yellow egg nigiri ($2.80) was followed by an excellent salmon ($3.95). Sushi Ring's focus is completely on fresh fish, rolled to order, with the hope that people might be more adventurous given the all-you-can-eat concept.
My husband and I took the challenge. Deep pink on one side blending into white, the surf clam ($3.95) proved firm and chewy, yet sweet. And the creamy richness of the fatty tuna ($3.95) delighted. But Sushi Ring couldn't perform miracles with the mackerel ($3.50), which tasted — and generally tastes — like unpickled herring.
Hand rolls (cone-shapes) and eight-piece long rolls (ranging from $2.95 to $9.95) also help fill out the sushi menu. The warm, sweet, creamy and crunchy Tempura Ring Roll, jammed with salmon, avocado and shrimp, offered a burst of flavor and texture, as did the sweet Mukilteo Roll of unagi (grilled eel), avocado and cucumbers.
Kishimoto also offers a few non-sushi items. The crisp shrimp tempura ($9.50) and the syrupy teriyaki chicken platters ($9.95) were filling, arriving again with edamame but rather pedestrian, ranch-dressed salads.
But ultimately, this isn't why you go.
Quality fish served fast at affordable prices — where $20 to $25 buys more like $30 to $40 of prime wasabi-loving time — is the draw. If you don't leave Sushi Ring all shook up, you're doing something wrong.