Sushi Sam in Southlake Won Me Over

image1by Judy Chamberlain

All sushi is not created equal. Just compare what you get at Nobu, Tei An, Tei Tei Robata and the like with the standard fare one nearly always encounters in lesser-priced surroundings. And that revelation isn’t limited to suburban outposts of “hip” chains flourishing with the common goal of serving Grade C sushi at Grade B prices.

While Grade B is a good thing when it comes to unfiltered maple syrup, it’s not going to cut the wasabi with a real sushi snob, nor is Grade C. One will find plenty of both out there. 

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But you, my friend, deserve better. Sushi-holics, unite!

So, ok, I made that word up.

Don’t get me wrong, I love me some Nobu. And Tei Tei Robata beckons to me constantly. Not only are they wonderful culinary choices, but the service in both is beyond impeccable. There’s also that little matter of the new sushi places coming to town and needing to be tried, most likely on a leisurely night when waiting for a spot at the sushi bar is feasible.

But a great meal can also be had in Southlake.

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Yes, I just typed “Southlake,” where chain restaurants are flocking like lemmings and strange new concepts are born regularly to tempt the jaded (code for untrained) tastes of the teenage set. Maybe they think putting spaghetti in a tortilla is yummy. I don’t.

While hoping for some good Italian, Chinese and other non-steakhouse restaurants, to arrive in the burbs, Sushi Sam is a great go-to spot. Like Nobu and the others, Sam’s serves Grade A fish – but at Grade B prices.

In fact, Sam’s uses the very same supplier who stocks the cooler at Nobu and Tei Tei, et al. Executive chef Sean Tan buys mostly fresh and not frozen fish, preferring to use every bit of the prized catch in creative ways so that it doesn’t wind up sitting around (which would necessitate freezing the bounty).

The result is plump eel for sushi, and beautiful, fat shrimp cooked to the very second of perfection in a proper tempura batter. In thirty-five years of sushi, sashimi and Japanese country cuisine addiction, I have tasted none finer.

A king’s ransom “sushi sampler” of beautifully cut fish is an incredible bargain at $20. The regulars know about it, and now so do you.

The chef gets fancy with flashy layers of colorful fat fish, but he also knows how to present simple flavors that marry well, like the traditional roll he makes with salmon and mango.

The restaurant’s nabeyaki udon has pleasantly sweet black mushrooms and an egg in it – not always so once one travels away from the Pacific Rim. An order of mashed potato cake rivals the one I often enjoy at Tei Tei Robata.

Sushi Sam has been open since 1998. Sean Tan is something of an anomaly, having started at the restaurant back in 2001, learning his craft as an assistant to the original chef, an old-school Japanese sushi master. It was priceless training, and Tan understands that there is a right way and a wrong way to do things. From his spotless kitchen to the excellent equipment he uses and maintains the old-fashioned way, he’s chosen correctness.

Gentle music plays in the background. A lovely, soothing guitar rendition of Billy Joel’s “Just The Way You Are” was wafting quietly from the sound system as I paid my bill on my most recent visit.

The owners also have a winner in Lava 10, an Asian fusion restaurant in neighboring Grapevine.

Sushi Sam| 500 W. Southlake Blvd, Southlake | 817 410-1991

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