Cheap Eats: Sumo Sushi

SumoSushi

We all know sushi has gone the way of many ethnic cuisines: it has been Americanized and diversified, split into fast, authentic orders in small bars or aesthetically exciting plates served in large and trendy spaces reminiscent of laser lit European nightclubs. I don’t know the detailed history of sushi’s ascendance in America, but sometime after its birth in the 1970s and boom in the late 1980s, numerous sushi spots have become synonymous with stylish interiors (multi-colored lighting systems included), and many Americans have become sushi connoisseurs, creating hierarchies for the seasoned diner who knows his or her way around a sashimi salad and the novice who struggles with California rolls. Multiple dollar signs are also part of the equation. So where does one go in Philadelphia for a little bit of everything: quality food, good ambience with fixed lighting, and great service, all for a reasonable price? Enter Sumo Sushi.

At its Washington Square West location, Sumo is one of the cleanest restaurants I’ve ever visited. The place even smells fresh. Though my friends and I have mixed feelings about its dim lighting, this isn’t an issue at night, where its proximity to Broad Street (Sumo is around the corner on Pine) provides enough natural city lighting. The place isn’t large, but it’s spacious enough for groups. We were the second large party to arrive there, joining a talkative group of girlfriends toasting a recent engagement (Sumo is BYO). We didn’t have enough time to reflect on the interior before the lively hostess/waitress met us with loud and welcoming hellos. She is the only waitress in the restaurant, and she managed all tables that evening swiftly and attentively. She is one of Sumo’s plusses all by herself, offering free tea (to her, charging for tea just isn’t right) and asking whether our table would prefer separate checks (yes, please), dividing two bowls of edamame between six people as if it were custom. At Sumo, perhaps, it is.

Since I’ve been to Sumo twice now, with two different groups ordering from two separate pages of the menu, I can cut to the chase. What makes Sumo unique are its Chef’s Special Rolls, delicious, well-crafted, and at an average price of around $11, with regarded spots—Izumi, Umai Umai, Raw—coming in a few dollars higher at their cheapest. But where Sumo’s prices are low, the quality of the food is not. One friend ordered the Volcano Roll, one of Sumo’s most popular, an “oversized” spicy tuna, cucumber, avocado, and tempura crunch soybean-wrapped roll served with the chef’s special sauce for $10.95. Though “a little secret,” our waitress spilled its contents: a mix of eel sauce, wasabi, and spicy mayo. Another friend had the Fancy Salmon roll of eel, cucumber, and asparagus inside, salmon and avocado on top, and eel sauce and tobiko on the side for $11.95. A resounding mutual observation was the appropriate fish to rice ratio. Sumo chefs give you the fish you pay for, whole and not the seemingly julienned fillings engulfed by rice that I’ve received at other restaurants. Meanwhile, I enjoyed the Crystal Roll of spicy tuna, crunch, and avocado inside and topped with spicy scallop and tobiko for $12.95. The extra dollars are worth it. I like rolls that don’t need soy sauce to flavor it or additional wasabi to make a spicy roll strong. Lastly, though another friend opted for regular maki, his shrimp tempura roll (shrimp tempura, avocado, cucumber, and masago) received repeated praise, priced at $5.50. It’s $7 at Zama and $9 at Morimoto.

Sumo’s regular maki has its hits. The yellowtail crunch roll ($5.50) includes apple (a pleasant surprise), and vegetarians in the group extolled the sweet potato roll ($4.50). But otherwise, I found my maki slightly disappointing. If you’ll let me be your guide, stick to the special rolls in the evening, and pick the hit maki for your choose-any-three $10.95 Happy Lunch Special before 3 pm. It’s hard to choose from the extensive list of well-priced special rolls, but it’s comforting to know you’ll be back to try the others.

Sumo Sushi [Official]

337 S Broad St.

215-985-1115

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  • barrygster

    And this review has gone the way of many Yelp sushi reviews: the reviewer extolls the “freshness” and “quality” of a sushi joint while munching down on yesterday’s tuna scraps smothered in mayonnaise and fish enveloped in deep fried dough.

  • Yasuda San

    Camilla. This is “neophyte Sushi” for amateurs who actually completely miss the point of Japanese food. All the garnishes and sauces have nothing to do with sushi. It may be cheap and plentiful but this in no way should be confused with a serious sushi restaurant. The quote “vegetarians in the group extolled the sweet potato roll” shows how much of a joke both this review and any attempt to portray the restaurant as a Japanese experience is.

    Please go to this website and see what simple Japanese really good sushi is not this over-sauced crap at Sumo.

    http://sugarfishsushi.com/

    • BPG

      I enjoyed this review for exactly what it seems to have intended to reveal- a good option for the cost-conscious sushi eater. It doesn’t seem to have had the best of the best in sushi dining as its purpose. Maybe the other commenters need to read Gourmet Japanese reviews (serving those with unlimited budgets) instead assuming they would be discerning enough to know the difference.

      • Umami

        This is actually not about the best of the best. I think the point being made is that it is “mall sushi” with all kinds of silly sauces and crunches you would never see in an actual Japanese restaurant. Not sure a Korean owned joint catering to bachelorettes is exactly what people have in mind for bargain sushi.

    • tkdchampxi

      I agree. This review betrays the writer’s sushi ignorance.

      The good points I got out of this review are that the Sumo Sushi is a BYO that is cheap, clean, and the fish is edible.

      It would probably be a good place to go with a larger group of people who don’t know much about sushi and would prefer to order sauce slathered rolls. Truthfully, most friends of even the most knowledgeable sushi connoisseurs probably fall into that category, and it is good to know a place that is at least cheap and BYO that caters to that crowd.

      • Shooshi

        Foobooz hires “aspiring food writer” interns who are mostly clueless about food much like the other chick who complained about no crepe places in philly despite crepe places existing for the last 7 years. There are a few things you are no looking for a bargain in……among them are your legal defense in a trial…..and sushi.

        • tkdchampxi

          Speaking of crepes, Beaumonde is pretty good

        • B

          I think the writing in this article is superb and I think people who like to assume that Foobooz hires clueless interns are in fact clueless themselves. But I guess people who do not know a thing about writing have enough time on their hands to insult other people’s hard work.

  • Dan

    This place is terrible. I live down the block it is aimed at uarts students that don’t know any better. Go to Vic or get them to deliver. Just as cheap and infinitely better. Get the tuna dumplings. You’re welcome.

  • rk

    I love Umai–totally a very, very happy regular–but the idea that the well regarded sushi places of Philly are Izumi, Umai, and Raw is just depressing. Replace Raw, first of all. But no Zama (at least they get a mention later)? No Fuji Haddonfield or Sagami? sigh.

  • ASD

    I must say, it seems to me like most of these comments are completely missing the point. Like BPG said, the article isn’t intending to reveal the most authentic or finest quality sushi in Philadelphia. In the first few sentences she clearly says she doesn’t “know the detailed history of sushi’s ascendance in America.” Obviously she is neither claiming to be an expert on authentic sushi nor unfairly devaluing Americanized sushi styles (she states that sushi has been “Americanized and diversified” in the first sentence), like many of the commenters seem to be doing. Instead, she offers honest advice to those seeking tasty sushi at a fair price, which is more relevant and useful to most individuals than an article about the most deluxe sushi in the city. I have been to Sumo Sushi and the article is accurate.

    • WTF

      The article is accurately stupid. The point is not is not about authenticity or quality, If she admits she does not know anything about sushi them perhaps she should not be writing about sushi and offering advice simply because she went out to sushi with a bunch of her girlfriends including a vegetarian. The article is an indefensible joke. mIt is a food blog not a social blog. If you are not an expert do not write about the subject because it ends up being a story about a bunch of chicks going out for lame sushi while professing to offer sushi advice to the city at large. Clearly from the majority of responses thinking this blog post is lame, you have your answer.

      Even the writer states ” numerous sushi spots have become synonymous with stylish interiors (multi-colored lighting systems included), and many Americans have become sushi connoisseurs, creating hierarchies for the seasoned diner who knows his or her way around a sashimi salad and the novice who struggles with California rolls.”

      Sushi spots are no more synonymous with stylish interiors and multi color lights that any other douchey restaurant with the exception of Morimoto.

      She then picks a place that serves the same food she describes as for novices who struggle with California rolls. Unless you are related to the writer your defense is silly and has no leg to stand on.

      Please !

  • Paul

    Yeah. This article made me want to order from Sumo again (have several times in the past), but our experience was so awful we’re never ordering from them again. Wait of over an hour, sushi was hanging off a bicycle handlebar and completely destroyed, and worst of all? Hot. By the time we got our food it was probably riding around a sweltering Philly night for 45 minutes or so. Great way to eat raw fish. Anyway, I assume they were “very busy, can’t talk now” because of this artilcle, so thanks I guess.