SU20 Serves Exceptional Sushi in a Blue Bell Strip Mall

Each piece of high-quality sashimi and nigiri makes you hungrier for the next.

SU20 sushi sashimi

A deluxe sashimi platter at SU20 / Photograph courtesy of SU20

On a fall night at SU20, a jazz piano version of “The Girl From Ipanema” pipes into the dining room. It seems to go on forever. One of the sushi chefs is wearing earbuds. The second chef is not. Neither one will speak to the other during the entire time I’m sitting in the dining room.

The place is an oddity. It is, for starters, a very good sushi restaurant in an area that doesn’t have a lot of very good sushi restaurants, buried in the elbow bend of a strip mall in Blue Bell that appears entirely closed off by road construction but isn’t. The sushi bar also functions as a Japanese bakery, with a sideline of birthday cakes and afternoon tea parties. 



SU20 Sushi
736 Dekalb Pike, Blue Bell

CUISINE: Japanese


Order This: Sashimi or nigiri for something traditional, the “Perfect Roll” for something not. Save room for a slice of tiramisu mille crepe cake.

Green tea comes in tuliped cups with proper saucers. A bakery case glows with rows of mochi and mille crepe cakes flavored with matcha, strawberry-rose, or tiramisu and its powerful jolt of espresso, airy cream and 20 delicate layers. Sitting there with everything so soft and shiny can feel like washing down a Valium with a NyQuil chaser. The whole world seems to sloooooow. 

Until the fish arrives, anyway. Until three perfect purple-pink lozenges of chutoro sashimi come, just a few degrees below room temperature, sweet and oily and almost tender enough to melt before you can even bite down; until the server brings cool ebi over a finger-width of rice and shining marbled salmon that needs a smear of wasabi to cut the slickness of the fat; until the plates of jumbo signature rolls — all bright and beautiful, laced with stripes of paired sauces — start hitting the table like firecrackers. In an otherwise calm room, sushi is where SU20 finds its energy.

There’s nothing sedate, for example, about the “Perfect Roll,” with its loops of sweet chili sauce and wasabi mayo detailing avocado and king crab. There’s nothing chill about the yuzu-and-chili pop of the “Candice,” with its spicy crab and white tuna tempura. Every piece makes you hungrier for the next one. Each plate of nigiri, sashimi and maki snaps you back in your chair.

The menu is loaded with other options, too — gyoza that are fine and shumai that are also fine, if a little strangely sweet. You’ll find salads and takoyaki, comforting miso soup, and a $24 chirashi bowl that would make an excellent lunch if you’re in the neighborhood. But all of that is really just filler. 

What makes a meal at SU20 worth navigating the construction on Dekalb Pike and suffering through that soft jazz? That’s all about the fish, and a suburban sushi bar that understands how to make it the life of the party.

2 Stars — Come if you’re in the neighborhood

Rating Key
0 stars: stay away
★: come if you have no other options
★★: come if you’re in the neighborhood
★★★: come from anywhere in Philly
★★★★: come from anywhere in America

Published as “A Ticket to the Fish Party” in the December issue of Philadelphia magazine.