Joss Cafe & Sushi Bar: Festive mood and food
by Gabby Crabcakes
This Japanese greeting echoes throughout any visit at Joss Cafe & Sushi Bar on Main Street, Annapolis. Welcoming ambiance prevails in this small restaurant, which recently expanded its sushi bar in the tightly efficient front room, as well as adding a smaller, less frenetic dining room to the rear. Rarely quiet, Joss is full of enthusiasm and energy. With seating for less than 60, this popular restaurant is usually jammed with spirited patrons. I don't know if it's the sushi or the type of person who eats sushi, but I've always found Japanese dining to be more fun than just another meal.
Joss definitely lives up to this diner's expectations of an informal sushi restaurant. From decor, costume and dinnerware to the theater of the sushi chef's preparation (spiced with just the right amount of humor), the Japanese charm shines through without going over the top.
Once seated (expect a wait), you are presented with two menus. The single sheet sushi menu is yours to fill out. Pick and choose. This is a great way to experiment with new flavors or customize an appetizer or entree. You can order nigiri style (with rice), vegetable rolls (priced per roll $3.00-$5.50) or maki rolls (usually cut into 6 pieces, although some of the larger rolls are cut into 4 pieces, priced from $3.50-$8.95). The ingredients can be smoked eel, giant clam, quail egg, salmon, softshell crab or tuna, to name a few. Hand roll specials are a twist of cone-shaped seaweed stuffed with a combination of sushi delights.
Sushi orders don't take long, since there's no cooking involved. The final product is presented on a platter and garnished with the customary ginger and wasabi (fiery good).
The larger menu runs the gamut: appetizers, soups, salads (including a nice variety of specialty seaweed salads), entrees (teriyaki, sukiyaki) and desserts. There is also a nice selection of "chef's choice" sushi and sashimi (raw fish, no rice) assortments. This is a good option for those who would prefer someone else making their decisions.
For the squeamish (and we know you're out there), sorry no hamburgers on this menu, but there is a grilled chicken salad ($6.95), and the shrimp and vegetable tempura (entree $10.95), which is similar to but so much better than fried shrimp and vegetables. For the meat lover, try beef teriyaki ($12.95) or beef negimaki (thinly sliced beef rolled with scallions, then grilled and basted with teriyaki sauce served with grilled vegetables $13.95).
On our recent visit, instead of our usual spring roll appetizer (a very flavorful rice paper roll filled with shrimp, crab stick, avocado, mixed greens and drizzled with a spicy cream sauce for $8.95) we started with shrimp and vegetable tempura ($5.25 appetizer), which included three large shrimp and sliced yam, green pepper, squash and zucchini. Served hot out of the fryer, the batter was light and not greasy. A flavorful way to begin a meal.
Snacker that I am, my entree was a plentiful selection of sushi - nigiri and rolls. Tuna, yellow tail, smoked salmon, octopus and my favorite, unagi (smoked eel). For rolls we choose uramaki (four large pieces filled with smoked eel, shrimp, cucumber, avocado and egg and rolled on the outside with flying fish roe and scallions $5.95); bagel roll (a comfort roll with smoked salmon and cream cheese $4.50); and finally, a soft shell crab roll (another large roll filled with tempura-fried soft shell crab with large chunks of meat $8.95). Although prices are reasonable, they do add up quickly. Plan accordingly if you don't want a big surprise when the bill comes.
To wash your meal down, a Japanese beer is a good bet. The 22-ounce Sapporo ($5.95) is refreshing and nice to share. My companion opted for Asahi Super Dry beer ($3.25), while I had a glass of Lockwood Chardonnay ($5.75).
Since sushi is considered a low-fat meal, we ordered dessert. While tempted by the tempura bananas a la mode ($6.00), I went with a recommended special mochi (rice flour) dumpling filled with coffee ice cream. I'd be lying if I didn't say it had an odd texture, very gummy. My companion chose the green tea ice cream (two large scoops for $3.95).
Energy abounds at Joss. Service is efficient and helpful. Quarters are tight, and noise levels can elevate. So be careful what you say and discrete in what you hear. The mood is festive, and so is the food.
195 Main Street, Annapolis 410/263-4688
Reason to go: Good things in small packaging, plus, this is one dish you'll be hard-pressed to make at home.
Something to think about: If you need personal space, try Wyoming.
| Issue 21 |
Volume VII Number 21
May 27 - June 2, 1999
New Bay Times
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