First impression: Nothing KO's the illusion of a glamorous gig as an amateur foodie quite so effectively as two words: Sushi Buffet. The spot looked like a former pool hall/opium den.
Highlight: The assortment of city-named rolls made happy day-trippers out of our tummies, although the origins were a bit puzzling. (Just what exactly is so New York about BBQ eel and cream cheese?)
Chopstick rating: Two chopsticks. If you've got more time than money and your appetite is more tortoise than hare, slow and steady wisn the race here.
First impression: A local feeding-frenzy joint for you and your fellow omnivores.
Experience: You can't share the maki? Buffet is all about sharing! Most rolls contained cream cheese, mayo, avocado and rice: fillers. I used so much soy sauce that my estrogen level went off the chart! I'd pass on the non-sushi options. I wasn't impressed with the udon, but the portion was decent and filling. Green bean tempura was good, like eating green bean fries. The best part: Instead of getting charged a corking fee, we were assessed a "cockaging".
Highlight: The Texas maki, with smoked salmon tempura, avocado and jalapeno with spicy sauce.
Chopstick rating: 2 chopsticks. Mediocre sushi; best "cockaging" ever!
First impression: Pretty much what you might imagine from an all-you-can-eat sushi joint: extremely crowded.
Experience: Instead of asking for your name when you check in, they give you a raffle ticket and call your number when it's time to eat. Once you sit down, a laminated card outlines six house rules, including a three-part rule explaining that they won't accept additional orders if there's food on your plate. At least the wait staff didn't seem to be policing us. While the House sells beer and wine, they also let you bring your own. But skip high corkage and maximize BYO dollar with 20-ounce Sapporos and don't waste a good bottle of wine here.
Highlight: Super-spicy Texas maki wakes you up. Sweet potato/cream cheese-stuffed North Carolina Maki is a great roll for the novice.
Chopstick rating: 2
First impression: As if it weren't difficult enough to find this inconspicuous all-you-can-eat sushi spot beneath its barely lit sign, it was even harder to convince myself to actually go in. The entire front of the restaurant is a breeding ground for claustrophobia.
Experience: The food is immediately overshadowed by the curt wait staff and hurried atmosphere that, together, make for a somewhat nerve-wracking dining experience. If you have already made the mistake of bringing your special someone here, save yourself an hour, skip round two of the buffet and slide next door to Bungalow Lounge for a martini.
Highlight: The "Seattle": battered salmon, cucumber and BBQ eel.
Chopstick Rating: 1
First impression: [Outside] glass doors of a shabby storefront with a yellow sign stood a sardine-can of customers, eagerly waiting in line.
Experience: The maki is made-to-order, which is a big plus because raw fish is the opposite of Chicago: it's not better when it's warmer. For the budget baller who can handle long lines and rough waits, this buffet beats burgers and butt steaks. While the dishes aren't dazzling, the sushi satisfies enough to sample a sequel. The variety of fish was more like a shallow stream than a deep sea, but at $11.95 a head, the maki is on the money.
Highlight: The Sakekawa maki was pleasant: Broiled salmon skin, cucumber and mayo was slightly sweet, crunchy and very appetizing.
Chopstick Rating: 2 sticks (Good enough to eat with!)
Chopstick rating: 4=best sushi ever; 3=hard to beat; 2=had worse/had better; 1=if starving; 0=run away