Sunday, January 06, 2008

Suzi's China Grill and Sushi Bar

Rush hour haven of the socially disaffected commuter


It wasn't really a conscious decision. It was a wrong turn and a glut of commuters. Then a sign with the words sushi (got my attention) and Chinese (got The Woman's attention) and we were in the parking lot.

Well, what do you think?

Beats the traffic.

And we were inside. Hardly an auspicious beginning. Would it make a difference if I were to say that we've been back? Twice?

The loquacity of my novels notwithstanding, I have a curmudgeonly streak that manifests itself after bouts with corporate culture. When the dinner gong sounds and I sidle up to the trough, I find myself in need of desultory conversation and the soothing libation. The atmosphere at Suzi's is perfect for the low-key diner otherwise known as the rush-hour date night aficionado. And the gin martinis are mixed with a knowing and loving hand, designed to restore the tissues damaged by overly intimate contact with the corporate world.

When you walk into some Chinese restaurants, you are immediately assaulted with the sense that you are in a Chinese restaurant. "Ahoy, there," they seem to say. "Stand up and take notice. This is a cultural experience." Everything is red and gold and the lucky cats are on prominent display with the right paw (protection) or left paw (wealth) raised. Suzi's China Grill and Sushi Bar is not that place. It has a more Japanese vibe of understated elegance. And the menu bears that out.

The first time around we got an appetizer featuring avocado, crab and shrimp. I'm not sure what it was, and I haven't seen it on the menu since, but it was excellent. For the entre, I opted for the Malaysian Chicken (sauteed sliced breast of chicken with eggplant, string bean and cashew nuts in a coconut curry sauce), while The Woman tried the Chicken and Shrimp with Cashew Nuts (Shanghai-style, stir-fried with glazed oyster sauce). The Hispanic standup comic who was waiting on us repeated her order as "the chicken and shrimp fajitas." He must have really liked that joke, because he repeated it on our third visit several months later.

As the ancient philosopher once said, "Some like it hot" and he was talking about me, so I could have used some peppers in the Malaysian Chicken, but I really didn't miss it that much. The Woman didn't take to it, but I got a feeling of solidarity with the Malaysian folks while shoveling it in with the chopsticks. On the other hand, The Woman thoroughly approved of the Chicken and Shrimp with Cashew Nuts. There really is nothing like a good oyster sauce to make the difference.

On the next visit, we started off with some edamame (soy beans) which were a bit salty for my taste. (But take that comment with a grain of salt, since I rarely salt anything. I'd probably eat my hat without salt if I had one.) For the entre, I made up for lost time with the Firecracker Prawns (marinated jumbo prawns, sauteed with onions in a hot and spicy garlic and sherry wine sauce) aptly named and guaranteed to provide that capsaicin high we all know and love. Well, perhaps I should say that all right-thinking citizens know and love. The Woman's mileage varies somewhat. She selected the Golden Sesame Chicken (golden crispy chicken tossed with red chili in a spicy brown sesame sauce). You really can't go wrong with a sesame sauce. I was surprised she ordered something with red chili, but I didn't complain, especially since I got to have the leftovers later.

On the third visit, we started out with a spicy tuna roll, a good start. I decided to evaluate my reference dish at Chinese places, Kung Pao Chicken. I had to eat the peppers to get the spice level up to my desired endorphin-releasing levels. I'd rather the heat be cooked in, but I guess keeping it calm allows them to serve it to more people and let the diner self-regulate their capsaicin levels via optional pepper eating. The Woman tried the Chicken Delight. I don't know that I would call it delightful, but it certainly was good. Nice flavor. I'd choose it over the Kung Pao Chicken, which is saying something.

I'd like to go back for the Bejing Duck, if I can plan my life at least 24 hours ahead, since it requires a day's notice. If the other dishes are any indication, I expect it's worth waiting for.

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