It was Babe Paley, the socialite wife of former CBS executive William Paley, who famously once said, "You can't be too rich or too thin" — presumably after shelling out a wad of cash for a salad and a glass of mineral water.
I'd like to paraphrase Babe and say that a town can't have too many sushi restaurants — good ones, that is — and Sushi Blue is very good indeed.
Inauspiciously tucked away in a shopping strip on Pasadena Drive, this modest eatery has some of the freshest sushi and sashimi in Lexington, as well as some of the friendliest staff. My first visit was at lunch time, and even though I got there before it was officially open, I was warmly greeted and shown to my table.
After perusing the menu (the list of available sushis and rolls is huge), I opted for the six-piece lunch, figuring it would be an appropriate size for a mid-day meal. After taking my order, my server quickly returned with a bowl of miso soup, which I learned accompanies every meal, and which proved the only disappointment (I found it a bit weak and gruel-y.)
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If the miso was skippable, the sushi certainly wasn't. The fish was so fresh I might have been in Miami or San Francisco instead of Lexington. I couldn't quite calculate how the 6-piece lunch included six small salmon rolls, and two larger pieces each of red snapper, tuna and salmon. Shouldn't that be a 12-piece sushi lunch?
Whatever the sushi count, the generous portions caused me to do something I (and probably you as well) never do in a sushi restaurant: fill up before finishing the meal. As for the taste, I loved it all, but the tuna (deep red in color indicating it had never seen the inside of a freezer) was particularly mouth-watering, and the sticky rice, expertly prepared by the chef, was firm and kept the sushi roll from deconstructing as I ate it.
I enjoyed lunch so much that I came back for dinner the following week. My problem was trying to decide which of the approximately 80 sushi rolls on the menu I was going to try as an appetizer.
Choices range from the usual (California Roll and Spicy Tuna Roll) to the less than usual (Atomic Bomb Roll of spicy tuna, jalapeño, salmon, avocado and special sauce for $12.75 and Blue Willie of shrimp tempura, tuna, salmon, snapper, avocado, crab salad and scallop, deep-fried with sauce for $13.50). There's even a Kentucky Derby Roll (chicken tempura, cream cheese, asparagus and crab salad with special sauce for $13.75).
I eventually opted for two vegetarian rolls ($3.25 each), expecting — what else? — two rolls. When the server returned, she had a platter with six (it seems six is the magic number here), three cucumber rolls and three yellow pickle rolls.
I followed that up with a seaweed salad and another generously portioned appetizer, the deep-fried soft shell crab, both delicious and both beautifully plated. The Korean chef, K. Kim, familiarly known as Chef K, is nothing short of an artist, presenting each dish as if it is a masterpiece.
While waiting for my dining companion to arrive, I watched him construct (no other word will do) the Blue Special Boat. It includes 12 pieces of sushi, 16 pieces of sashimi, seaweed salad, octopus salad, and the chef's choice of special sushi rolls, artistically positioned in a replica of a sailing boat. Because of its hefty size and hefty price ($79.95), this is a dish recommended when you are dining with a group of friends.
Sushi Blue's ambience is that of a friendly neighborhood diner, with seating options of discreetly scattered tables and booths, or you can take one of the eight seats at the sushi bar and watch Chef K at work. He's been known to offer those at the bar a sampling of something they may have never tasted before.
Sushi Blue doesn't serve hard liquor, but there is a modest wine and beer list, as well as a truly impressive sake selection, catering to all budgets, with bottles ranging from $8 to $93.
There were only a handful of diners the night I was there, and I can only attribute that to the fact that word may not have gotten around about how good this place is, as the restaurant has only been open since March. If you love fresh sushi, good value for the price and warm, welcoming service, Sushi Blue is a tremendous find.