The case for fish flakes
by Michelle Chihara
It's usually a good sign when the late-lunch crowd at a Japanese restaurant
greets the waitress in Japanese, and the free reading material is written
entirely in kanji. Sushi Express, a basement-level stop on Beacon Street,
follows through on its promise with basic but very Japanese Japanese
food. Like the plate of cold tofu covered with fish flakes, the dried beige
stuff that looks kind of like sloughed skin but adds a subtle, briny crunch to
the tofu's bland sweetness.
Granted, the sushi menu includes Americanized specials like the Philly roll
("Crab Stick and Cream Cheese" -- a travesty). But there's also a selection of
Japanese vegetables such as ume-shiso, the sour plums that don't appear on most
American menus. Besides sushi, for five bucks you can get a huge ceramic bowl
of udon soup. It's not fancy (no garnishes here), but it's plentiful and the
udon noodles are just right, fat and tubular. The soup comes with seaweed and
thin sweet squares of fried bean curd. Japanese food is made for slurping;
supposedly you get more oxygen in your mouth and it tastes better.
For dessert, try the green-tea ice-cream treat. Two little balls of very green
ice cream come inside a chewy, speckled green, pounded-rice dough called mochi.
It's the Japanese version of a profiterole. Sushi Express's background music is
strictly Top 40: very authentic. Add bar stools and a young, good-looking
staff, and it feels kind of like a Tokyo version of 90210's Peach Pit.
Sushi Express, located at 1038 Beacon Street, in Brookline, is open daily
from 11:45 a.m. to 10 p.m. Call (617) 738-5658.
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