In Search of: Chapel Hill Sushi at Sushi Yoshi

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While everyone talks about Durham being a burgeoning food capital, I always thought that Chapel Hill could give it a run for its money. I think the mix of academia, internationalism, and its hippie past create the perfect storm, it’s a place that both embraces the crunchy local food movement, high end cuisine, and a slice of Greasy faux-NY pizza, all within walking distance of each other. However, it surprises me that with all of different tastes and place to choose from, finding a decent sushi restaurant there is pretty daunting. After all, sushi is pretty darn ubiquitous now, so you’d think there’d be at least one good sushi joint in all of Chapel Hill. Tony and I didn’t realize it’d be such a search.

 To be honest, Sushi Yoshi (116 Old Durham Rd, Chapel Hill, NC 27517) was not our first pick, but our options were getting pretty slim. We weren’t really dressed for Spice Street, Kurama had some middling reviews, and most of the hits we pulled were trying to take us into Durham. Sushi Yoshi though was supposed to be the best Chapel Hill has to offer in terms of Sushi and by the time we got there, I was ready for a nice sit, some warm sake, and some cool raw fish.

The first thing that struck me was that for lunchtime, Sushi Yoshi wasn’t really packed. This can be a good or bad thing, but with the high ceilings and little ambient noise, I felt like I had to whisper to have a conversation with Tony.  Plus, the place was a little understaffed; one person at the register, one person serving three tables and, presumably, making the dishes.  Considering how long it took to get a bowl of edamame, at least I hope that’s what was going on.

What Sushi Yoshi lacks in service and intimate setting, it does make up for with food, sort of. Not to say that the food was bad, far from it in some cases, but it varied. The edamame was steamed unevenly, some pods were dried out, some were pretty squishy.  My spicy tuna temaki though was delicious; the spiciness wasn’t overpowering, but added a nice kick at the end of a bite. Plus, the seaweed wrap wasn’t too chewy.

The best part really was the dragon roll, which combines my three favorite things: avocado, barbecued eel, and fried anything. The flavors were nicely balanced and I was happy to see that the tempura shrimp were crunchy, not soggy and that the eel wasn’t overcooked. Eel gets kind of slimy when not cooked right and a lot of places would overdo the glaze to make up for it, so this roll was nicely done. Overall, I was pretty satisfied with the sushi itself; it wasn’t spectacular, but as they say, it is what it is. It wasn’t a dazzling display, but it was tasty and filling, which is exactly what you want from a lunch.

But somewhere out there in Chapel Hill is a raw fish haven, I just know it. So, if you know it and don’t mind sharing your secret, let us know!


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