I love sushi. Love love love. Like if-I-could-only-eat-one-food-for-the-rest-of-my-life love sushi. I was thrilled to try a new sushi spot right here on the 101. Well, new to me, not new new. And if dive/hole-in-the wall sushi joints are often great, then this place should be the best. Look at their sign, right above a cheesy auto trade advertisement. And the outside has that run-down, “don’t eat here” look to it. Good stuff.
I was surprised that we were able push tables around to accomodate a space for our group of 8 to eat together because this place is tiny! Having the seats close together all snuggly gives Umi a quaint, neighborhoody feel that is warm and fuzzy. And the people eating next to you elbow to elbow seem nicer than people eating at other places.
We only received one menu and even though we asked for more, didn’t get any. It took a long time for all 8 of us to pass it around and decide on what to order. The “Umi Special” menu looked really expensive. 5 pieces of sashimi for $25 was not up our alley. And I didn’t understand featuring Bluefin Tuna from Spain when we have amazing Bluefin being caught just 40 miles off our San Diego coast in the waters of Mexico. Why fly it all the way from Spain?
There were some recommendations on the wall, but for the life of me I have no idea what they were. I recognized the word “sake” so I assume these are all drinks? Maybe they are all different types of sake? Or maybe some are food? No idea.
We were told right away that they were out of all curry, which is a bummer. I was planning on ordering some curry dishes to offset the expensive sushi habit I have become addicted to. It was only 6pm, I don’t know why they ran out of curry so early.
Violet ordered the chicken spring rolls and Debbie ordered the vegetable spring rolls. Violet’s came out first and once they were gone, Debbie’s arrived. Then they noticed that the rolls had been switched and Violet was given the vegetable ones. We pointed out the mistake and our waitress kindly brought Debbie some vegetable ones again. Both Debbie and Violet were expecting Vietnamese-type of Spring Rolls in rice paper. These were fried and were really just egg rolls.
Jen and Greg shared shrimp wrapped in potato which was interesting. They were so small, there was no sharing. These were one-bite-shrimp.
Hubby and I shared an 8-piece sashimi plate for $20. Pretty steep considering how small the sashimi pieces were sliced. We inhaled our $20 fish slivers and were as hungry as if they never happened. The fish was very fresh and exquisite.
Jen and Greg shared an eel bowl. It was more like a small rice bowl with the essence of eel. That eel could still be alive and swimming missing such a small percentage of its body in this dish.
Our Crunchy roll was pretty but overly sauced and the pieces were very skimpy. Most of the pieces just fell apart when we picked them up with the chopsticks because they were so thin they couldn’t stay in shape. Tasty, yes, but not substantial at all.
Debbie, a sushi virgin, asked if she should eat the shrimp tails.
“Debbie, at these prices you need to eat every single thing on that board. Tails, ginger, wasabi, even the banana leaf. Not a grain of rice or sesame seed should be left behind!” I told her. And she did.
I asked our waitress to please send the owner over so I could ask him some questions about the restaurant to share with my readers. I told “Kazu” about the blog and asked him how long Umi has been here. He told me to wait one minute then brought over a framed article from the wall for me to read. Maybe he was annoyed that I called him over because he really didn’t want to give me the time of day. He didn’t even ask me what my blog was called. He just handed me the framed article and walked away. Though he was game for having his photo taken.
Jen and Greg said their Hamachi Kama was very good. It was the most food on any plate we had seen tonight and the rest of us hungrily watched them devour ever morsel of flesh off those bones.
Our last roll was the Seared Salmon roll. But unlike the teeny tiny piece of delectable salmon sashimi we had, this salmon had the flavor seared right out of it. It was small and without that delicious salmony goodness.
Our waitress said, ” Can I offer you all some dessert or are you pretty full?”
“Neither” I answered honestly.
We couldn’t order any more food without taking a second mortgage out on our home, so we had to be done even though we were still hungry.
When our check came, I noticed a few weird things. First of all, Debbie had ordered a glass of Sovereign Blanc that was listed with a “$0” for price. Giving us a glass of wine on the house would be nice, but they didn’t say anything like “Happy birthday. Please enjoy this glass of wine on the house.” (We, ok, mostly I, may have thrown around some words in front of our waitress that mentioned the fact we were celebrating my 50th. Hey, I get ALL of May, and part of June. It’s 50 after all!) So this $0 wine must be a mistake. Plus, since I was the one writing the blog, wouldn’t I be the one to get “buttered up” with a free drink? Definitely a mistake. I also noticed we were charged $25 for our miniscule 8-piece sashimi order. And I thought the $20 price tag on the menu was outrageous for how little food was served!
When our waitress came back Hubby graciously pointed out both mistakes, stating that it was in their favor to fix them, but we want to be fair. (Honestly, I was in favor of taking the free glass of wine and over-looking the $5 sashimi mark-up but both Debbie and Hubby wouldn’t have it. Those rule followers! I need to hang out with shadier people.) So the waitress took back the bill and recalculated it. When we got it back, we paid for it, but I took another look. I noticed that Debbie’s once “free” glass of wine was put back on for $11.
“Wasn’t your wine listed as $8 a glass?” I asked Debs.
“Yes, but let’s not worry about it and just go.” But I couldn’t just go. No way, this isn’t right! How can they over-charge her for the wine after she was honest enough to point out their mistake on not charging her in the first place? They didn’t even thank her for her overrated honesty!
I went to the counter and explained it nicely to the gentleman working the bar. The owner, Kazu, overheard me and came out to ask what was going on.
“There’s a discrepancy in our bill.” I explained to him, expecting an apology and, I don’t know, maybe making the glass of wine free again. Instead, without a word, he turned around and went back into the kitchen! Not a word. Nothing! I was shocked. The waitress who had made all of these mistakes was flustered and embarrassed, but not at all apologetic. She kept giving excuses like, “well, it comes up that way in the computer so it’s not my fault”. And “The prices keep changing and the computer can’t keep up.” And this is our problem….how? Then she says roughly, “So what do you want me to do? Put the difference back on the credit card or hand you actual $2 in cash?” she said a bit sarcastically. I looked her in the eye and said, very slowly, “It’s t-h-r-e-e dollars, not two.” She handed the cash to Debbie and as we walked out I knew it would be the last time I would ever be there again.
We walked over to Live Culture for some fro-yo to finish off our measly dinner that we just paid through the nose for. I can’t tell you any more about Live Culture because we will be blogging them in a few weeks and I want to do a thorough job then. (It was delicious and they are sooo nice!).
I’ll start with the good: The small, surfer-style, local restaurant is quaint and has nice character. The food was beautifully presented and was very delicious. We didn’t order any ramen so maybe missed the boat in that arena.
The not-so-good: The prices. The servings are small and the prices are high. Really high. The service was mediocre. Our water glasses were filled once, but then glasses stayed empty for the rest of the meal. Our server served the wrong spring rolls but at least fixed it right away. They were sold out of curry, which is a big deal when the only things on the menu are sushi, ramen and curries.
The unacceptable: Having so many problems on the check and not owning up to them! After we sent the check back the first time to fix, they should have double checked that things were correct. And when they over-charged Debbie for the wine she was honest enough to even pay for at all, they should have, at that point, given it to her for free! Of course it should have been taken off the check! People who can’t do math should not be in charge of the bill. A computer that can’t print out correct prices that match the menu should not be used. An owner who lacks customer service skills should stay clear of their customers.
So when people ask me if I get special treatment from establishments once they know I’m blogging about them, I can definitely say, not always!
Umi is a fine place to go if you are rich and not hungry. Just double, I mean, triple check your bill when it comes!
Our next blog will be on Sunday morning, May 26th at 9am at