Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Umami brings fusion cuisine to Russellville.

If you were to tell me when I went to Arkansas Tech that you could find good sushi in Russellville, I woulda laughed you out of the room. Sushi? Russellville? Wasn’t going to happen.
Of course, we’re talking 20 years ago now. Things have changed. And yes, you can find sushi in Russellville these days. And it’s even good sushi. Spicy, yes, but good.

What’s more startling to me is that you can find it in a very suave environment complete with black and red fixtures, downtempo music and trendy booths. It’s like a piece of urbanity has taken root in a town best known for being the home of “Redneck Tech.” That place is Umami.

I tried it out on a whim a few weeks ago. It was a nice kicked back weekday night and I wanted something refreshing and cool. The place was hopping but my dining companion and I were quickly ushered to one of the rare corners with a little light. If there’s anything Umami lacks, it’s light.



We decided to try a little bit of this and that, deciding to share a couple of rolls and some hibachi grill. We split the starter bits — my dining companion’s miso was on the typical side but good; my salad with ginger dressing was rather heavy on the ginger dressing but was also good. There you go.

We shared some Vegetable Hibachi ($11.95, with the soup and salad) and paid the extra couple of bucks for the fried rice. It was a nice fine collection of vegetables, including some rather plump mushrooms and substantial bits of zucchini, which I enjoy way too much. Umami isn’t outfitted for teppankayi cookery at the tables, but everything came out nice and hot, and the rice was pleasantly nutty.

And then there were the rolls. Now, I have to say this: Umami is an Asian fusion restaurant, unlike its sister restaurant Onami across town over by Tech. The sushi is spicier. MUCH spicier. We shared the simple Spicy Tuna roll ($5.75) — which was a bit overly spicy for my taste but paired up with a bit of cucumber in the roll for a little heat control. It was more than pleasant.

What we really adored, though, was the big fat Rich and Famous Roll ($11.95), a fat and handsome oversized roll similar to a Rainbow Roll, but filled with lots of fish. It took the beautiful colors of a traditional Rainbow and tied them all up and about with salmon, tuna, eel and avocado, stuffed with smoked salmon, crab and avocado. The big pieces were almost too heavy for chopsticks, but they were thick and plentiful and a meal in themselves.

I do plan to return at some point and try more food — it had been the intention to try more things on this trip, but the food was extraordinarily filling. I am curious about the Bayou Bites ($7.95 for crawfish battered and served with lime sauce), Japanese Curry ($5.95 served over white rice) and the Sake Six Pepper Ribeye ($17.95 for a 10 ounce ribeye and fixings). I’m also curious to see whether they actually manage to sell any Baja Tacos — tacos made up with fried crawfish and mango salsa. And seriously — I have never seen Sausage Fried Rice anywhere else.

You’ll find Umami on North Elmira north of Main Street, a block south of Parkway. Check out the Facebook page or call (479) 967-8889.

Umami on Urbanspoon

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