With a familiar menu and competitive prices, the latest arrival to the Ashland sushi scene should prove popular with tourists, students and locals.
Star Sushi opened in early August within walking distance of downtown but appropriately distanced from competitors on the Plaza. It's owned by Ricky Nam, who also operates Star Sushi at 1080 Biddle Road, Medford. Another member of the Nam family opened Umi Sushi in Jacksonville early this year.
The little restaurant is a bright and pleasant place that offers seating at the sushi bar or at large or small tables. Murals layer colors and images on the walls in intriguing patterns, while Japanese parasols and silk bamboo and cherry trees add more Asian flair.
Nam, originally from South Korea, has more than 30 years of experience making sushi, starting at his parents' restaurant in Hawaii when he was a young man. He says he cooks for his customers the same way he cooks for his family.
The Ashland, Jacksonville and Medford restaurants share a virtually identical — and apparently quite successful — menu. It includes a selection of traditional and innovative appetizers, lots of sushi rolls running the gamut from simple classics to exotic, premium rolls and other typical Japanese fare such as teriyaki, noodle dishes and bento boxes.
On the appetizer menu, the Star pizza is a broiled, open-faced maki roll layering salmon, crab, white fish, rice and special sauces on a sheet of nori that might tempt even people unsure about sampling sushi. Traditionalists might want to try the yellowtail or salmon kama to pick the rich cheek meat from the bones and cartilage that connect the fish's head and body.
Bento boxes and entrees start with a bowl of delicately flavored, white miso soup, enhanced with silken tofu cubes, pieces of seaweed and crisp bits of fresh, green onion. Also included, the house salad features mixed greens, crescents of seeded cucumber, a few broccoli florets and a jumble of finely shredded carrot, all topped with a savory miso dressing. Perfectly steamed rice rounds out these meals.
Recommended: Bento are pleasantly portioned for lunch with a build-your-own approach from a list that ranges beyond the default teriyaki chicken and California roll to include baked mussels, spicy chicken, Korean-style grilled beef yakiniku, grilled salmon, tofu and vegetables, tempura vegetables, spicy tuna roll, avocado roll or veggie roll; Nam's favorite sushi roll is the Samurai, which includes crab, yellowtail, cucumber, avocado, green onion and sweet sauce.
Alternative diets: Nine vegetarian sushi rolls; seven vegetarian entrees; four vegetarian appetizers.
Beverages: Domestic and imported, bottled beers; domestic and imported wines by the glass and bottle; sake; teas, bottled juices and fountain sodas.
Price range: Appetizers, $4.75 to $12; salads, $4 to $10; sushi and sashimi, $3.50 to $25; sushi rolls, $2.75 to $13; bento, $12.50 to $15.50; entrees, $7 to $14; noodles, $7 to $11.
Extras: No checks or American Express; bento meal for $10 for kids younger than 10; street parking.
Serving: From 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, from 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday and from noon to 9:30 p.m. Sunday.
Info: 293 E. Main St., Ashland; 541-482-1710.