Palo Alto Weekly

Eating Out - March 26, 2010

Sushi for hard times

It's all you can eat at Mountain View's Sushi 85

by Sheila Himmel

In the queasy realm of All You Can Eat restaurants, sushi would appear to be an especially alarming choice. Unless you're in training for an extreme-eating contest, why stuff yourself with rice and raw fish?

Portion control, sustainable seafood and everything else we and Michael Pollan — "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." — hold dear is violated by places like Sushi 85. But you can eat at Sushi 85, not too often, have a lot of fun, and nobody gets hurt.

The lunch buffet is $16.95. At dinner, the AYCE option is $24.95, allowing you to order from the lunch side and the dinner side. There is also a regular menu, with such appetizers as boiled edamame and gyoza, bento boxes and entrees including sashimi, teriyaki, grilled sea bass and even lamb chops.

Not everyone at the table has to choose the same option. Some can go all in; some a la carte.

Servers explained the AYCE drill: Everyone can pick three rolls at once, marking your choices on a laminated menu. Extremely tiny type at the top of the menu encourages diners not to waste food. We didn't see a whole lot of rolls being left.

All You Can Eat starts with a bland but crisp iceberg lettuce salad, perked up with sesame vinaigrette. You can have miso soup now or after the meal. Ours was a salty broth that separated instantly, although pieces of tofu were fresh.

The main event came on a platter the size of a cookie sheet. Several rolls looked lovely, with geometrically chopped meat inside rolls of rice and nori, the seaweed wrapper. Others seemed to have been composed by an Abstract Expressionist.

The nori didn't sing with sweet ocean flavor or exquisite tooth resistance, but it wasn't too chewy either. The fish wasn't sublime. But nothing was bad, and we enjoyed figuring out how much we were saving.

Among the six-piece maki, the Wayne Roll is a tasty mess of spicy tuna, avocado and scallops with a crispy top and spicy red chili "chef's sauce." We saw altogether too much of the chef's various sauces. On the UFO Roll, the sauce was a creamy, unattractive sea surrounding little bay scallops, crab and avocado. It tasted much better than it looked.

My gang of four also favored: the Smoked Dragon Roll, with tempura shrimp, crab and smoked salmon; Unagi Deluxe, roasted eel on top; Rose Roll, spicy tuna and avocado; Hamachi Deluxe, each with a piece of yellowtail on top; and the Lion King roll, although it was topped with chef's sauce.

The Spider Man is not a great venue for soft-shell crab, flabby rather than crispy.

The misnamed Wild Pig Roll, however, is a nice counterpoint to all the seafood. It's a tame combination of fried pork and cucumber.

From the list of two-piece nigiri sushi, quail eggs come with three varieties of fish eggs. We liked the medium-size ikura.

Sushi 85 is tucked into the elbow of the gangly Grant Road shopping center that holds Marshalls at one end and the Asian supermarket 99 Ranch at the other. Sushi 85 is at the 99 Ranch end. It is named for nearby Highway 85. I guess 82, the number for El Camino Real, which is even closer, was taken.

Except for round lampshades and a few posters, Sushi 85 could be a pizza place, with a large-screen TV for sports. Unlike many sports bars and All You Can Eat eateries, Sushi 85 is not a barn, but a room comfortably holding large parties and small families. A young couple brought their baby for date night.

Sushi 85 stirs up a lot of combat on Yelp. Opinions run hot and heavy, loaded with ammo ranging from "Gluttony heaven!" to "We should have turned and ran for the hills."

We had a good time and left full but not sickened. The way I look at All You Can Eat places, it's fun to think you're betting against the house, but best to let the house win.

Sushi 85

1350-6 Grant Road, Mountain View

650-965-8898

www.sushi85.com

Hours:

Mon.-Thurs. 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; 5-9:30 p.m. Fri. 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sat. noon-10 p.m. Sun. noon-9:30 p.m.

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