Friday, August 26, 2011

Saburo's: The Walmart of Sushi Restaurants

There's an extraordinary wait for ordinary food at Saburo's, where diners sit or stand in a long line just for huge portions–oversize hand rolls that are stuffed to the hilt, gunkan-style sushi that are large and overflowing. It certainly can't be for the flavors. I tried the salmon belly nigiri that my sushi bar neighbors swore by, as well as a pillar of a hand roll filled with real crab meat and avocado, and while the size was larger than life, the flavors weren't very impressive.

There are also strange rules here. "You have to order all at once," the chef commands from behind the sushi bar, indicating you should check what you want on the dry-erase sushi menu with the marker provided. "I don't want to commit," I sniffed, diva-like. "Let's see how you do with the first order before I order more." Then there was the matter of having to jostle for space, for the seating at the sushi bar feels tight and claustrophobic, with hardly any elbow room.

"Try the Spider. It's ginormous," said the dude sitting to my left. On his plate was a heap of a softshell crab roll, the pieces ginormous indeed. His order of salmon egg sushi, served battleship-style with quail egg on top, was almost literally like two battleships.

Aside from the ginormous portions, patrons love Saburo's for the prices. Compared to most places, Saburo's is the Walmart of sushi bars, offering passable quality at a cheap cost. Cut rolls range from $5.75 to $7.25, and most two-piece sushi orders cost between $2.50 and $4.75, with an option to add quail egg yolk on top of some nigiri for 50 cents more.

The menu is quite specific here. On the page that lists special rolls, it says that "All Rolls are Made with Mayo Sauce and Smelt Roe Except Karate Roll and Shogun Roll." It's also unabashed to announce that "All Rolls are Made with Sesame Seeds Except the Big 'O' Roll." (According to the menu, the "Big O Roll" is a deep-fried affair of cream cheese, crab, masago, and a "Chef's Choice" mixture of fish served with a special dipping sauce.) There is even a variety of rare soft drinks on the menu: bottles of Ramune soda sell for $2 each and come in orange, melon and strawberry flavors.

1667 SE Bybee St., Portland, OR

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