Sono is not “Asian Fusion”. It is Japanese. It is sushi. And thank God for that. A place that knows its identity and strives hards toward that craft. This was another place that had garnered rave reviews from some of our friends, and not feeling like driving to Nemo in Keyport (our usual fix for sushi and sashimi), we opted to finally give it a try. Sono Sushi is in the middle of a shopping center, yet when you enter, it somehow feels secluded. There is a front window, but it is practically covered. The traditional decor and dim lighting makes it almost like a hidden secret…until you walk in a see the massive crowd that has discovered it before you.
Justin had wanted to take me for sushi at a different restaurant for a while now. But sometimes, I go to a place like this for sushi and end up getting distracted and order a hot meal. I did not allow that to happen here. We were both in the mood for a roll. We browsed the menu and our eyes wandered to the appetizers first. “You love soft shell crabs, right?” he asked me. “Damn right I do” was my response. There was a deep-fried tempura soft shell crab on the menu. We decided we would share that. Upon ordering, he also snuck in a shrimp shumai.
My entree would be the M-16 roll, which was large and cut into eight pieces. The interior contained tempura salmon and asparagus, and was topped with raw salmon and spicy mayo. Both fishes were masterfully sliced and prepared to the point that they melted away in my mouth. The sauce on top had just enough spice to let you know it was there. I had considered a combo with multiple rolls, but found this single one to be plenty and I was glad I restrained myself. Justin had the Sono Delight roll, which was stuffed with tempura shrimp and had slices of avocado and grilled eel placed on top. This was only the second or third time trying eel, and I found this experience to be the most enjoyable. Both rolls were delicately created and extremely fresh. There was no fishiness present anywhere. The meals came with miso soup and a salad with a highly acidic (yet necessary) ginger dressing.
Let’s back-track to the appetizers: the shumai were decent, but not exactly standout. I thought the flavor was pretty average, though the texture and mouth-feel was spot-on. I’ve had better. The soft shell crab, however, won me over. It was fried so crisply that it practically crumbled apart. It was also rather large and meaty—I remember saying how surprised I was at the weight of this crab, and that it was not small and hollow as some are when served this way. For a single person, this might have been a meal along with some rice.
Our server was very friendly and seemed to know some of the other customers who were apparently regulars. There is a sushi bar to sit at, along with an open table area by the front door, and another seating area with barriers towards the back. This place had a “city-feel” going for it, and there was a nice buzz in the air. Quality-wise, I would be hard-pressed to find better ingredients in the immediate area for a sushi spot. And there are a lot of places to search—eight, actually, within just a five-mile radius. There are more than enough fusion restaurants around, but it was nice to see a place stick to one thing and one thing only: serving excellent Japanese food. Don’t miss Sono Sushi, located in the same shopping center as Neelam Exotic Indian Cuisine and Bottle King…arguably two of my favorite places! 4 out of 5 stars.
(Apologies for the less-than-stellar photographs—the dim lighting and shadows made it difficult to capture these dishes).
Sono Sushi is located at 1098 NJ-35 in Middletown, NJ.