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Chef Sake’s, a sushi restaurant situated just across from the USA campus, is clean, fresh and friendly.

Chef Sake’s Restaurant and Sushi Bar
5821 Old Shell Road,
Suite C, Mobile, AL 36608

Usually the first thing I go for after a season full of Christmas cheer and New Year’s black-eyed peas is something Asian. There is a cleansing quality to it. Especially sushi. I love that 180-degree turn from heavy, Southern comfort food to a piece of fish that never touched a frying pan. It’s a needed jolt to the system after ham, dressing, veggies with ham, lamb, ham sandwiches, collards with ham and more ham.

I thought my ham intake was intense last year, but the end of 2018 topped it. There was a possible record-breaking amount of sodium ingested over the past couple of weeks in the form of the pink meat, so I thought it best to swear off pork for a day or two, just to hit the reset button. Sushi was calling me. So I called Rasp.

David Rasp loves sushi more than anyone I know. He loves Asian food in general, but it’s Vietnamese and Japanese that tickle his fancy the most. How could I start the year reviewing a sushi bar without the big guy? I just couldn’t.

He’s been raving about Chef Sake for months, but I don’t usually have the time to go that far west. After all the begging and pleading on his part, I finally decided to take the little fella on a lunch run. We both switched around some appointments and met at the Old Shell location just across from the University of South Alabama campus.

He beat me there by just a minute or two, but as I walked in I saw he was already chatting up the owner. It seems Uncle Dave is quite the regular here, perhaps due to its close proximity to his own restaurant, Heroes’ Hillcrest location. Me with my Perrier and he with his glass of water (not in a cup of shame!), he proceeded to tell me that what he will order isn’t on the menu. I’d expect no less.

I was also warned by Rasp that the broth for the clear soup was so addictive that he once ordered a giant bowl. I took that as a bit of hyperbole from someone who has grown accustomed to the royal treatment at this, his regular haunt, but I am pleased to say he hit the mark. Something about this broth, a little salty but rich, set it apart from your usual complimentary soup. The crispy noodles on the side were cut into squares, and I felt as if I were eating a bowl of savory Cap’n Crunch. Loved it.

Rasp also enjoyed a Squid Salad ($6.99), not too large, just the right size. He devoured it, offering me none. That’s OK. I can take or leave the “pork of the sea.”

The off-menu sushi rolls were the Red Ball and the Orange Ball, simply named for their colors. These large sushi rolls took up the better portion of the plate and were simply delicious. With similar beginnings, they each had a tuna center that normally came with cream cheese. He special-ordered these without the cream cheese. Orange Ball had a strong citrus flavor and was topped with salmon. A bit of honey sweetened the finish. Red Ball had spicy tuna on top and a little heat from some jalapeño. I am not sure how he discovered these rolls, but they are fine as frog’s hair.

I wasn’t going to beat that, not in flavor, anyway, so I opted for volume. I started with a bit of nigiri, two pieces each. They were out of Tai/red snapper, so I had the Yellowtail ($4.99). That certainly wasn’t a mistake, fresh as can be, made me glad they were out of snapper. Masago/Smelt Roe ($4.25) was my second choice, and the darker flavor of this roe was a departure I enjoyed.

On the sushi menu, I noticed a lot of tempura. After hamming it up for a couple of weeks, that’s what I was looking to avoid. I finally settled on the more vibrant Fireball Roll ($10.99). With spicy tuna tartare and avocado, we are off to a great start. Top that with more tuna, Sriracha, spicy mayo and scallions — it just gets better with this clean, sharp-looking roll that isn’t heavily sauced.

So far, so good. When you’re on a roll (pun intended) why stop there? Why not try the Hibachi Lunch ($11.99) and make the rounds on this menu? More than likely I’d be taking this home for dinner anyway. The price for this one included shrimp, and it can go up or down depending on if you prefer steak, chicken, veggies or filet mignon. Fried rice and noodles come with mixed vegetables that include broccoli, zucchini, onion and carrot with perfectly cooked butterflied shrimp. Once again, they know how to sauce this stuff. I didn’t get that oversaturated sodium feel and used my yum yum sauce sparingly.

I’ll bet you didn’t see this coming, but I didn’t take anything home with me that day. Blame it on a late start; let’s just call it “lupper.”

We know Rasp loves this place. Here is my take: Chef Sake is another sushi bar, in an unlikely strip mall-ish group of buildings, that really has it together. The rolls aren’t smothered in some Godforsaken sauce that masks the flavor of the entrée. Their strength is in complementing the food with the right amount. Beer and wine are available, again, more to complement the food than to be a booze bar. Clean, fresh and friendly, I think these guys will be around a while.

It’s good to have friends in the restaurant business. They know all the cool places.