Before I dive into this blog post head first, let me just apologize to all my loyal blog post readers. I kind of spoiled everyone while I was unemployed. During my job search I had plenty of time to churn out a post every other day, but since I started working that seems pretty unsustainable. In addition, after sitting in front of two computer screens for 8+ hours a day, the first thing I want to do when I get home doesn’t usually involve a computer. Going forward I might end up posting a blog post every week or two.
If you’re like Dr. Steve, you know a thing or two about shushi sandwiches. And if you don’t then you’ve been seriously missing out. I, like most former non-foodies, was a little skeptical when I first heard about sushi when it became super popular about a decade ago (based on the prevalence of avocado in this cuisine, I’m wondering if sushi was the precursor to the current avocado craze). But then I tried it for the first time. I still remember it. Back in 2005 when I was still at Boston University, my dad took my friend Kyle and I to FuGaKyu in Brookline (I’m still convinced this place is run by the Yakuza). At the time I didn’t realize how lucky I was, since it’s been consistently rated as one of the best sushi restaurants in Boston and on the east coast. Very rarely does eating a food change your life. But I truly believe that the moment I tried sushi for the first time my entire palate changed. Prior to that I had been a bit of a finicky eater, but since then I’ve been willing to try just about anything. At first, like most sushi n00bs, I would stick to basic rolls like Shrimp Tempura, California Rolls, Philadephia Rolls, etc. but as my experience with sushi and sashimi has grown, I now opt for the most exotic and intriguing combinations on the menu.
Over the past few years since living in both Hunterdon County and New Brunswick, I have tried to explore the limited but fairly high quality Japanese restaurant options in Central Jersey. Some of my favorites include Hotoke and Sushi Room in New Brunswick, Fujiyama in Hackettstown (really Mansfield, but whatever), Jo Sho in Somerset, and one that I’ve learned most people have never heard about: Wasabi Sushi in Clinton. And you know what? That’s a damn shame, because while it’s not the best sushi I’ve ever had, the experience, atmosphere, specials, and reasonable prices make it one of the best sushi restaurants I’ve ever frequented.
This is Jay, a true sushi master. Together with wife Sue and son Rich, the family has been running Wasabi Sushi at 5 Main Street in Clinton, NJ for over a decade now. According to trusted sushi source, David “Zhangsley” Zhang, Wasabi opened during our freshman year of high school, which would have been either 2001 or 2002. It doesn’t have a big sign or a fancy storefront, but nestled between the Clinton Hallmark and what used to be Dani and Jonny’s (I think it’s a travel agency now? Why the hell would people still use travel agencies anyway? Haven’t they heard of the internet?) you might not look twice at it, even though it’s been there for ten years.
As soon as you walk in, you’ll notice how small it is, which isn’t really a problem. With about eight tables and a sushi bar, I’ve never once had a problem getting seated, regardless of whether I go on a Wednesday or a Saturday. Then you’ll notice the tasteful, Japanese-inspired decor, and while you’re basking in the ambiance Jay and Sue will no doubt greet you with a warm welcome, as they do with every guest (as long as you aren’t being an obnoxious jagaloon). Sue plays both gracious hostess and server, always taking your order with a genuine smile and doing her best to remember your name and favorite rolls. The menu is pretty varied, with a wide selection of fresh sushi, sashimi, creative salads and great (let me stress, GREAT) lunch specials. They have all the familiar rolls for the faint of heart, and for the adventurous they have a long list of house rolls and specials that never disappoint. However, for die-hard fans, such as Zhangsley and myself, you might be rewarded with complimentary edamame, miso soup, or even your own personal roll. Next time you’re there ask for the Zhang Roll (Super Dragon Roll with Spicy Sauce) or the Devin Roll (White Tuna, Cucumber, Eel & Avocado Roll with Spicy Sauce), your taste buds will not be disappointed. I highly recommend the Spicy Calamari Salad, while the tako (baby octopus) appetizer is also pretty scrumptious. Plus you can never go wrong with the Crunch Roll.
Another huge plus is that it’s BYOB, so definitely bring a bottle of wine or some craft beer to enjoy along with your meal. In addition to a nice compliment to the fresh fish, it really cuts down on the price, which is already pretty low. It’s tough to leave there spending more than $30, plus when you bring a bottle of wine you get to impress your lady with your fancy wine knowledge. But you’ll probably have to end up opening your own bottle if you have Rich as your server, since Rich has yet to successfully open a bottle for me (lolz). One of the reasons I (and I suspect many people) love Japanese cuisine is the beautiful presentation, and as you can see from my “Devin Roll” photo, Wasabi Sushi delivers in that department as well.
If you’re one of those people who simply can’t get behind eating seafood, then I’m so very sorry for you since you’re missing out on, in my opinion, the most decadent, delicious, and flavorful food group. But if that’s the case then I can understand your aversion to sushi. If you’re merely hesitant to try it (maybe the concept seems weird to you) then I would suggest trying some mainstream or tempura options first to ease into it. Shrimp tempura is usually a solid choice for sushi beginners, as I venture to say that’s where most sushi lovers began. Hell, I still order shrimp tempura because it’s so damn delicious. But for me, it’s all about confusing my taste buds with different textures, flavors, and temperatures. That’s what makes sushi so great. When I see a roll that involves some sort of tempura, raw fish, and fruit, I simply can’t pass it up. Those are usually the most delicious, and if you ever venture to Hotoke in New Brunswick, try the Godzilla Roll (think macadamia nuts and strawberries), I assure you it’s worth the $18. Maybe the best roll I’ve ever eaten.
So if you’re thinking about venturing into the sushi world for the first time (or even if you’re a sushi connoisseur) and you’re ever in Central NJ, then I implore you to visit Jay and Sue at Wasabi Sushi in Clinton. They really care about their customers and have a passion for what they do. It’s super apparent and I felt as though more people need to know how great they are. Order the Spicy Calamari Salad, Zhang Roll, Devin Roll, and tell Sue that I sent you. You won’t be disappointed. Oh and I’m sure there are tons of other fabulous sushi places around here that I haven’t had the opportunity to frequent yet. Wasabi 31 in Flemington is pretty good as well, plus its an incredible value. If there are some other spots you think I should know about, don’t hesitate to let me know. Shit, let’s go together! But yeah, make sure Wasabi Sushi is on your to-do list and needless to say, I’m damn proud to be the mayor on foursquare.