Can it have been 20 years since Duke the Punk said, "Let's go get sushi and not pay?" in Repo Man? Yes, sushi has been a mainstream American food for a long time. In Rochester, we have a bunch of places to get it, from the homey authenticity of little Shiki to the groovy hipster vibe of California Rollin'. But until a couple of years ago, residents of Gates had to drive for their sushi.
FormerPlumGarden chef YasuKamiyama, a Gates resident himself, thought that was a shame and opened Edoyain 2003. A friend asked, "Does anyone in Gates want sushi?" Of course they do. Sushi is as American as movies at Tinseltown.
Edoya is a small, family-run affair that, like Shiki, actually has Japanese people in the kitchen. Kamiyama and his wife, Yoshiko, do the cooking, and their daughter, Mai, is the main waitress. When asked why, in practical terms, this matters, Mai answered, "Japanese people know real Japanese food. It's not like Taco Bell, you know?" Gotcha.
My kids had their usual sushi, maki rolls with avocado. Kamiyama makes them with rice outside the seaweed, which makes for a pretty presentation ($5.50 for two rolls). Teriyaki chicken satisfied the universal urge in American children toward a chicken-finger-like entrée ($10.90 with miso soup and salad). My wife, Anne, and I thought the chicken was usually tender.
Of course, these are things you can get at any Japanese restaurant. Sushi advisor Dr. Mike Bobrow was excited about takoyaki, which I'd never heard of ($3.90). We both loved the surprising textural blend of these odd, fried octopus balls. The inside is soft and savory, with chopped octopus, ginger, and cabbage. Outside is a crunchy fried dough, sprinkled with aromatic fish flakes and seaweed powder, and sauced with Japanese mayo and Kamiyama'stakoyaki sauce (think sweet soy barbecue sauce). Pop one of these things in your mouth and prepare for an explosion of sensation.
Dr. Mike says sushi needs to be large enough for one good mouthful, but not too large. Edoya scored well in that regard. Our sushi and sashimi combo ($16.90 per person) had a decent, if not spectacular assortment of fish. Our other companion was slightly disappointed by the assortment and the presentation, which while certainly not sloppy, was also not spectacular. We all agreed that Edoya's salad was better than at most places, with a variety of greens and a great version of the ubiquitous ginger dressing (pungent and not watery).
At any restaurant, I look for what is unique. Sunomono, a vinegar-based seafood salad, was distinctive here. The shredded vegetables were topped by lovely, large pieces of octopus, shrimp, and imitation crab. Kamiyama has fish flown in from the Japanese Fish House in New York City, and has at least one type you can't get anywhere else in town. Kanpachi is like a sweet version of yellowtail, easily chewed and with a bright, clean flavor.
Another winner is the calamari salad, with kikurage mushrooms, bamboo shoots, and lettuce hearts in a subtly sweet dressing with ginger and sesame. If you love mushrooms, you'll appreciate the wonderful kikurage, and the squid itself is sweet and not the least bit chewy.
Many Japanese restaurants have a signature roll. The Edoya roll is a textural bonanza, with crispy flakes (like tempura), imitation crab, cucumber, and a spicy sauce wrapped rice-out, then topped with pieces of shrimp ($7.50).
Lunch specials are available until 2:30 p.m. Sushi, sashimi, or roll combos are $9.90, including soup and salad. And the menu has many other items you'd be used to seeing if you frequent Japanese restaurants: noodle dishes (udon and soba), katsudon (cutlets, egg, and vegetables over rice), and tempura.
Edoya is small and homey. Mai takes good care of the customers, and we thought she did well with our children. It's a bit of trouble to get back to the bathroom. While it doesn't have Shiki's knockout variety of unusual items, the food is good and reasonably priced, and there are a few real gems. And of course, now when you're hankerin' for sushi before your Tinseltown flick, you're covered.
Edoya, 2131 Buffalo Rd., Gates, 247-4866. Hours: Monday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m.
The seasonal Lift Bridge Cafe in Fairport was replaced this summer by the comfort food of WhatchaGotCookin? The unusual name is from a Hank Williams song. Maureen Brainard opened it with her son and CIA graduate, Joe Challenger, as chef. Visit them along the canal all winter for lunch or dinner, Monday through Saturday. 6 North Main Street, Fairport, 377-7770 (www.WhatchaGotCookin.com).
--- Michael Warren Thomas
Michael Warren Thomas can be heard weekends on WYSL 1040 AM. Details and archives available at www.SavorLife.com.