Japanese delights at a reasonable price

The problem with sushi and sashimi is that they are really the only things I know how to order at a Japanese restaurant.

japanese food sushi 88 (photo credit: )
japanese food sushi 88
(photo credit: )
The problem with sushi and sashimi is that they are really the only things I know how to order at a Japanese restaurant, and I always feel I must be missing out on other great Japanese delicacies. Dining at Japanika, all that changed. They have introduced a new menu with prices so reasonable that I could afford to become adventurous and try something different. The eatery is decorated in true Japanese minimalist style, with a long counter behind which the Japanese (I believe he was actually Thai) sushi maker in traditional garb is hard at work. The ingredients for sushi, especially the seafood, should be fresh and each roll should have color, flavor and texture. Watching the chef prepare the rolls is part of the dining experience, and this chef was more than adept. The soup we ordered was good: orange vegetables with coconut milk - more Thai than Japanese in my opinion but a really tasty winter soup. The traditional lighter miso soup is also available. Dror Shushan, the restaurant's culinary adviser, recommended we try the three new sushi rolls the restaurant has created. The first was the special Japanika roll - inside-out filled with salmon skin, shrimp tempura and vegetables with a coating of avocado, teriyaki and sesame. While this may not be authentic, the mixture of flavors made it one of the most special sushi I have ever tasted. The sunset roll, filled with salmon, flying-fish eggs, avocado, asparagus and chives and coated with sweet potato, was also very good as was the salmon grill roll with avocado, cucumber and asparagus, wrapped with seared salmon with chili cream, flying-fish eggs and chives. The marinated salmon in soya, ginger and green onion served with hot sesame oil was tasty; not filling but nice as an extra. The seafood noodles, adapted to Israeli taste, were a bit too sweet for my palate but made up a generous helping with plenty of fresh seafood. The highlight of our meal, and one I most highly recommend, was the tataki tuna - seared raw tuna with herb coating, served on a bed of seaweed and cucumbers in a miso and sesame sauce. The contrast of colors made it a visual delight, the tuna so fresh it melted in your mouth, with a hint of spiciness that was just perfect. The dessert was another pleasant surprise - a green tea mousse wrapped in white chocolate with hot chocolate sauce. Neither too sweet nor too heavy, it came out just right. We had to try the hot sake, served in the traditional Japanese ceramic utensils, to end off the evening. I had always drunk sake cold until now, so this was a new experience. It tasted very good and indeed proved a nice way to finish the meal. Owner Avi Leani spent many years in the US, where he developed a liking for sushi. Upon his return to Israel he discovered his newfound liking to be very expensive. He therefore decided to open a reasonably priced sushi restaurant here for everyone to enjoy. Judging by the non-stop clientele and the three Japanika restaurants now flourishing, he has succeeded. Combinations of maki, negeri and cones range from NIS 29 to 39. Tataki tuna is NIS 24. Noodles range from NIS 28 to 34. The Japanika branch we visited was at Yirimiyahu 47, Tel Aviv, (03) 544 5196; another is at Dizengoff 128, (03) 529 1014. Lunch specials are from 12:30 to 6 p.m. Open daily from 11 a.m. to midnight. Japanika Kiosk Sushi Bar is located at Rothschild corner Allenby. All three restaurants are not kosher.