February 10, 2004
Is there anyone out there who still thinks that Sushi is some sort of pompous yuppie fare consumed by people in business suits who only speak in numbers?I doubt it, but just in case, you should all line up single file and march to Sezen. Sezen is a Carbondale community treasure, a dynamic cross-cultural restaurant improbably tucked away in a generic strip mall off Highway 133.It is impossible to exaggerate how delectably inspired the food is here. When we arrived at 5:30 for dinner, there was not another soul in sight. Within the hour every table was full. Apparently this happens every night.On Tuesday nights Sezen offers “2 for 1” on twenty-two of their Sushi rolls. Needless to say, you should get there early. It took us at least twenty minutes to pour over the tantalizing (and extensive) menu just to decide what we would start with. We were both immobilized by ruminating over such a menu.For example, take deciding whether to order first from the Appetizer menu or the special Sushi Bar Appetizer menu, or to just go directly for the order of as many sushi rolls as you can eat before your dinner entrees get to your table. This is assuming, of course, that you’re even ordering dinner entrees. You could just as easily feast away at the bar. So many options – none of them bad..
From the appetizer menu, we ordered the wonderful vegetarian spring rolls ($2.95), the Tofu Dengaku, grilled tofu in peanut miso sauce ($3.95), and the Green Mussel Sake Mushi, Sake miso broth with garlic ($6.95).Also available are many fish and chicken appetizers, such as the Tatsuta-Age, skewered teriyaki chicken dumplings ($4.95) or the Soft Shell Crab, deep fried with garlic ponzu sauce ($9.95).From the special Sushi Bar Appetizer menu, you could find yourself with Sunomono, cucumber salad with sweet vinegar sauce ($3.95), Squid Salad, shredded smoked squid & Japanese veggies ($4.95), or the Tiger’s Eye, squid, salmon and avocado covered with the chef’s special sauce ($10.95).Remember, you’re still on page one of the menu, so take a deep breath, sit up straight, and order the Dynamite Shrimp ($8.95). The menu casually describes it as “Four shrimp in a special sauce.” We suggested they change it to “Four shrimp that arouse special feelings.”Many of the special Sushi rolls are ingenious applications of Japanese methods combined with American sensibilities which are reflected in the names of the rolls as well: The Arizona Roll (Yellow Tail, scallions, avocado, cucumber and cream cheese, $6.50), the Texas (blackened tuna, crab meat, avocado, cucumber, roasted red pepper, $6.50), the Hawaii Roll (tuna, pineapple, spicy nuts, avocado, cucumber, roasted red pepper $6.50).Or try ordering Sex on the Beach (smoked oyster, crab, roasted red pepper, cucumber masago, $6.50) with a straight face.And of course, the most established American/Japanese expression: the California Roll: a sushi roll filled with avocado and crab meat… and they don’t skimp on the crab meat ($5.50). Plus about 45 more… Miami Heat Roll, the Illegal Roll, the Fire Roll, the Vegetarian Passion Roll…. Whew!Still have room for an entree? We did, because eating is our business. The Shrimp and Vegetable Tempura is a mighty satisfying choice at $12.95. We also had the Teriyaki Salmon ($15.95), which is also available as Teriyaki Chicken, Beef or Seafood for a dollar or few less.There’s also a huge selection of Sushi and Sashimi dinners (combo plates ranging from $10.95 to $28.95), noodle specials, vegetarian specials… and everything is available “to go” too.Sezen opened as a restaurant just over two years ago, but local Sushi-holics may remember that their catered fare was available in various valley locations long before the cuisine had a place to call its own.Owners “Kawa” and Bonnie Kawaguchi are still doing the catering, so keep that in mind for your next gathering of one or more people where excellent Sushi may be called for