Sushi lovers: rejoice. Just imagine the anticipation you feel after placing an order for 15 quality pieces of salmon sashimi. Your order, jotted down on a paper menu, is whisked away by one of several waitresses into the hectic insanity that is completely normal for a Thursday evening here. Not five minutes later, under soft red and tan lighting and amid the noisy multilingual conversations, the sushi appears, neatly arranged but nevertheless a lump of gorgeous fish. Smooth, soft texture and deep flavors emphasize that this is not just any all-you-can-eat sushi restaurant.
This Mecca of such gustatory indulgence is called, of course, Sushi Palace, a hopping one-room restaurant in Hamden, Conn., which serves unlimited sushi for around $18 ($16 on weekdays) per person. To make this pilgrimage, you can either take a taxi (around $15 each way) or take the bus (for $2.50) up to 1473 Dixwell Ave. The price of getting there is well worth the meal, but only if you know what you are doing.
Sushi Palace is a fantastic place for sashimi and some of their traditional rolls, and I recommend it to those sushi lovers who can shamelessly put away more sushi than any of their friends and leave still wanting more. The quality and quantity of the fish that you can order here makes the experience so awesome that you will be telling all of your friends about just how much you ate. The most I have heard of so far is my buddy, who ordered 80 pieces of unagi (eel) and popped them all, one by one, over the course of 20 minutes. The chef and owner, who trained from Masaharu Morimoto of “Iron Chef,” acknowledges that some people see it as a challenge to get their money’s worth, but fortunately enough fill up on the rice that the restaurant can still make a profit.
The way that the pricing at Sushi Palace works is such: for $18 you are allowed to order as much as you want off of a paper menu. Everything on the menu is included in the price, and indeed the tagline on the restaurant’s Web site is, “order what you want but eat what you order.” To enforce this mantra and discourage over-ordering, you must pay extra for the excess sushi that is not consumed. (This has almost happened to me twice!) Order carefully, for there are certain dishes on the menu that are fantastic, and others that will leave you questioning the Palace’s superiority.
Definitely check out the sashimi. The selection is relatively diverse, and the product tastes much better than at other all-you-can-eat establishments. The albacore tuna, tobiko, unagi, salmon and red snapper were all delicious and not filling, which is important if you are trying many different dishes. The presentation is surprisingly artful for the size of the food preparation area, which houses three to four chefs in a space smaller than my Yale single.
If you aren’t into the raw fish thing, you could try some of the more traditional rolls, but many of these are only average-tasting. For something interesting, try the butterfly roll: at Sushi Palace, the chefs like to experiment with a mango sauce, which makes for a tropical, sweet addition to the usually salty and savory dish. Other than this, though, I would avoid the traditional rolls. The California roll, for example, was dry and had heaping quantities of rice, which was tasteless and filling.
Finally, avoid anything coming from the kitchen. The pork and chicken gyozas and any of the tempura fried items were not up to the quality of other New Haven restaurants. And again, they will only fill your stomach’s valuable space, which is better devoted to sashimi.