Why Pink? Why Sumo? I'm not sure that I understand the restaurant's name (as it conjures up images of a very large, pony-tailed wrestler in fuchsia bikini bottoms) but there is no mistaking the quality of the food at Westport's latest Sushi and Sake cafe, PINK SUMO! Located at 8 Church Street, across from the YMCA and the colossally popular Spotted Horse, PINK SUMO suits the cozy, subterranean space that formally housed Manolo and, before that, Zest. Those restaurants couldn't seem to make it work in this location but I am pretty sure that PINK SUMO is here to stay. Here's why...
For starters, PINK SUMO'S owner, Skye Kwok, is doing it right by employing former NOBU Sushi Bar chef Eric Cheng to run the kitchen. With great expertise and aplomb, Cheng presents each dish as a work of art. And as the painter chooses the best oils for her art, Cheng uses the highest quality sushi-grade fish purchased by Kwok (also owner of SWEET BASIL in Fairfield) from YAMA, the renowned Japanese fish purveyor in New Jersey. Experienced chef, high quality fish and charming, newly popular location are certainly the ingredients for success.
We started with the CRISPY AVOCADO SHRIMP - lightly battered, fried shrimp on a bed of diced avocado and topped with a refreshing mango salad. The sweet and tangy veggies were just the right balance for the warm, crunchy shrimp and the cool avocado concoction. The combination of flavor, texture and temperature of the various ingredients added to the experience and reminded me of the famous SUSHI BY GARI creations in Manhattan.
Next, we sampled the CAJUN SALMON TATAKI. Tataki is meat or fish that is seared very briefly over a hot flame or pan, briefly marinated in vinegar, sliced thinly and usually seasoned with ginger. Here, thin rounds of salmon with blackened edges were topped with a Japanese Salsa and drizzled with a cilantro puree and topped with watercress. This dish should have been loaded with flavor but it was sadly bland. Perhaps Chef Cheng is hesitant to blast the flavors but this dish was definitely under-spiced. Any tongue ordering a CAJUN item is expecting quite a kick. Bring it on, Chef! We can't wait!
There was a killer TATAKI, though, and its name is MONK FISH LIVER! Though the name may sound daunting, the taste and texture resembled what would be the sushi equivalent of FOIS GRAS. Tender, liver pate rounds were topped with caviar and lightly showered with Chef Cheng's special sauce.
Most delectable of all, though, was the TORO (tuna belly) TARTAR. Topped simply with a dollop of caviar and resting gently in a small puddle of PONZU sauce (a citrus-based, tart sauce made from the Yuzo friut), thisTORO was melt-in-your mouth smooth and buttery. Without question, this TARTAR is a must- must!
The regular TUNA TARTAR was also tasty yet not nearly as scrumptious as the TORO. It is served with pine nuts and tobiko (flying fish roe) and garnished with plantain chips but this foodie will go straight for the "belly" every time.
Also extraordinary were some of the PINK SUMO Signature Rolls. I give the BOLLYWOOD an A+ for creativity, flavor and texture. This roll combines spicy tuna and avocado and is then wrapped with more tuna and finally drizzled with a mildly spicy, curry sauce. I am most definitely partial to curry but even those that don't crave that particular flavor will appreciate the winning juxtaposition of tastes in this hearty roll. Another winner was the MIRAKU DRAGON ROLL. Though the ingredients were not extraordinary - shrimp tempura, asparagus, eel, avocado and tobiko - the shrimp tempura, perfectly fried, along with the fresh avocado and sweet eel were perfectly merged. We had high hopes for the SUMO KING ROLL, a combination of King Salmon, lobster, mango and avocado and topped with spicy King Crab, but this roll lacked pizazz. Again, I hope Chef Cheng will begin to challenge us more with his spices as the restaurant finds its way. The MANGO TANGO - King Crab, avocado,mango, salmon and tobiko - was beautiful in presentation and mild in flavor. It is perhaps the perfect roll for beginners as well as children who might prefer a slightly sweeter sushi experience.
Another great item on the menu, for kids and grown-ups looking for a winter's day remedy, are the various UDON NOODLE options. The STIR-FRIED UDON are infused with shitake mushrooms and mixed with sweet onion and chives. You can add chicken, beef or shrimp for that protein punch. My next visit will include the SPICY SUMO CURRY UDON SOUP with addition of shrimp, scallop, eggplant and tomato in a spicy curry broth.
PINK SUMO also offers, of course, typical entrees, soups, salads and nearly 30 “sumotizers,” or appetizers. And, for those that enjoy partaking in the SAKE experience, the bar at Pink Sumo is stocked with 25 varieties. These include hot and cold Sake, flavored Sake and even sparkling Sake. And as for TEA, the Green Tea at PINK SUMO is the best. Authentic, premium YAMAMOTO "TAKE" tea - rich, powerful, and strong, it is the perfect accompaniment to Japanese cuisine done right. PINK SUMO... now that large man in the fuchsia bikini is infinitely more enticing. Make a res. and check it out!
PINK SUMO 4 Church Lane, Westport 203-557-8080