Verona, NJ – Baristaville doesn’t lack for sushi spots – everyone has their favorite and most are solid options. You can even bring the kids! But most have yet to reach the Manhattan-level sushi palace greatness of notables such as Nobu, Sushi Yasuda, Hatsuhana and the highest peak of all, Masa. However, hiding in plain site in a strip mall next to a Krauszer’s, is a very special gem called Umai Sushi & Steak House in Verona.
The Scene – pocket sized and packed, even on a weeknight. This is not a hushed and reverential sushi den, it is more like a lively private party with pumping, high energy club music. Get your sushi ON woot-woot! Maybe that kind of music is not your thing? Not to worry, it will fade into the background as soon as the food hits the table and anyway, you’re not there for conversation. Bring your favorite foodie friend, your favorite bottle (BYOB), an appetite and prepare for pleasure.
The Food – spectacular! There are two dining options: at a table ala carte from the extensive menu or omakase at the counter (chef’s choice starting at $85 for 12 pieces). This is a spot for true sushi aficionados, most of it is flown in daily straight from Japan and worth every penny. First up, some edamame. Yes, you can get that everywhere, but here it seemed more plump and flavorful, glistening with sea salt. Next, how about an appetizer of tempura, tuna tartare or try a plate of “Tako-Su” (silky sliced octopus in Sunomo sauce). A must – some sushi & sashimi. Recent sushi favorites included a melting seared King Salmon, tender O-Toro and Special Hagachi Toro with a bump of Osetra Caviar (because you’re worth it). Round it all out with a fun special roll, such as the jaunty “Spicy Crispy Crunch Roll”: a spicy tuna roll topped with a slice of tuna, masago roe, crunchy bits and a special house sauce.
Where’s the Beef? Meat lovers rejoice! Add some special beef to the experience with Kobe beef sashimi, a prime New York strip steak or a Miyazaki Strip flown in straight from Japan.
Good to Know: 1) Reservations are a must – do it the old fashioned way and give them a call. 2) Cash and most credit cards are accepted. 3) There is a small parking lot out front that will most likely be filled by the time you arrive. Save yourself the aggravation and park at one of the metered spots across the street. 4) The food is high-end; the scene is casual.
Mary Connolly is also known as “Marie Fromage”. Follow her in Instagram @MarieFromage