BY EMMA SLONINA, Staff Columnist
I have found it: the best sushi I’ve enjoyed thus far in the metro Detroit area.
My friend has mentioned Koji Japanese Restaurant in Northville several times, but we recently went on a fluke. Plans fell through and our sushi cravings kicked in. Faced with the decision between going to a cheap local sushi place, Sushi and Rolls in Livonia, or going to Koji in Northville, we opted for the huge selection (though pricier menu) of Koji.
I am so glad we did. We took almost half an hour going through the menu, picking half a dozen rolls on behalf of ourselves and our sushi-novice companions. They had a full-color photographic menu, which makes ordering for picky eaters much easier, but ordering for sushi-lovers way more difficult. My friend and I hummed and hawed, weighing the pros and cons of each roll, considering what we’d had recently and whether or not we should try new rolls.
Ultimately, we chose the Black Dragon (deep-fried shrimp, eel, cucumber, and avocado topped with eel sauce), the Downtown Roll (tuna, salmon, egg, and crab roll, topped with eel sauce, spicy sauce, and scallion), the Dynamite Roll (California roll topped with assorted seafood and spicy sauce, then baked), the King Crab roll (king crab, cucumber, and avocado roll with fish roe on top), Koji Crunch (sushi rice deep fried then topped with spicy crab salad and octopus), and the simple yellowtail scallion roll.
Every roll was delicious, but the Downtown, King Crab, and Koji Crunch rolls were exceptional. The Downtown and King Crab reminded me of the first sushi I tried four years ago at the Farmington Hills Kabuki restaurant – full of fresh fish, topped with bright orange masago, with clean, light flavors. The Koji Crunch is nothing like that – being deep-fried and covered in a spicy seafood medley – but I recently tried Totoro’s (Ann Arbor) version of the same roll and Koji’s is much better.
While 52 pieces of sushi between four is just about enough, that didn’t stop us from getting just a little bit more. Our companions chose a hot appetizer – the Yasai croquet; deep-fried mashed potatoes and vegetables – while we went for a couple of pieces of nigiri for ourselves.
I spotted the elusive “uni” on the menu – sea urchin. My first – and last – encounter with this briny gem was last summer in East Lansing. Everywhere I’ve gone since has it on their menus, but never has it in stock. This was my lucky day. No disappointed, embarrassed smile from the waitress as she looked over our order. Salty, eggy sea urchin arrived at our table moments later. It was worth every cent of the $4 I paid for that one piece.
We also each got a piece of tuna nigiri, my friend got scallop nigiri, and I got tamago nigiri – made with a slice of sweet cooked egg on top of sushi rice. It is horribly simple and yet so perfect. Sushi rice can taste so plain next to more aggressive flavors, but paired with the light sweetness of the egg, it tastes remarkably salty.
While sushi is usually a treat for us anyway, Koji is an extra-special treat. Including tax and tip, it cost about $100 to feed the four of us. We got some of the more expensive rolls, and don’t usually have a group of four, but the meal didn’t even come with miso soup or those awful ginger-dressing salads (I know someone out there likes them, just not me…)
Unfortunately, for only a little less somewhere else, the quality and service can’t even compare. Everywhere else has gradually disappointed me more and more upon each visit, but now that I’ve found my special sushi place, I can rest a little easier. At least until I find the next greatest sushi restaurant in metro Detroit…
Koji is located on Mary Alexander Court in Northville. Parking is available nearby. For more information, visit their website at http://kojisushi.com/ or call (248) 344-0888. Open Monday-Saturday for lunch and dinner.