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Let the good eats roll

Towerview looks for Durham's best sushi

This month, Towerview headed out to look at the best sushi around town. Check out our top picks below.

Mount Fuji

Mount Fuji is not really the place all your friends always want to go. It’s a rare moment to be sitting around the dorm or apartment and all exclaim, “Let’s go to Mount Fuji!” And that’s okay, because when you do go, it makes for all the better of an experience.

Most of my peers are confused as to why I choose Mount Fuji as my sushi spot of choice; I don’t blame them. Fuji doesn’t boast the best roll in Durham, nor does it have the best drinks or best service. It’s not a must-visit place for those coming through the Triangle area like, say, Dame’s or The Pit; one could describe Fuji as completely average, relaxingly so, almost, and that’s what hits it for me.

You don’t go to Mount Fuji for the best sushi in Durham; you go to Mount Fuji to enjoy some nice BOGO deals and kick back with half-off wine or sake. Hell, maybe you’ll even hit up Fuji on a Friday and enjoy some half-off sake. You see, Fuji is mainly used by Duke students for party dinners because the space it occupies lends itself well to long tables, late nights, and God-knows-how-much pad thai.

(Full disclosure: The Chronicle hosts its annual ChronSemi at Mount Fuji because sake and pad thai are key ingredients for a good time/puke on the table.)

The restaurant’s lighting is dim, as the lights bounce off the blood-red walls to the smooth wooden tables, and for those hoping to have a more private dining experience, they have a shōji-enclosed room in the back. But while the back can be a great place to eat with a small group, your best bet is to pick a beautiful fall or spring day and nab a table outside, as Fuji is located in the wonderful Brightleaf Square, which hosts several other fine Durham eateries, like Satisfaction, Little Dipper and Torero’s.

The rolls are fairly large compared to the rolls that come out of Vine, but if you’re ordering take-out then the rolls aren’t actually a great deal; the BOGO only applies to dine-in customers, though if your party is larger than eight people, you still get taxed for both rolls.

If you are going to hit up Mount Fuji, you should absolutely make sure to grab a table there and allot yourself about an hour or so for the ensuing meal. The food takes about 20-25 minutes to come out, which is fine, because people don’t talk enough at dinner anymore, so use the time to choose a wine you think you know, and kick back.

TL;DR: If you want to relax with some friends, get drunk and enjoy some cheap, serviceable sushi and sake, then get a DD and head down to Mount Fuji; also, make sure to grab an outdoor seat.

Sansui

When you google, “best sushi in Durham” a lot of familiar names pop up. Sushi Love, Vine, Kurama, etc. All of them have reviews that range between 3.3 and 4.1 on the usual 5-point scale, meaning their sushi is fine and that’s about it. Then there’s Sansui.

Before I took to the internet to find Durham’s best roll, I had only heard the name Sansui a couple times, and even then, the option to eat there was shot down when I looked up how far away it was from campus. But when I was doing my research for this piece, I found that not only did Sansui have the most Google reviews of any other sushi-based restaurant with 51, it also easily had the highest ratings—a 4.6 out of 5.0. That pretty much made it for me; if I was going to review Durham’s best sushi, I had to make the trek to Sansui.

Now, when I say trek, I am posturing a little bit. From the West Campus bus stop, it takes about 15 minutes to arrive at Sansui, which is located on Highway 55 via I-40 South. The road there is wide open and makes for a beautiful ride, and truth be told, if you aren’t looking for it, you’ll fly right past the blue-roofed joint. Unlike Mount Fuji, Sansui isn’t exactly working visual wonders on the outside, but like all good things, it’s not the outside that matters.

When you step through the doors, you’re greeted by the beautiful, sleek interior, with a shōji-sealed rooms in the back and an interior made up of bamboo and fine glass tables, with a giant golden-hew glass fixture sitting right in the middle of the dining area surrounded by a protective bamboo structure. Due to its obscure location, Sansui was all but empty when I went, which actually made for a nice meal.

In an attempt to mix things up and avoid the all-too-familiar California roll, I branched out and ordered the Kelly and Hawaiian rolls—it’s worth noting that all rolls are 50 percent off in-store, so instead of worrying about not being able to finish two rolls in a BOGO deal, you can enjoy a dinner well under $10 at Sansui. The Kelly roll was one of Sansui’s Big Rolls, so while it was a little more rice than I normally prefer, the crab the filled the inside of the roll was delicious and made up for the Chipotle bowl-like amount of rice I consumed. The Hawaiian was delicious, as the top half was wrapped with thinly-sliced pineapple, which made for a surprisingly wonderful sushi addition. All in all, the rolls were probably the best I’ve had in the Durham area.

That being said, the environment of Sansui is very, very different from a place like Mount Fuji. There are plenty of televisions about the restaurant, but the sound is turned off and the store does not play any music either. I wasn’t sure if this was just because I was one of three customers in the place—I went early, around 5:45 p.m.—so I made sure to go back and look up others’ experiences and found that the silence is a daily occurrence at Sansui.

The food at Sansui leaves little to be desired—it really is delicious and the best roll in Durham—but in all honesty, if I’m trying to go enjoy myself and have a nice dinner, I think I would still stick by my guns and make the shorter trip to Mount Fuji. It’s in a better spot relative to campus, has a better atmosphere and the sushi, though not as good as Sansui, isn’t bad enough to send you running. Still, if you don’t make the trip to Sansui at least once to check it out, you’re cheating yourself.

Sushi Love

For many Duke students, Sushi Love is the de facto top choice for sushi—it’s close to campus, has a solid buy-one-get-one-free promotion and, of course, it delivers on food points. The place is so popular that when it was added as a Merchants-on-Points delivery vendor last year, students counted down the minutes until they could place their first order and overwhelmed the system in a flood of orders “unlike anything we’ve ever seen,” the delivery service commented to The Chronicle at the time. But does Sushi Love’s popularity come from convenience or actual merit?

A little of both. The sushi’s not perfect, but all things considered, it’s pretty good. When you’re eating in-house, all rolls are buy-one-get-one, so you can get a decent amount of fish for your cash. Standouts include the spicy tuna of the Blossom Roll and the jalapenos and salmon of the Acapulco Roll. In addition to the sushi, they also have a range of noodle dishes and Asian fusion-type entrees.  

But where Sushi Love really separates itself from the competition is the convenience factor. Delivery sushi might not sound like a great idea, but I’ve ordered way more times than can be healthy (as my low food point total last semester can confirm) and I’ve never gotten anything that wasn’t in prime condition. The wait can sometimes be long, but it’s always worth it.

And, of course, they have a Blue Devil Roll (shrimp tempura, cucumber and spicy mayo topped with filet mignon and spicy eel sauce) which is… devilishly good. (Sorry. I had to.)

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