Oishi Japanese Restaurant
Location: 511 S.W. Sixth St. (at Evergreen Avenue), Redmond
Hours: Lunch 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday to Saturday, noon to 3 p.m. Sunday; dinner 4 to 10 p.m. every day
Price range: Appetizers and salads $3.95 to $15.95, entrees $9.95 to $16.95, sushi and sashimi $2.95 to $14.95 (combinations to $27.95)
Credit cards: American Express, Discover, MasterCard, Visa
Kids’ menu: No
Vegetarian menu: Numerous tofu and vegetable options
Alcoholic beverages: Beer, wine and sake
Outdoor seating: No
Contact: www.oishiredmond.com or 541-548-3035
Food: B. Most sushi fish is frozen, not fresh, but the Japanese menu is authentic.
Service: B+. Language is a problem for some servers, but everyone is trying hard.
Atmosphere: A. An artistic flair has been injected into the old Redmond Hotel building.
Value: B+. Prices are mid-spectrum for sushi restaurants in Central Oregon.
When I think about good sushi, I think of fresh fish — not frozen. And that’s the root of my main complaint about the Oishi Japanese Restaurant, which opened last summer in downtown Redmond.
On our first visit, my dining companion and I ordered the namesake Oishi roll, which featured raw yellowtail (hamachi) and albacore tuna (shiro maguro), topped with garlic ponzu sauce, twirled in rice along with shrimp, scallops, salmon and salmon roe. We pushed it aside after eating only a couple of bites, feeling that the fish tasted dry and stale.
This prompted me to ask a co-owner and sushi chef about the seafood delivery schedule. He confided that only ahi tuna (maguro) and salmon were fresh; everything else was frozen.
“We can’t get the other fresh,” he said.
Yet two different sushi restaurant owners in Bend assured me that with rare exceptions, they obtain all manner of fresh fish three times a week, in deliveries from Portland and the Oregon coast. They are able to do so, one of them told me, by having an established delivery network and being willing to pay a little extra.
So there you have it. You may pay substantially less for a specialty roll or a plate of sashimi at Oishi than you would at, say, Kanpai or 5 Fusion & Sushi Bar, but you’re making a sacrifice in quality.
That said, there are several good reasons why you should point your appetite in the direction of Oishi — a word that, incidentally, is Japanese for “delicious.”
First, it has the most complete and authentic Japanese menu of any restaurant in Central Oregon, extending well beyond sushi to noodle and rice dishes, teriyaki plates, lunchtime bento and more.
Second, a lot of care has been taken in renovating this spacious and high-ceilinged corner establishment in the old Redmond Hotel building, open since July of last year. From the hachimaki headbands worn by the red-clad chefs behind the sushi bar, to the crimson-and-cream color scheme on the walls and jade-green upholstery on the chairs, this is a delightful room.
Third, if you’re careful about your orders, you may be treated to a very artistic presentation of food, from the dragon heads that adorn serpentine sushi rolls to the cupcake-like stack of “The Tower.” Japanese chefs teach that a dish must be appealing to the eye for its flavor to be fully appreciated, and Oishi seems to take that into account.
The menu here is long and very complicated, a numbered list of 118 items that becomes even more difficult to wade through because it includes photos that lack descriptions. We found the takeout menu to be more readable than the dining menu.
And service is a little uncertain. A young man was excellent on one of our visits; a young woman had difficulty on another. At least everyone seems to be trying hard.
My favorite sushi item was a Black Dragon Roll. Both seafood items in this roll are cooked — broiled freshwater eel (unagi) and crab meat — so the issue of freshness didn’t arise. The seafood was wrapped in rice with slices of avocado and cucumber.
“The Tower” was my companion’s favorite, no doubt because it had so many of the items she likes: crab, bay scallop, a mash of spicy maguro tuna, and avocado. I enjoyed the mayonnaise sauce drizzled over the fish and rice.
I already discussed the Oishi roll. In search of fresh raw fish, I followed with everyday maguro nigiri, two slices of red-meat ahi tuna gently laid upon rice. It was good fish. It was good rice. I was pleased.
On the non-sushi side of the ledger, we sampled four dishes, thoroughly enjoyed two of them, and were so-so on two other items.
My favorite was nabeyaki udon, served steaming in a cast-iron pot. This bowl of noodle soup reminded me of visits to see my brother in Japan.
Udon are thick, round wheat-flour noodles especially popular for lunch in the Asian archipelago. In this soup, the noodles were only part of a blend that included chicken, two kinds of mushrooms, green onion, wakame seaweed and slices of fish cake, topped with a tempura-battered shrimp. The soup was rich and tasty.
My companion was very pleased with her salmon-skin salad. Broiled salmon skin, sliced to include a good amount of the fish’s flesh, was served atop mixed greens with cucumber, daikon (Japanese radish) and masago (smelt eggs). It was offered with house dressing on the side — and this ginger-spiced vinaigrette was not a disappointment.
Tempura shrimp and vegetables were disappointing, however. Although lightly battered and fried, they were served very oily, so that we couldn’t fully appreciate the flavor of the veggies — in this case, eggplant, broccoli, zucchini, onion and yam, presented with a light dipping sauce.
Chicken teriyaki was merely mediocre. Grilled and sliced chicken breast meat, not especially tender, was presented with white rice, carrots and broccoli in teriyaki sauce. Typically made with soy sauce, sugar and sake, this recipe was much too thin.
— Reporter: janderson@ bendbulletin.com