Restaurant review: Sono sushi

http://www.sonoraleigh.com

For several years now, I’ve had an bunch of friends that get together about once a month to consume vast quantities of raw–and cooked–fishies. Our group’s been going out long enough now that we’ve tried a good number of the sushi places in the area… and we all have our favorites.

When we can’t all get together (or aren’t sure our dozen-plus table will fit in the establishment), we send out a scouting party. This past week, a handful of us took an after-work jaunt to the revitalized downtown area and the newly-opened Sono. We’d heard good things, and we weren’t disappointed.

The decor, for starters, was lovely. Low-lit, glowing red and laquered black with wide, comfortable booths and comfortable chairs. The art was a fun departure from the stock tapestries and dragons motif–instead it leaned more modern, with stands of odd-shaped high-gloss bamboo and large screen-printed photography covering an entire wall. The lost shoe was an odd whimsical touch I loved.

As for the food and service–not a thing was lost. We got a handful of starters–fantastic tempura calimari with their fantastic ‘o’ sauce (an aoli-like mayo-based concoction), some wonton-wrapped shrimp with a sweet-spicy glaze, and panko-coated hot wings with a sticky sweet soy based sauce. Another friend got a tempura-ed tofu salad–she was disappointed that the salad itself was a bit dry, but the tofu was quite tasty.

We love to try the appetizers, but the real test would be the sushi. We picked a handful of rolls from the gorgeous glossy menu (the online version’s just as drool-worthy), and got a few pieces of straight up rice-and-fish. The straight sushi was fantastic–cool buttery fish, perfectly formed rice, evenly distributed schmear of wasabi.

The rolls were inventive–we tried the Crunchy Diablo, and the jalepeno-laced roll was both spicy and flavorful. Not really what you’d think of when you think sushi, but really fun to eat and delightfully presented (split down the center instead of sliced into disks). Sono’s version of ebi maki, with sweet shrimp, crab, avocado, asparagus, and cucumber was light and refreshing. The vegetable roll, with tempura sweet potato and asparagus, was adequate but did not surpass the area’s by-far best veggie roll, the Count Basie (from Sushi Blues). Their version of a Spicy Tempura roll was as good as Wasabi’s I/O Dragon (also an area standard for sushi deliciousness).

We also tried the Lava, the Hard Rock, and the Maryland. Lava was a substantial roll, with cream cheese and crab in the roll, and a baked scallop and seafood mix on top. The flavor was good, and the cream cheese and the smooth baked seafood were complimentary. Hard Rock and Maryland were more typical rolls, both well-executed. It’s worth noting, also, that presentation was as elegant as the decor. Nests of paper-thin vegetable peelings held single blooms on simple plateware. Quite polished. And the silverware was gorgeous, heavy, substantial. No detail left undone.

The singular stand-out roll of the night was the Piano. Entirely unexpected, but totally yummy. Generally rolls with wasabi /sauce/ pack a bit too much punch, but the avocado wrap and the contrasting sweet sauce evened it all out beautifully.

One member of our party–not a fan of the sushi, generally–ordered a regular entree. She got a scallop and shrimp dish, served over risotto with a halo of frizzly fried scallions. It was equally as well-executed, the scallops and shrimp both properly cooked and the sauce not overpowering. The risotto was creamy and substantially studded with mushrooms.

We lacked any room for dessert but did take a peek at the dessert offerings for posterity. We were disappointed not to see a lot of variety–they seem to specialize in mousse and custard-type finishings, though they did have an extensive after-dinner drink / coffee offering.

The biggest–and best–surprise came at the end of the evening. Our usual sushi outings run in the fairly-expensive range, with an average diner (drinks, appetizers, and two rolls or several a la carte selections) in the $40-50 range. We all got out of Soho for around $30 apiece, which was even more pleasing since there was no corresponding drop in quality or environs. A total win.

Summary: It won’t replace Wasabi as the sushi crowd’s main squeeze (its location , the additional thai menu offerings, and the convenient back room we can take over with our crowd still keep it on top), but it’ll certainly be entertaining us on the sly side. Delicious, surprisingly less expensive than the norm, and gorgeous inside. Definitely recommend.

4 responses to “Restaurant review: Sono sushi”

  1. corwin Says:

    I am intrigued by this Crunchy Diablo. Other than jalapeƱo peppers, what is in it? It seems like every place that has a spicy something roll doesn’t actually make it spicy in any way.

  2. bascha Says:

    The Crunchy Diablo contains (I had to look it up on their menu again to recall /exactly/ what was inside): spicy crab salad, avocado, cream cheese, and jalapeno, dusted in panko and deep-fried (of course) topped with spicy mayo and eel sauce. It’s not, like, boil-your-face-off hot but it had a bit of bite (mostly due to the jalapeno, methinks).

    If you want a spicy roll with bite, get that wasabi roll from Wasabi. It’s crazy hot. I remember it almost killed G. that one time…

  3. corwin Says:

    I may have to try the Wasabi Roll next time we’re there. It doesn’t have to be unbearably hot, I’m just generally disappointed by “spicy” rolls. Except for this one place in Durham near Robusto’s. There was a bright, glistening, red drop of hot sauce on each piece. That was really good.

    Anyway, the Crunchy Diablo sounds great. Actually, all the special rolls look really good. I’m going to have to check this place out.

  4. Kat Says:

    Totally late to this post - but hells yes, I’d like to check this place out :)

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