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Beijing Scene, Volume 5, Issue 14, June 25 - July 1


Sanlitun South Bar Street (next to Nashville)
Tel: 6506-6782
Hours: Daily, 5:30pm-2am
Food: *** Ambience: **** Service: *** Cost: ¥¥¥

Before commencing with this culinary review, I would like to state in my defense that I did not initiate the so-called fight, and that there is more than a little inaccuracy and exaggeration in the claims regarding the amount of sushi I hurled across the premises of the new south Sanlitun Japanese restaurant, Sushiya.


Yes, I did throw some reasonably-priced sashimi and salmon natto handrolls at a former friend of mine (hooking left, unfortunately, into the kitchen), and admit to lobbing a slab of tasty, aerodynamic Kobe beef against the bamboo curtain of Sushiya’s side patio. And, okay, there is some truth to the account of me spraying Stonehenge Brut sparkling wine while shielding myself with teriyaki yellowtail and boiled fluke.

But slanderous reports of me giving myself a sake-shower and screaming "raw food fight!" are obviously just mean-spirited, impugnable lies perpetrated by jealous competitors who say I’m unfit for this job just because I lost all sense of taste in a tragic sledding accident a few years back.

I take offense at these accusations, especially the one about me slinging specially-imported Bincho charcoal briquettes through Sushiya’s French doors, making them ricochet off a pedicab and set the roof of the adjacent pre-school on fire for half an hour or so, while I allegedly fled through the impeccably clean and fully operational Sushiya restroom. Well, of course, that’s just pure fiction. Furthermore, there are no reliable witnesses with legal visa status who can place me at the scene.

As Sanlitun South Bar Street goes, Sushiya is my new favorite place to search for friends and acquaintances to buy me drinks, have an informal re-employment dinner, or just wind down an adventurous, unfruitful weekday night. The hipster selection of music (mostly jazz and blues) graciously blots out Chaoyang District’s white noise, and the indirect lighting makes everyone look good. (Remember: People who look good feel good. People who feel good tend to digest meals properly, which reduces irritability and tends to enhance one’s general sense of spiritual well-being.)

As sushi bars go, Sushiya’s menu is by no means extraordinary. A manageable selection of very fresh, well-presented sushi, grilled and boiled dishes, plus some great late-night rice bowl entrŽes form the core menu. A better-than-average selection of alcoholic, caffeinated and other varieties of vital fluids abound. Service is attentive, if sometimes a wee bit shy, but the management takes pride in offering only freshly prepared food, and preemptively apologizes in their menu for any delays necessary to guarantee the "cleanness and freshness of our dishes."


If uncooked sea-meat causes you existential spasms, fear not: You can design your own pizza, drill your fork into a limited selection of pastas and curries, or settle for tuna and eggplant gratin. Or like me, you can just drink affordable Japanese rice-wine until you start saying things you know you’re going to regret later and which often lead to someone catching a slice of sea urchin with their eye-lid. (It’s all fun and games until this point of sea-urchin contact.)
If you can’t read Sushiya’s trilingual menu (Japanese, English, Chinese), each item is photographed for your convenience, allowing you to point like a laboratory chimpanzee working the big red button that indicates "instant-but-ultimately-diminishing-gratification."

Co-creators Yasuda Hideki and Li Bo, the innovative restaurateurs responsible for Jazz-ya - Sanlitun’s hippest and most reliable eatery - are often "in the house" making sure that the quality of food and service is up to snuff. If you hang out late, playing the waiting-to-see-who’s-going-pick-up-the-bill game, you’ll likely fall into conversation with Yasuda or Li, as their large, possessive canvas chairs sap you of all ambition, anxiety and fear.

The big appeal of Sushiya is, of course, its artful design. The architectural centerpiece is the magnanimous, horseshoe-shaped sushi bar, around which the rest of the place expands outward in an efficient utilization of space which seems to defy the traditional Sanlitun architectural code of cramped-and-stuffy.

Sushiya is Jazz-ya brightened up and inverted - in some ways reminiscent of a doll house, easily available to inspection by outside observers but enticingly cozy. French doors along the west and north sides allow the cafŽ’s ambience to spill out into two small patio areas, inviting in vagrant summer breezes from the adjacent alleyway. It is a permeable environment, a place to see and be seen, yet still features a few hidden nooks and crannies, including a traditional Japanese zashiki room for parties of up to eight people. (Call in advance to reserve.) In other words, there is plenty of opportunity to elevate a slightly-flawed romance to the next level of self-destructiveness and regret, or just trade harmful, libelous gossip about innocent, hardworking writers with a minor drinking-and-throwing-stuff problem.

A final note for coffee-lovers: just south and across the street from Sushiya is Rain Bow’s Time Co., a cute little shop that sells imported coffee beans, coffee-making accessories, and breakfast cereal until midnight. Stop by for a ¥10, late-night espresso. If they ask you anything about allegations of burning charcoal and raw fish smashing into their front window on or about midnight, June 19, please say in a vacant monotone, "wo bu zhi dao" ('dunno’), stare at the floor and walk out with a slight limp.

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