If you haven’t been to Samurai Sushi lately, consider reacquainting yourself with a visit. In the last year, Maplewood Village’s only sushi spot underwent a low-key ownership change, and the menu has become increasingly varied and surprising. You can still get a standard sushi and sashimi platter or bento box, but the daily specials are getting ever more creative—and delicious. Never dipped a piece of fresh yellow tail into jalapeño sauce? Consider it. It’s even better washed down with a cold Sapporo.
Despite the rapidly evolving menu and roster of specials, some things haven’t changed. Samurai remains a great lunch option for business or social meetings. It’s a quiet, well-lit space, with a huge selection of lunchtime specials for under $10 (11:30 to 2:30 p.m.). Among them: a beef negimaki bento box, a combination sushi roll, and a large bowl of shrimp udon noodle soup (all of which are served with soup and salad.) Unlike a lot of sushi places popping up these days, the kitchen and management staff is Japanese. Ingredients are fresh and authentic. (The only sushi that isn’t fresh might be the glazed rolls in the charming sushi-themed clock next to the bar.)
If you’re just in the mood for a light lunch, Samurai offers an appetizer list that is 20-plus items long, most of which have the nice price of under $5. Recommended bites include the sureme-ike (grilled squid in ginger sauce) and nasu shigiyaki (broiled eggplant with sweet miso paste and sesame seeds.) There are another 15 reasonably priced appetizers from the sushi bar.
But Samurai isn’t just for lunch. For nighttime meals, consider settling in to one of the cozy booths in the back, which offer privacy, if not intimacy, for those looking to exchange quiet murmurs away from prying eyes. Couples with a large appetite between them may want to consider Samurai’s mammoth and varied “Love Boat” special. For $50, it comes with 10 pieces of sushi, seven kinds of sashimi, dragon roll, and spicy tuna roll. For $10 more, couples can get a massive sashimi platter including a mouthwatering array of 17 kinds of raw fish fillets. Both spreads come with soup and salad.
Samurai’s has much more going for it than it has flaws, but one does notice the lack of a dessert menu. Hopefully the new owners will consider adding fresh fruit and a tempura green tea ice cream dish to the menu. If they want to take things a little farther out, as they have with the lunch specials, they might consider a green tea creme brulee.