Shogun – Albany, NY
Upon recommendation from Cheesecake Machismo’s cheesecake genius, Lynn, we were eager to check out the Albany location of Shogun, an established sushi and Japanese restaurant that originally opened in Delmar.
I actually have had an opportunity to eat at the Delmar location, and that was already documented in the #missionsushi write-up that CuteElla and I did. I didn’t really find the sushi at that location particularly impressive based on the ambiance and hype. I figured that it had been two years since that first trip, and it was a new location (457 Madison Ave in Albany, very near Lark St, and more importantly, Cheesecake Machismo), so why not check it out?
We arrived around 6PM on a Thursday and found ample parking in the lot adjacent and behind the building. This was a bit of a relief, but I’m sure a little circling of the blocks would have yielded a reasonable park on the street; it’s not like it was a busy night downtown or anything. The restaurant was about 1/5 capacity and was fairly dimly lit for a sushi place in this area.
We looked over the menu, and I really wanted to try quite a few things. I’ve been loving the rock shrimp appetizer at other area restaurants, so I figured that would be a great way to start the meal. It is described as “Spicy Rock Shrimp – baby shrimp tempura with spicy mayo” ($7).
The rock shrimp at Shogun was very good. The spicy mayo was slightly over-applied on some and under-applied on others. By the time I had made it to the center of the pile, those shrimp were soggy because the heat from the shrimp caused them to steam and lose their crunch. The balance of spice was good; this dish would appeal to people who enjoy just a little spice.
I ordered a sushi dinner, Sushi Regular – 7 pieces of assorted sushi & a California roll ($17). And it came with the usual ginger salad.
This salad seemed to have more dark greens in it, in lieu of some of the usual whitest part of the iceberg lettuce, which was still present. Otherwise, this was pretty standard.
The sushi dinner arrived to the table at the same time as a special roll I ordered, Golden Dream Roll – Spicy tuna and avocado on the inside topped with tempura shrimp and special sauces ($13).
The sushi dinner was a fairly standard mix of shrimp, tuna, salmon, yellowtail, fluke, and red snapper. The ratio of fish to rice was actually very nice. However, the sushi was served at room temperature. If you clicked the above links and read, you know this annoyed me when I went to the Delmar location.
I really don’t understand this at all. The fish is being stored in the refrigerator on the bar (I looked!); the rice is room temperature. The fish is sliced, packed on top of the rice and put on a plate. The plate is served to the table. Our meal was served very promptly, so the only way I can see that the fish would be able to equilibrate to room temperature is by prolonged handling. [This is basic, zeroth law of thermodynamics stuff.] Don’t get me wrong. Sushi where the rice and fish is ice cold is a red flag; the rice should never be below room temperature. This may be something I’m nitpicking about, because I did enjoy the sushi and thought the fish tasted fresh; I just think that service at room temperature made the fish a little less palatable, texture-wise.
The California roll was also pretty standard. The flavor and crunch of the cucumber stood out quite a bit to me.
The Golden Dream roll was very good. Each piece was insanely heavy! Some pieces were too heavy to pick up with chopsticks. When you pack spicy tuna and avocado into a roll, top it with shrimp tempura and a few heavy sauces, what do you expect? Cassie was mentioning a sweet taste to the rice in her rolls, and it was definitely something you could really notice in this roll. The tuna in the center was cold (Thank God!), which is bizarre because there was a hot piece of shrimp packed on top; if anything, piecing this together logically, the inside of this roll should have been more warm than the nigiri on the sushi dinner platter.
There were three sauces on top that I could amass. One was your standard brown (eel) sauce. Another was spicy mayo. The other was a mango puree. The spiciness tended to get lost in the sweetness. For the price, the portion was plentiful.
From looking at the other plates of sushi being served, it looks like they’re going for different aesthetics than what you usually find. I’m all for fun and creativity but not at the expense of quality. I think Shogun balances all pretty well; I just wish they didn’t insist on serving the nigiri sushi warm.
The service was fast and accommodating, but there was one thing that happened (or didn’t happen, I guess) that annoyed me. While we were eating sushi, a server at a nearby table read daily specials off to a large group. Our server didn’t mention any daily specials when our order was taken. It’s escaping me now, but there was one that sounded great and would have been something I would have ordered had I known about it. However, as far as everything I ordered, I was satisfied.
Of course, we picked up Cheesecake Machismo (to go) after dinner.