Hungry? Banzai Sushi & Cocktail Bar is ready to serve you

05:00 AM, Jan 05, 2013

A couple of steam buns fill the bill at Banzai Sushi & Cocktail Bar. (KAREN MILTNER/staff photographer)/

Written By Karen Miltner Staff writer

A few years back, barbecue restaurants were opening faster than you could spatchcock a chicken.

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Now sushi is the new barbecue, and the latest generation of rawfishionados are blending sushi with dim sum, sushi with craft cocktails and sushi with Eurofare.

The South Wedge’s new Banzai Sushi & Cocktail Bar is a small place, so there’s only room for two of those three partners: dim sum, bento boxes, and a bar that glows with an otherworldly aura.

Given its hours of operation and its aggressive discount opportunities (see Banzai Bargains), Banzai is poised to make sushi one of the best snack options in the city. An eel maki roll during afternoon sushi happy hour may still cost a little more than a Starbucks mocha latte, but there’s little arguing that it’s better fuel.

I stopped in around 4 one afternoon for slunch, a late lunch/early supper kind of repast. I thought I would be the only one there, but not so. The vegetable sushi intrigued me, so I ordered a small nori-wrapped roll of mushrooms and one of tofu ($3.50 before the discount), and a bowl of wonton soup ($6) in a shimmering duck broth with three large pork dumplings and a few bean sprouts and scallions floating about.

All nourishing and all fresh, but none that memorable in terms of taste and execution. More urgently, they did not usher me to hunger’s exit door. That job went to a plate of two puffy, warm steam buns filled with panko-breaded and fried tofu with a smear of hoisin sauce, and an Asian slaw. At $4.50, this is a terrific deal.

Purists be warned. Fresh fruit such as raspberries and mango and fresh herbs such as cilantro and basil show up in the deluxe maki roll picks with loud names such as the Mistletoe, Fujiyama Mama and Maui Wowie.

If you don’t like the deep sea mineral taste of nori wrapping your deluxe roll, request soy paper wraps, which are almost tasteless. Brown rice is also an upgrade option.

People who prefer that someone else do the decision-making have some predetermined combo options. A salad-dim sum-sushi bento box is another nice way to get “a best of Banzai” experience. That includes a red curry chicken roll that is apparently so popular it was 86’ed when I tried to order it.

The late afternoon vibe was dim, slow and easy, but I knew it would not last long. By the time I paid my check, customers were trickling in for the bar. My happy hour was over just as someone else’s was about to begin.

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