Decided to pass up Z's sushi yesterday to try something new- Ai Japanese Restaurant on Fair Oaks since it is always crowded and the atmosphere seemed nice. BIG MISTAKE. First of all, the owner practically barked "SUSHI ONLY!" when we asked to be seated at the sushi bar...."I know there are some people who sit at the bar and order massive plates of teriyaki and the like, but I am no such customer," I thought to myself, but hey, she ain't a mind-reader so we'll move onto the next annoyance. Husband ordered green tea which came in a coffee cup (albeit one with cute drawings of sushi....) with a tea bag! That was definitely a sign of bad things to come. Sat at the bar and saw the fish in the glass case- most looked slimy and not 'neat' for lack of a better term. The young sushi chefs were friendly though so we still wanted to like this place and ordered a salmon for me, albacore for sis and yellow tail for husband. Sister's albacore resembled ground turkey and refused to stay on her rice, my salmon was dwarfed by the "big rice" and husband's yellow tail had a nice, chewy center which he had to gnaw at. NOT a great way to keep the appetite going. We had already ordered a sake so I didn't know how to get out of the situation.....so I whipped up my best version of a lady in distress by saying in Japanese "oh my, I forgot something very important at home and I do apologize, but I must leave now! I am so sorry....." to which both sushi chefs replied "Oh of course! No problem!" So we paid our $20 bill and made like Road Runners to Z's and had the wonderful special roll, the unagi/avacado/cucumber hand roll, better-than-butter toro, melt-in-your-mouth yellow tail and complimentary ceviche set in crispy rice crackers whipped up by Toshi.
I am still amazed that Ai's is always filled to the brim with people whereas Z's is never crowded. Go figure.