Sushi Ko is one of Lebanon's most renowned Japanese restaurants with five locations, 10 delivery centers and 5 catering stations across the country. Sushi Ko is now open facing the cinema entrance in City Centre Beirut, a place I visit every other weekend.
A few years back, my experience at their Zalka branch was not the greatest. Seeing their new innovative menu all over the Internet and their flavors of the world videos I couldn't but stop for a closer look.
Down at Sushi Ko on the terrace level of City Centre Beirut is a place divided into two spaces. The inner dining area around the bar and the closed terrace with no smoking allowed. A space under a high ceiling is full of flowerpots and set with a dozen tables surrounded by relaxing sofas as well as a series of high tables with a view of the mall's atrium.
Choose a table where a long rectangular placemat and the menu are set to welcome you. I liked the new menu, which looks like a magazine that should be changed often, keeping it clean and straight.
The menu sections:
- International flavors
- Soups and tempura
- Teriyaki and tartar
- The maki family
- The Uras
- Ko Wrap
- Dragons, or the wrap family
- Set menu
- The boats
- The cakes
The menu stories:
- Cuisines of the world
- Chinese rice paper
- The love affair between seafood and quinoa
- Salmon, the healthiest food in the world
- The secret of sushi rice
- The signature KO wraps
- Dragons and their story
- Rice wine
The special features of the new menu:
- International flavors including paella from Spain, siyadieh from Lebanon, veggie noodles from Costa Rica, chicken with cashew nuts from China, sweet and sour shrimp from Indonesia, couscous from Morocco, beef tataki from New Zealand, spicy shrimp from Malaysia, Mexican shrimp tacos from Mexico and seafood moghrabieh from Morocco.
- The spicy salmon salad comes on a bed of fresh iceberg. A mix of salmon cubes, thinly sliced cucumbers and sesame with a hint of spiciness. I loved the quality of the salmon and it's texture as well as the mayonnaise used and the crunchy carrots with their great size.
- Salmon skin Temaki is different and I liked it. Salmon skin served warm, a mix carefully shredded with no hard bits, good quality rice and a tender wrap. It's completely new for me, but again I liked it. I liked the oily sauce, the mix, the balance of the fish and the quality of the rice.
- The spicy Nagasaki dragon wrap is made of salmon tartar and crab with crispy tuna, salmon, white fish, mango and spicy sauce. The flavors are here, freshness as well and the taste, yes the taste, which was nonexistent on my last visit.
- Caterpillar dragon wrap: Wrapped with avocado, tobiko and teriyaki and stuffed with breaded shrimp, eel and tobiko. A salty kind of maki roll with soy sauce, tender avocado, a lightly crispy tempura envelope and a tender shrimp heart. Good flavors, good textures.
- Now came the selection of maki rolls; this is the impression I previously had, repeated. Same taste with no pronounced flavor differentiating them. I'd avoid ordering the Edamami maki with its hard textures and dull taste as well as the Extreme, that has a hard and chewy envelope that's hard to swallow.
- The raw summer rolls are six rice wraps filled with quinoa, cucumbers and carrots. They're good, but not too easy to handle.
- Food was served quick, the kitchen is efficient
- The seats are relaxing.
- The special dragon wraps, Temaki and salads have improved drastically
- There is no music on the balcony; the ambiance is dull.
- Lit by the cinema, the LED screens turn from blue to white all night long like a Christmas tree. That's annoying. I believe the cinemas should fix their LED screens during the night to one single homogenous color.
- The plates are brought to the tables and not named; it would be great to know what we're eating.
- I wished for a single smile from the waitress.
- The team needs more training on the menu and should offer help when you order from it.
- We were not asked for desserts, that would have boosted the bill.
Today's experience was a complete opposite from the one I previously had in Zalka. Is it a comeback or a complete reshuffling of the restaurant... It surely can be better with many improvements possible, but it was good enough, I'm hoping for continuous consistency and improvement.