Sushi Ko, located on the Zalka Highway, is one of the first restaurants to launch the concept of "Fast Food Sushi" or "Affordable Japanese Food" if we may call the concept this way. When Sushi Ko first opened a while back everyone rushed to to try it. It was doing great up until other fast food Japanese restaurants opened and became available on every corner. The harsh competition out there has succeeded in raising the bar very high, positioning Lebanon on the international culinary map. There's no room for failures. It's now the survival of the fittest.
Rumours then circulated that the quality of food at Sushi Ko dropped drastically... Since my last visit to Sushi Ko in 2008 I had the chance to try many and major Japanese restaurants, especially that Sushi is one of my favorite cuisines. Today, I felt like checking in again on Sushi Ko, which I thought logically due to its experience and competition should have become extraordinarily good. Sushi Ko is a nice restaurant located just next to Shawarmanji and Zaatar W Zeit on one of the main highways in Lebanon; a unique location. High ceiling, relaxed tables, long bar with dimmed lighting in a cozy ambiance... we were welcomed warmly by the waiter on a calm Thursday afternoon. On the thick burgundy leather menu, a colored marking will help you understand what you're ordering.
Four marked colors: red for spicy items, green for vegetarian items, blue for items served on ice and violet for items that can be crispy or spicy.
The menu sections:
- Hot Japanese (Appetizers, Soups, Tempura, Teriyaki, Yakitori)
- Sashimi, Sushi & Gunkan Sushi
- Rolls (Ultimate Ura, Crunchy Ura, Temaki, Futo Maki, Cotton Maki, Salmon Coat, Tamago Coat, Exotic Set, Ko Special Cake, Koxy Maki, Koxy Menu, Ko Wrap)
- Set menus
- Pleasures from Japan (the black paper from the menu)
The place has interesting details:
- A burgundy leather menu following the place's colors
- Reflective ceramic and stone floor
- Burgundy ambiance mixed with light colored wood
- Two lit walls on the sides, covered with pictures of bamboo in different colors
- "Lee Kum kee" soya bottles used - a brand different that "Kikoman" all the others use
- Brown wood tables and spongy fabrics chairs
- Circular bar facing the entrance
- An inner closed area for intimate dinners
- Don't forget to have a look at the sexy Geicha divided into 4 paintings on the entrance wall
Some new items which have lately become a trend around town at the moment, have also reached Sushi Ko.
They have added these new items on a black paper inside the menu:
- Healthy Trio
- Fish Tartar
- Tuna with cucumbers
- Smoked Duck
- Wild Shrimp
- Salmon Tartar Salad (With Fresh Ginger)
- Salmon Fantasy Salad (Crispy Salmon with Fantasy Sauce)
- Mangeel Ko Wrap (Eel, Crab & Mango with Teriyaki Sauce)
- Grilled Salmon Ko Wrap (Grilled Salmon, Avocado & Fresh Lettuce With Teriyaki Sauce)
- Hip Hop (Kano, Spicy Salmon & Avocado)
- Ko Lovers (Salmon, Avocado & Kani)
- Black (Salmon Skin, Kani & Avocado with Teriyaki Sauce)
- Club 69A cake (Salmon, Tuna, Cat fish & Tobico)
The food: Needs a lot of improvement. This is actually the first time I look at a Japanese selection, while hungry, and still don't know what to eat as all of the pieces taste the same - actually all have an odd taste.
- Salmon Skin Temaki is served warm, sweet with a bit of spice. It's a mix of shredded salmon skin with tasty Teriyaki sauce. A simple and delicious preparation. That's the only item I liked
- Salads should be served colder... Much colder.
- The sushi rolls can all be described the same: It needs more seasoning, lacks taste, you feel the raw ingredients sliding under your teeth, the salmon is too greasy, the tuna is too crunchy, the rice is over cooked and the pieces collapse in pieces every time I grab it with my chopsticks. I was really not impressed... Even shocked, to be honest.
- Super Nagasaki is fine even though the pieces should be thicker. It comes in 10 pieces that are thin and hard to grab but the overall taste is acceptable.
- Sushi cake is not a success. Expect to eat each ingredient separately as it will disassemble into more than three separate pieces
- The presentation plate floats in water dripping from the pieces. Not appetizing.
- The Mangeel has no taste. Neutral. Isn't this bizarre for a piece containing eel and mango?
Details I loved:
- The cold stone plates they put in the fridge and served in a wooden frame
- The manager is very professional, he made sure to hear all of our comments for any potential improvement
- The presentation is nice and clean
Things to be changed:
- Do something about the taste. Change the chef maybe. Something's not right!
- For the above, we paid $60/person. That is way too expensive. Other similar restaurants nearby offer delicious rolls for much less.
Sushi Ko is a name that has played a part in the culinary history in Lebanon... It makes me sad to see it fall apart this way.