MamaSushi Restaurant Review NYC Inwood - Washington Heights Area
This is my restaurant review of the relatively new (2 or 3 months as of Feb. 26 2009) fusion style sushi and Spanish restaurant in the inwood area of New York City (for those of you not familiar with the neighborhood from about Dyckman street to 220th street in Manhattan). My family and I moved into this beautiful and up and coming neighborhood 4 years ago and have been quite happy ever since; however despite the great number of excellent restaurants up here, I am constantly on the lookout for something a different from the main fare of Spanish styled cuisine.
When I got the mamasushi flyer slipped under my door that day I was pleasantly surprised and couldn’t wait to go and have some authentic sushi within walking distance of my home- there aren’t any authentic Asian restaurants (just your normal fast-food stuff) in my opinion that exist in this neck of the woods (inwood nyc).
However due to some initial unfavorable early reviews (on yelp.com )I held off until now to dine there, hoping that with enough time Mama Sushi would settle in and get their act together.
Unfortunately , as much as I would like to give a 5 star rating being a new restaurant that serves a distinctly different cuisine in An area that predominately serves Spanish styled cuisine, I have to rate it 2 stars (for now) based on food quality, service and price.
MamaSushi Prep Bar
My Tea Kettle
No elbow room
Let’s start off with a description of the décor and size of this inwood café (why do I say café instead of restaurant? Read on faithful reader) .
From the website (http://mamasushi.com) which is done quite nicely (almost too nicely) I received the misleading impression that it was a lot bigger (if you look at the gallery pics it shows a pic of the sushi bar where the chef prepares your meal-about the length of a pool table, a stylish bottle of soy sauce, and an iron tea kettle; no pics of the actual dimensions of the café)which I gathered from the gallery pics and the fact they took reservations. The other flash pics which are showed on their website show nighttime New York City buildings and various Asian oriented themes,
The actual dimensions of the café is much smaller then my wishful impressions I gathered from their website, roughly about 8 small tables squished together in a one small elongated room maybe seating at best 20 people. The tables are set against a long cushioned bench along the wall; so for 2 persons, one would sit against the wall on the bench and the other person would have the aisle chair which is maybe about 2 feet away from another little longish bar behind him (the aisle is really narrow, the waitress walking from the prep counter through the aisle has better be on the thin side because any large person will invariably bump into the aisle persons chair, which was me!) If you want a leg or elbow room prepared to be disappointed.
The coloring theme was very chic, mostly red and black and the occasional blue to break up the monotony and the lighting was easy on the eyes creating a cozy atmosphere. Way too cozy in my opinion as your fellow diners (due to the lack of space) are seated only a few inches from you. I couldn’t avoid hearing their conversations as much as I tried too. Speaking of conversation, I was dining that day with my wife who is 100% born and raised in the Dominican Republic and speaks Spanish flawlessly, but she looks like…well, like a white Anglo Saxon or Italian, never mistaken by her countrymen as one of their own.
The next table over was two middle aged women gossiping loudly about the “mixed couple” (us) over on their left in Spanish, never realizing that my wife understood them perfectly. Basically the gist of their conversation was (as relayed by wife to me afterwards) “hey, look at those 2 people at the other there, they definite aren’t from around here, they must be reviewing this restaurant! Look! The white lady only took one bite of the chicken lollipop, she doesn’t LIKE IT! Oh well, I guess it’s bad review time. Look at the other guy, staring at everything, they must be doing a review. Wait, they ordered a 2nd pot of tea! I wonder what it tasted like…hey! (yelling across the room they ask the waitress who apparently is their niece) “What does that tea taste like, is it good?”, waitress replies “I don’t know, dia (aunt in Spanish) I never tried it myself, it’s called green tea, and I think for dieting and probably tastes bad.”
“oohhh, that makes sense! See how skinny they are! They have to drink it to lose weight because they (meaning foreign people) like to lose weight!”
This conversation was relayed to me after we left mamasushi; it was the best laugh I had all day,! However I asked my wife why didn’t she say something to them and her response was that it was harmless chatter between two older busybodies who should have known better (don't talk loudly and assume no one can understand you), but also it was pretty much the norm in her country for people to act that way.
the "tip," the "flat," and the "drum."
Aside from the scintillating conversation there was the food. We ordered one lobster roll ($12), one Rock & Roll ($8), a shrimp tempura ($10, a chicken lollipops appetizer and oh yes…green tea ($3) kettle (2 orders because we needed to lose more weight... lol)
Now the prices are fairly reasonable especially considering that it’s upper northern Manhattan and the quality of the seafood was very fresh, definitely sushi grade.
However there were some letdowns in terms of quality especially with the appetizer the chicken lollipops. There are 4 pieces to the dish, which was the separated part of the chicken wing known as the drum (in Buffalo chicken wing lingo these are called the "tip," the "flat," and the "drum.")
The drum was carved up to resemble a lollipop (the meat stripped from the bottom of the drum leaving the 2 inches bone and a ball of meat at the other end) fried and basted with a habanero sauce and is accompanied with cabrales cheese & celery sticks. First the celery sticks were wilted and obviously old. I picked up 2 sticks and both drooped in half, uggh, definitely not what I want to stick into the cabrales cheese. Second the person carving the drum must have missed a shard of bone or two in the lollipop as I could feel something sharp as bit into one. The habanero sauce was tasty but only one lollipop was fully brushed with it! The others (I had the other 2 since my wife didn’t like it at all) had only a slight brushing of sauce. like an afterthought. In my opinion the chicken lollipops were big disappointment.
Secondly the lobster roll while tasty had very little lobster. I know the amount of meat put into a roll varies from restaurant to restaurant but I expected to be able to taste the distinction of lobster (my wife said it tasted more like shrimp than lobster).
Thirdly after a long period of time , the waitress brung out the wrong dish, instead of shrimp tempura we got shrimp tempura roll. After finishing all the lobster roll, lollipops, rock and roll (which was excellent) and ordering another kettle of tea, I had forgotten I ordered the tempura and when the shrimp tempura roll arrived I absent mindedly just ate a few pieces. It was only when the waitress came back to my table a few minutes later and asked me “was it okay” about the shrimp tempura roll vs. the regular tempura that I realized it was the wrong dish. I told her it was fine and she correctly marked down the price to a tempura roll on the check (from $10 to $8). The shrimp tempura roll was overcooked in my opinion (too crispy in the middle). I guess I was looking forward to dipping my tempura in the delicious sauce it comes with.
Last but not least, the Check
I received the bill in the amount of $45 and change and I put $60 cash on top of it. My waitress came over and asked me if needed change back. Now I realize that not everyone feels the same way I do, but asking if I need the change back, is a little tacky in my opinion. If my waitress did the math, $15 change out of a $45 meal is about a 30% tip, which is way above the norm, and realizing this she should have just brought the change back and let the customer decide what to leave; it wasn’t as if I put $50 on the table which Might justify that tacky question.
Overall, due to lack elbow room, okay service and mostly mediocre dishes I can only give it 2 stars out of 5 rating which disappoints me as I was really hoping to find a lot more. For the $63.00 I spent there I could have gotten a lot more from Sushi Yu 2 (another local sushi/ Chinese restaurant in the washinton Heights area) or even the lower east side places.
Of course one mitigating factor that might raise it another star level is that Mama Sushi currently has a Sunday brunch special “ALL YOU CAN EAT SUSHI” between the 11:00am to 1:00pm for $20 per person. I haven’t tried it yet, but the all you can factor of fresh sushi is quite tempting but then again it’s might be little early in the morning for raw fish; if anyone has tried the Sunday brunch special at Mama sushi please leave a comment!