Sumo Sushi & Steak House, Livermore CA
We didn’t try the steak at Sumo Sushi & Steak House, because with Zach’s brother Will tagging along with us for dinner, we went all in to try to convert him to liking sushi. He claimed that he didn’t like it even in rolls let alone sashimi, but after trying six items, he’s changed his mind about the cuisine. Sumo Sushi House has an extensive menu including hibachi dinner shows available in one half of the restaurant, and glancing over in that direction once in a while, we were impressed by the flair not seen at other hibachi dinner restaurants.
Inspired by a reader who asked us about soft shell crab, when we saw it on the menu here we had to order it. Sumo Sushi House does it very well, so if you’ve never had soft shell crab before, this is the place to try it. A very light and crispy panko crust coated the entire portion, though it was nowhere near oily. The frying process rendered the entire crab to be easily devoured, shell and all – well, it is called “soft shell crab.” The chunky meat was tender, flaky, and enhanced by the “spicy mayo sauce” (as it reads on the menu), but that name doesn’t describe it in full. The dipping sauce was creamy and tangy with a mild chili taste, and while it was bright and flavorful, it did not overpower the savory crab.
Crispy and crunchy wonton skins had the perfect texture to hold their delicious insides. A creamy meaty center of spicy tuna and cream cheese was tasty for a filling, but the “chef’s special sauce” put these bites over the top. It was mildly spicy but the flavors of the sauce were so provocatively tangy, the spiciness was barely discernible.
With artful precision, the sumo wrestler can take down his opponent just as a sushi master presented this dish. The Sumo roll was Will’s favorite above all, proclaiming it to be “the best!” Lobster tempura was super meaty and crunchy at once, and we all surprised ourselves at how well it went with mango. Actual mango chunks were in the rolls, as well as used in the spicy sauce drizzled over the tops. Like the crispy wonton sauce, this was billed as “spicy” but was more tangy to complement the other components. Asparagus was also rolled in, providing an additional layer of crispiness for it was cooked but not to death. Liberally over the tops came spicy tuna, avocado, and black roe for a hint of fresh saltiness.
The Spider roll is likely popular because of its simplicity – picky palates might even appreciate this because it is so mild. Crunchy soft shell crab, cucumber, avocado, and mayonnaise come in Sumo Sushi House’s version, with just a touch of orange roe pressed into the rice. This was the only one that Will wasn’t too fond of, because the dainty saltiness of the orange roe with snappy texture was where he drew the line, while August reached for the pickled ginger to add a teensy bit of zing to the overall delicate roll; just goes to show that taste is relative.
With pink soy paper wraps, the Angry Dragon rolls looked menacing but made us happy, not angry! These wraps can be requested to substitute the traditional seaweed wraps, and since they do have their own distinct flavor, it would be interesting to try different rolls with this kind of wrap in the future. Again here, “spicy” on the menu translated to “tangy,” and while we don’t deny that there was a touch of heat, it was not the focal point of the dish. The yellow sauce was yuzu miso eel sauce, which was where most of the tanginess came from, along with a bit of citrus. Shrimp tempura, avocado, and spicy tuna were rolled together and topped with kani (a kind of salad/relish) and King crab. The shrimp was tender and sweet, with the crispiness of the panko offset by the creamy avocado. The flaky King crab brought more meatiness to these already huge bites, and we didn’t think Sumo Sushi House could do anything more extravagant to a roll.
Sumo Sushi House can go even further with extravagance, as we saw with Lady Gaga. This roll is just as crazy and wild as her style and persona, all the way down to the glowing light (we did not alter the photo, it actually came glowing green). Yellowtail and avocado were together inside, with spicy tuna, spicy salmon, and white tuna adorning the outside, along with a paper-thin jalapeño slice, jalapeño sauce, and more of the wonderful spicy mango sauce – it’s a whole lot of everything, but all the elements complemented each other very well. The soft texture of the tender fish was emboldened by the tangy and mildly sweet mango sauce. The heat from the sauce was very faint, so we can unequivocally say, based on what we tried, that people who don’t like spicy food will still enjoy themselves dining here, no matter what the menu describes.
Years ago Will was told that “if you don’t like a California roll, you probably don’t like sushi.” He tried a California roll and didn’t like it, so he had written off all things sushi all this time, until tonight. All the fish was fresh and assembled with other ingredients of very high quality. Even the presentation was like none we’ve seen before, sushi restaurant or not. Attention to detail and fine service made for a wonderful experience – and we didn’t even see a full hibachi dinner show! The highest commendation, though, is for having made Will like sushi.