Bushido in West Ashley garnered its 15 seconds of fame and acclaim when the Travel Channel filmed “Man v. Food” there in 2009.
Host Adam Richman took up the “tuna hand roll challenge.” In this culinary jousting, the eater attempts to down 10 tuna rolls, each one hotter than the previous. To become a “legend of the roll” an individual must eat all 10 in one seating.
He or she is awarded a Bushido headband and earns a Bushido bow from the staff on future visits as well as legendary statu posted in the restaurant.
One also can eat the 10 progressive rolls over time; that feat is awarded with “warrior” status.
This year, a second Bushido Japanese Restaurant opened in Summerville. The design is very similar to the West Ashley property. Bushido easily could be at home on a Tokyo street corner. Small, compact and clean.
The restaurant takes its name from a ninth- to 12th-century code of the warrior. We know these warriors as samurai. They abide by a code of values established as seven virtues: honesty, honor, duty, loyalty, compassion, courage and bravery. Kanji, the Chinese characters introduced to Japan in the fifth century, are carefully lettered on plaques that are hung on the restaurant walls and represent these virtues.
The walls are the color of tempeh, and stark black upholstery provides the yin to the tables covered in white cloth’s yang. Tea lights, a simple adornment to each table, maintain a polished look to the tablescape.
The small sushi bar seats five, and this 10-table restaurant is an oasis of calm at a busy intersection in Summerville.
The sushi chef, at the time of our visit, seemed to be in charge of the restaurant.
A friendly staff graciously welcomed the guests, and a steady stream of carryout business gave the bartender more work than actually tending bar.
Plum wine and sake carry out the Asian influences; the wine list itself is short and pedestrian. Japanese beers may be the better beverage option.
The menu at Bushido is pretty much “sushi modern.” Nigiri, sashimi and elaborate maki rolls keep company with donburi (rice bowls), tempura, katsu (panko-breaded proteins) and hibachi (seared meats and seafood) entrees. Dinners come with soup, salad and white rice. Expect an upcharge for fried rice.
Salads ($2.50) with crisp greens, sweet carrots, red cabbage and cucumber were served well-chilled with your choice of soy, honey mustard or ginger dressings. Gloppy describes these emulsified dressings. Why not a simple ginger or rice vinegar and soy vinaigrette?
The miso soup ($1.95) was unremarkable with button mushroom shavings and a few scallion rings.
Idako ($4) or baby octopus was wrapped with rice and nori and cut into precise oval packets. The flesh was chewy and the flavor slight. Wasabi and soy helped it along. Fresh super white tuna ($5.25) also known as escolar was presented on a bed of shiso leaves, topped with micro greens and little buds of basil paste. It was a lovely presentation with flavors to match. The buttery fish was the perfect foil for the licorice tang of the basil.
Nine generous portions of a specialty roll ($9.75) with fried shrimp, tempura flakes, avocado and spicy tuna was almost a meal in itself, and the colorful play of avocado green, pink shrimp, ruddy rose-colored tuna and Charleston green nori created a palette for your palate.
The menu is fairly predictable with rice bowls topped with a variety of meats and vegetables and the typical hibachi menu of soup, salad, rice and soy-seasoned meats or seafoods. The noodles are udon ($8.99-$11.99) and are served with soup and sauteed vegetables and meats.
I tried the tempura udon ($9.99), a thick noodle dish with broth, vegetables and tempura. It came from the kitchen strangely missing the noodles. This massive bowl (it serves two to three) went back to the kitchen for what seemed like a long time to get its core ingredient: the udon. This generous portion contained broccoli, onions, mushrooms, zucchini, carrots and green pepper, all incorporated into the noodle broth. The tempura shrimp was a meager panko-crusted morsel.
The menu courts the sushi/sashimi averse and even offers Bushido sticks ($7.50), which are spinach and mozzarella fried spring rolls served with marinara sauce.
Diners alongside us enjoyed beef ($10.50) and chicken teriyaki ($7.25) donburi or rice bowls.
Entrees are nicely priced and substantial in portion. Eating the sushi and sashimi as well as the specialty rolls can jack up the total bill, so be mindful when you are planning your eating strategy. Sashimi comes with a $1 upcharge per order; three pieces per order compared to the nigiri, which is two slices of fish on the vinegared rice.
Bushido earns high marks for the freshness of the foods we had. Do make a point to check out the sushi case. Depend on your senses to inform your ordering. There was a generic flavor profile to the entrees that made for a sameness to the taste of many dishes, and this same similarity was a factor in the sauces.
That being said, predictable has many fans when the public dines out, and the warrior chefs at Bushido in Summerville do their best to honor that.