The new Santa Rosa restaurant offers robotic sushi
After moving from Scottsdale to Sebastopol 16 years ago, I quickly started exploring the most interesting restaurants in Sonoma County. One of my editors at the time suggested that I go see Tex Wasabi’s in Santa Rosa because, despite its curious concept of serving barbecues and sushi in a cavernous nightclub, the customers were plentiful.
I went. I dined. I regretted it immediately and immensely. There was a roll of Jackass tapioca rice paper stuffed with sushi rice, avocado, grilled pork, fries, and garlic and chili mayonnaise. A Hog-Tied King maki was a monstrosity of salmon, bacon, cream cheese, sriracha, unagi sauce, scallions, and crispy onions, all fried and dipped in a mild chili sauce. Instead of soy, you can dip your sushi in barbecue sauce.
So you can imagine it didn’t break my heart when Tex Wasabi finally closed in 2019. And you might understand why, after Sushi Rosa debuted in the old Tex space last June. , I asked her co-owner, Meehyun Chong, what she and her family did to reinvent the place. I was thinking of “exorcism”, but she politely told me that all they did was “a lot, a lot of cleaning”.
It is true that the new restaurant offers its own bizarre sushi recipes. Spanning seven pages, the menu includes a maki roll stuffed with beef and cucumber pot stickers ($ 9), and you can add additional toppings like cream cheese ($ 1), nuts macadamia ($ 2) or jalapeño ($ 1). There’s a hand roll wrapped around grilled chicken and cucumber ($ 6), and you can dress it up with crab ($ 3) and lemon slices ($ 1).
Still, Chong’s co-owner, chef and father, Song Ku “Billy” Chong, chooses top-quality local and imported fish from San Francisco markets, with an emphasis on certified sustainable catches. And there’s plenty of classic nigiri and sashimi to enjoy at the Sparkling Glass and Stone Sushi Bar, in cuts ranging from hamachi ($ 7) to hotategai (Hokkaido scallop, $ 7).
At a lunch, I sat next to a gentleman who had ordered such a pretty combo that I almost asked to take a picture. As he savored the six-piece nigiri and nine-piece sashimi set ($ 23), he proclaimed it “the best sushi in Santa Rosa.” It’s certainly the stretch for the satisfying but generally standard fare, although for the dollar value and generous portions this seafood shines.
The Chong family are known for their reliable and well-priced Japanese cuisine. They also own O! Sushi in Santa Rosa and Petaluma, Otoro Sushi in Healdsburg, and the Quick Sushi bargains in Santa Rosa and Rohnert Park (nigiri usable for $ 3.50, maki for $ 5). Family or friends run all the restaurants.
Here at the 5,100 square foot two-story Sushi Rosa, food is a bit more upscale than at other Chong locations. There are nice touches like the tsukemono (pie, artisan pickled vegetables, $ 8); real crab presented throughout the menu; traditional items like whole and grilled teriyaki squid ($ 16); and fresh fruit soju cocktails ($ 11- $ 15).
Many dishes are artfully arranged, like tama tuna, where ruby red fish wraps around a pat of rice under a tobiko hat and a raw quail egg ($ 12). Salmon salad is another enticing plate, the finely sliced fish pressed into a terrine with chopped mango and avocado, topped with tobiko and served with asparagus tempura ($ 15). With its sweet and savory notes, it ends up being one of my favorite choices.
Plus, a visit here is fun. In a high-tech twist, waiters take orders on shelves hung from cross straps, and when it comes time to serve food, an autonomous robot arrives, smiling with cat whiskers on its face and carrying built-in trays. loaded with dishes.
Robot servers are becoming all the rage these days – and why not? They offer contactless delivery, help deal with the current crisis of manpower shortage in the hospitality industry, and are really fun. The Chongs named Jerry, the serving robot from Sushi Rosa, who in a cheerful female voice encourages me to “Please have your food,” then says, “Enjoy!” “
Jerry is from Bear Robotics of Redwood City, who notes on their website that most restaurants rent the robots for $ 33 a day, so their pay is around $ 4 an hour for an eight-hour day. . An equivalent human employee – if restaurateurs could find one – would cost Santa Rosa $ 15.20 an hour.
Plus, Jerry is efficient. The Bear Robotics team programmed it with a menu of the restaurant’s layout; kitchen staff type in a table number (or even multiple tables in a row), and the robot can stop at each before returning to the kitchen. If a client walks in front of her or blocks her with a chair, she automatically stops and waits. For added flair, larger sushi orders are presented in a bamboo boat, which, when delivered by a robot, is quite the show.
As Meehyun noted, “Jerry brought a lot of smiles to the customers,” enough that the family installed another robot, Bella, in their Quick Sushi in Santa Rosa.
But back to the food. I enjoyed the bento boxes for their variety of flavors packaged in one meal, and Sushi Rosa puts together a remarkable collection ($ 15.50). You start with a large bowl of typical miso soup, then things speed up with the 16 choices of appetizers. Select teriyaki chicken or salmon, grilled salmon with salt or saba (mackerel), chicken or pork katsu, grilled spicy marinated pork, gyoza, tempura or a variety of nigiri, buns and sashimi. You can also choose the Korean bulgogi, made with a recipe passed down by Meehyun’s grandmother.
My pork katsu consisted of two heavy (albeit a little dry) cutlets placed on shredded cabbage. My tuna sashimi consisted of five thick slices. The rice is served in a round of baseball. The salad is almost the size of an appetizer, with a bright dressing, and the box is topped off with cucumber slices and orange segments. It is a lot for the price.
Vegetarians won’t go home hungry. Some two dozen sushi recipes await, with toppings as simple as tangy and crunchy yamagobo (pickled burdock root, $ 7) or as elaborate as a rainbow combo of oshinko (pickled radish), kanpyo (dried squash), yamagobo, tamago (egg omelet), avocado and cucumber ($ 15). The “fresh vege” roll is particularly delicious, filled with crispy tempura asparagus, cucumber and avocado under a bunch of wakame (kelp seaweed, $ 13).
I even enjoyed a bit of a quirky bun that I thought was too sweet, spongy, and weird – the Fried Vege of nori and rice stuffed with mango, avocado, sweet potato and shiitake, then fried to give it a lacy crust (13 $). I still prefer the classics, but it was good. And best of all, there was no barbecue sauce in sight.
Carey Sweet is a food and food writer based in Sevastopol. Read his restaurant reviews every two weeks in Sonoma Life. Contact her at [email protected].