100 N. Ashwood Ave.
by Bill Lascher
“It was sad we were the only ones there,” lamented my mother after our lunch last week at Ventura’s Sushi Teri, a delightful, inexpensive — but apparently undiscovered — joint near Ventura College.
On a quietly sweltering Friday we shared my last meal as a pseudo food critic for the Reporter. As I’ve touched upon in previous reviews I’m a huge sushi fan. I was surprised to realize the Reporter never reviewed Sushi Teri, which in the summer of 2007 set up shop off Ashwood next to Long’s Drugs.
Early on during my last job, my managing editor set up a meeting with a contact for me at Carpinteria’s Sushi Teri location. Later, while working at my Downtown Santa Barbara office my coworkers and I would occasionally — and happily — dine among the lively crowd of professionals and locals at the eatery’s Bath Street location.
I was never disappointed during those lunches, and I wasn’t disappointed on my first visit to the Ventura location last year. In fact I was thrilled by it, as I was when I returned last week.
That is, I was thrilled by the food, by the service, by the decorations, by the price, by so many things made the nonexistence of a lunch rush that much more saddening. I don’t want to learn the thrill is gone before I’ve thoroughly absorbed it.
To be sure, Sushi Teri’s menu isn’t the most robust I’ve seen, especially in this day and age of colorful rolls and fusion-inspired twists on traditional favorites, but it’s not modest, either.
The prices are, though whether you are there for lunch or dinner. For about $25 plus tip my mom and I shared an ocean salad, an order of uni, an order of smelt egg sushi, a jalapeño roll, a Dragon Roll and a “Girls’ Night Out” roll (yeah, cue the jokes, but it was darn good). Mom also ordered an iced tea, and we were each served a complimentary bowl of miso soup. It’s worth checking with the restaurant as specials change occasionally, but during our visit they were offering 25 percent off all sushi and rolls plus free sodas. Both pleasantly satisfied after the meal we had enough sushi left over for me to have it for dinner that night.
Every choice was superb. My mom’s uni was fresh, as was the ocean salad, although it could have used cucumber slices instead of the pieces of iceberg lettuce used as a garnish. The three rolls were each distinct enough from each other not to taste redundant.
The jalapeño roll included deep-fried jalapeños, shrimp, imitation crab meat and cream cheese with avocado and a sweet sauce. That was my favorite, but the other two were extremely tasty. Sushi Teri’s version of a Dragon Roll included freshwater eel, imitation crab meat and cucumber wrapped in rice and avocado and topped with sweet sauce. A Girl’s Night Out in Sushi Teri’s eyes consists of albacore tuna wrapped in rice and an outer layer of crunchy spicy tuna. The interplay of the cool soft albacore and the crispy outer layer brought a welcome balance of flavors and textures to the roll.
I will say that Sushi Teri relies a bit too heavily on tuna for its rolls. That said, it’s a tasty, versatile and popular option, so I understand the reasoning behind the decision. Still, I’ll be excited to see if they can diversify their options a bit more.
For once, though, my dilemma at a sushi bar wasn’t how much was in my wallet, but how much sushi I could eat. That’s a dilemma I’m not upset to have. There are still many choices from Sushi Teri’s menu I’d like to try, including other Japanese entrees, various lunch specials and chirashi bowls consisting of different kinds of fish over sushi rice.
Two other quick notes about Sushi Teri: The service was very friendly and responsive. And more importantly, despite the lack of customers during our visit the service was a complement to our meal when it could have easily betrayed a sense of desperation if the servers were too eager to please.
Meanwhile, anyone who happens to visit the Ventura location would be wise to stop by the seating area in the rear of the restaurant. There, the walls are decorated with surprisingly nice ink on paper drawings that bring a certain charm to Sushi Teri. The artwork sets it apart from the bland surroundings of the strip mall housing the restaurant and the generic mass-produced Japanese artwork common to most sushi bars — even front of the house at Sushi Teri.
It’s refreshing to see such a high-quality restaurant in an otherwise oft-ignored corner of town. It will be even more refreshing to see if Sushi Teri can survive.