Sushi Zono: Well-loved, worth the wait

It was Wednesday night so I was pretty startled when I entered the unassuming entrance of Sushi Zono and was greeted with a boisterous, busy atmosphere.

Vegas Roll: My absolute favorite roll of the evening. I loved the outside which is lightly fried tempura and in the inside, nice succulent pieces of tuna, hamachi and salmon with avocado. The presentation is also exquisite.
In Review

Sushi Zono

4 out of 5 stars
4 out of 5 stars - 'Smashing'
831 W Hamilton Ave, Campbell, CA 95008
www.sushizono.net
Review by

I peered outside the car window at the dark and wet intersection the GPS had concluded was Sushi Zono. I have spider senses for sushi and they were not going off. There was no way at this cement dominated intersection, there would be an oasis of raw fish.

I glanced over again at the GPS system and was struck again by the saying, Garbage in, garbage out. We had entered the address of “831 East Hamilton Avenue”. The address of Sushi Zono in Cambell is WEST Hamilton Avenue, not east. Fortunately for us, the error had not led us off a bridge or onto someone’s front yard. Luckily, the actual location of Sushi Zono was only 5 minutes away and we would make our 7 pm reservations.

It was Wednesday night so I was pretty startled when I entered the unassuming entrance of Sushi Zono and was greeted with a boisterous, busy atmosphere. On the wood panel wall on the right of the entrance hung the many accolades and awards the restaurant has received over the years. A quick check on Yelp reviews concurs with many 4 and 5 star ratings. For those that had less than stellar things to say about the place, it mainly had to do with slow service when the place is busy or the conditions of the restaurant.

I wasn’t sure about the service yet. They didn’t have a record of my reservations when I arrived. I had called in 50 minutes earlier to make a reservation. Fortunately, they said a table was available so it wasn’t a big deal. The decor of the restaurant is not slick like Blowfish Sushi in Santana Row and one can tell this family-owned restaurant has been around for some time and has been well-frequented by many patrons.

Here is where the quality of the sushi plays a critical role.

If the sushi is stellar, modest decor can be an asset. There is an authenticity to a restaurant that doesn’t have grand visual spectacles. “It’s all about the food!” And Seinfeld has made the “bad service, but to-die-for cuisine” trendy with his Soup Nazi character.

Sushi Zono sushi bar. I think it is the owner and his son behind the sushi bar preparing the dishes.

Our party of four was seated at the far corner of the restaurant. It was a type of spot that makes you worry if the world would forget you and you would grow old there. The nice waitress then left.

We waited a while, but no menu came. I glanced around and there were many families are large groups seated in the cozy restaurant. The prices were very reasonable for a sushi restaurant and the clientele was a testament to this.

Finally, I decided to take matters into my own hands, got up and retrieved a few menus for our table. I really didn’t mind and for a moment, I had the feeling like I was at a large family gathering where you pitched in to get what needed to be done, done.

The menu. After waiting about 10 minutes, I decided to go up to the hostess area and procure a couple for me and my dinner guests.

The waitress did come by and was very apologetic and explained how just before we showed up, three large groups arrived. Seeing the newly seated people in the restaurant, I could believe it. The restaurant seemed to only have two servers working the tables. For how bustling the place was, they were doing a great job. We ordered our green teas, water and beers.

We decided on family-style and seeing the restaurant was really busy, I decided to place our entire order at once. When the waitress came by, she was very apologetic on how long it took to come by Sometimes at sushi restaurants, I will order a few things to start and see what the restaurant is really good at. Some excel at the traditional nigiri sushi or sashimi while others specialize in creative fusion rolls.

I ordered a Combination Dinner with beef and salmon teriyaki ($16), Nigiri Deluxe (Zono Roll, Hamachi Roll, & 5pc Chef’s Choice Nigiri, $18), Hamachi sashimi dinner ($20), Vegas roll ($9.50), Rainbow roll ($13) and Sushi Zono ($5.25).

The dishes took about 35 minutes from the time we ordered them to when we got our order. I did send Clint to the sushi bar to check on our order during this time. When the food came though, it came fast and furious. We had to juggle a couple of dishes on our table to fit our entire order. The portions were generous. For four people, I ordered plenty.

I love starting off with miso soup, especially on a rainy cold day, because it is hot and warms you up. However, rarely is it particularly special. The miso soup at Sushi Zono is some of the best I've had. The broth is flavorful and rich. My sister did find it a little too salty. I would agree it is saltier than average and would be a problem if it wasn't for the fact it was very flavorful as well.
The salad was just okay and more of a palate cleanser for the main sushi dishes.
Sushi Deluxe. I liked how the fish was very fresh and there was not a lot of rice in the rolls.
Hamachi Sashimi. I am a big fan of yellow tail and this was the pure stuff. A nice treat and quite a generous portion of high quality hamachi for the price.
The Sushi Zono roll also came with the Sushi Deluxe dinner. If I had paid more attention to the menu descriptions, I would not have ordered another one a la cart and instead, tried something else on their sushi roll menu. Having said this, I was surprised that such a "simple" roll received the name of the restaurant. Perhaps it is a statement that the restaurant is about simple, good sushi. No drama. If you like eel, this Sushi Zono roll which consists of Eel, Avocado, Kani Kama, & Tobiko is a good way to go.
Rainbow Roll: The fish on top was very fresh, but this roll was not as good as I expected after reading the reviews on Yelp. This Rainbow Roll is different than others because the center, instead of a plain California Roll, is a Gwen roll (Scallop Mix, Avocado, & Tobiko). The scallop mix sounded very interesting to me. It was good, but I thought I would be able to taste the raw scallops more. Instead the fillers mixed in with the scallops took center stage. Still a great roll. I had very high expectations coming into it.
Vegas Roll: My absolute favorite roll of the evening. I loved the outside which is lightly fried tempura and in the inside, nice succulent pieces of tuna, hamachi and salmon with avocado. The presentation is also exquisite.

Their Deep Fried Ice Cream ($6.50) for dessert sounded sinfully delicious. Unfortunately, after such a sushi feast, none of us at the table had any room for dessert. Perhaps the next time.

In the end, the wait was definitely worth it. The sushi was fresh and expertly prepared. The Vegas roll and the Hamachi Sashimi Dinner are “must try” dishes at Sushi Zono. I can see why the restaurant has so many loyal, returning patrons.

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