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August 20, 2009

Richard reviews Joss Cafe & Sushi Bar



Other Reviewer Richard reviewed the relatively new Joss Cafe in the paper today.

This is one of the most controversial places to open in Baltimore any time recently, so I wanted to make sure it had time to settle in before it got reviewed. The place seems to have gotten its act together. ...

I was interested in Richard's observation that hard-core sushi addicts might not enjoy it as much as he did. I know exactly what he means.

Has any of you gone recently? I know when it first opened, Joss was having problems, so it's not really fair to comment if that's the only time you ate there. 

(Tasha Treadwell/Sun photographer)
Posted by Elizabeth Large at 11:47 AM | | Comments (20)


Beautiful Plate, Glowing Review. I'd like to try it, but I'm not drivig out of my way for sushi.

Why was / is it so controversial???

Do tell...

It predates my appearance in Baltimore, anonymous, but my understanding is that the previous restaurant at that site was convicted of human trafficking. The current restaurant has ties to the previous one.

My friend who is a hard core sushi addict hated it. Said the quality of the fish wasn't good. I haven't been.

I had no idea sushi had rules.

Is this a BYOB place?

"I had no idea sushi had rules. "

The reson I dont eat it often, too many things too worry about if you are doing it correctly. And the stares from uppities when you dont use chop sticks. Or if you actually mix the wasabi into your soy sauce. Or not touching the roll to your nose three times before ingesting, and not chewing exactly 14 times, no more, no less.

These are the rules....ok not really...but sushi is still a pain in the maki.

EL, why would you let some places "settle in" before they are reviewed yet others you review in the first month of opening? Doesn't this seem rather unfair to some restaurants?

A good question. I always give at least a month, and if I'm hearing that things are going well and the restaurant seems to be ready for a review, I'll go as soon after that as I can. If the chef leaves after three weeks or people are saying bad things about it, I wait a bit. Of course, it's all subjective, but a restaurant only gets one shot at being reviewed and that review will hang around for awhile. Besides, Richard and I can't get to each restaurant exactly a month after it opens doing just two reviews a week, so the time varies in any case. EL

Twizzler - Is that true about not mixing wasabi into the soy sauce. How do you eat the wasabi without blowing the top of your head off or dismantling the sushi and smearing it on?
My crazy b-in-law came to the table one night, grabbed a spoon and shoveled a huge pile of wasabi in thinking it was guacamole. Funniest thing I ever saw.

I've seen dry, dry fish there.. I had a shrimp and veggie tempura lunch and california rolls.. tempura was BLAND (even with sauce) and it was 3 shrimp, one potato and one broccoli for 8 dollars.. california rolls were merely passable.

I'm really, REALLY surprised this review was so glowing -- did they know who you were/that you were coming?

EEL, I think Joss has a Class B beer-wine-liquor license, for which several applications for extensions had to be filed during the long transition period from the old Kawasaki. Perhaps Gorelick was bemoaning the lack of a bar area in Joss, rather than the lack of a liquor license?

I was there yesteday evening, shortly after 6 PM, and the place was packed. Almost every table was full by 7 PM. They must be doing something right...

Right, hmpstd -- Joss does have a liquor license, just not a proper bar. Naturally you could drink at the sushi bar, but I never never got the hang of drinking at a sushi bar bar. I want a bartender. And, Joss has SO much room to spare -- the whole downstairs has been fixed up -- I just love the idea of a happy hour bar down there.

As for dry fish That's the thing about reviewing based on one (or in this case two) visits -- we always think of the danger of the off night. What if we catch a place on a rare "on night"?

I think I liked it so much because the treatment of sushi seemed expert and respectful on their side, but Joss didn't ask for reverence from the customer's side. It's just food that people eat. The idea that a diner could categorically do something wrong to food he's paying for is absurd to me.

The introduction to this sushi etiquette basically sums up how I feel about the issue..

"...Yyou would also do well to not read this sushi guide and then worry ever time you go out to eat sushi. Many Japanese do not follow all the rules to a ‘T’ (or even know them) and I would suggest that polite behavior is enough to make a good meal at any restaurant, sushi-ya or not, especially in North America. Again, I don’t mean to put forth these rules as absolutes, only to offer some insight into the depth of tradition that surrounds sushi dining experience. So please interpret this as for informational purposes and not a directive as to how you should behave when you go our for sushi."

I just believe there are tons of Japanese people who put do things like put ketchup on their sashimi.

The person claiming dry fish pretty much described a fishless meal.

Why yes Hal, you are VERY ASTUTE -- I didn't eat any dry, old looking fish when I went.

Dont get me wrong -- I WISH I could fall out of my apartment onto some great sushi.. I had a colleague who had a good first experience, then two mediocre ones, and I just had the one mediocre one.

In fact, I'll give them one more try tonight (I'll even pick up so I can give the bite by bite commentary).

The day a restaurant gets a great review isn't a good day to try it. EL

I'm not one for the rules either, but I'm pretty sure that maki/nigiri is 'supposed' to be eaten with your hands, its the sashimi that's for chopsticks.

well, I am gonna just order some takeout later.. I can wait and the service was good in the past.

Okay so Im eating some Joss here -- I got again some vegetable tempura (apparently it is a la carte for dinner, so you pick the veggies which is pretty cool). Nice giant pieces, the batter looked a lot lighter and fresher, and it was definitely more crisp and flavorful.

Onto the rolls.. I got a spicy tuna roll, yellowtail roll, and softshell crab roll (yes, I realize this isnt any sort of "elite" or "hardcore" selection, but it is what it is).

The first thought is that all the rolls look the same: inside out with minced scallions and toasted sesame. Then again, perhaps just luck of what I ordered?

Spicy tuna is pretty good.. the heat builds in a pleasant way. The first piece of hamachi was a little fishy (duh), but the rest were pretty delicious as well. The soft shell crab roll is great (Im always a sucker for the 'dragon roll'), though maybe I was hoping for a little creamy something in there too (haha look at me, america, I want some mayo with my fried food). It has cucumber in the roll which is interesting.

Its definitely a good portion of food -- this will definitely deserve another trip.. maybe a sit down with some other people so we can try some of the more interesting items (uni, escolar, etc).

Is "dragon roll" another name for the soft shell crab roll? I'll have to remember that one. I've had them under the name "spider roll".

oh -- yeah youre right its spider not dragon... see its been awhile since Ive had sushi ;)

I have had a couple of great experiences here. Probably my top sushi place in Baltimore (so far) in terms of freshness and vareity. My advice is to order omakase-style. I like that they don't add a piece of "filler" shrimp nigri or make their rolls with chum-like diced up fish pieces. The only downside is coming to terms with the price tag and one disappointing uni experience.

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About this blog
Richard Gorelick was appointed The Baltimore Sun's restaurant critic in September 2010. Before joining the paper staff fulltime, he contributed freelance criticism and features articles about food to area and regional publications. Along the way, he dispatched for short-distance trucking companies, shilled for cultural non-profits, and assisted in cognitive neurology research – never the subject, always the control.

He takes restaurants seriously but not himself, and his favorite restaurant is the one you love, too.

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