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August 26, 2009

Why Towson has so many sushi restaurants


I got an invitation yesterday to a press tour of Towson sushi restaurants in September.

It asked these intriguing questions: "Have you ever wondered why there are so many sushi restaurants in Towson and which one is the best?"

Well, yes, actually I have. At least the first question.

Towson is an area that I used to think could support a few more fine-dining restaurants, but I was wrong. ...

Asian restaurants that have sushi seem to flourish, though -- as much as any places are in this economy.

The press tour consists of walking around to four of them and tasting their sushi. The four are Kyodai, the Orient, San Sushi Too and Sushi Hana, which were chosen, the PR person told me, for their "combo of walkability and recommendations."

The press tour showcasing Towson’s sushi restaurants was organized by the Baltimore County Tourism Office. I like the ingenuity of it. There's not even a pretense of news involved, just, hey, come eat sushi and write about our restaurants.

And you know what? I bit, only without eating the sushi. Here I am writing about them. I do want to know why there are so many sushi restaurants in Towson. Does it have to do with the fact that it's essentially a college town, or that it's the beginning of a Little Asia, or what?

Unfortunately when I asked the PR person to tell me why, even though I wouldn't be going on the tour, she said, "I'm not sure myself." 

By her count there are 8 to 10 Asian places in Towson, which may be a little vague but they are still surprisingly large numbers.

Update: When I signed on to my work e-mail just now, I got this from Jill Feinberg, Director, Conference and Tourism, Baltimore County Department of Economic Development. EL

Some thinking of why there are so many sushi restaurants in Towson:
1.  Like the Italian restaurants in Little Italy, they build off each other
2.  Popularity of sushi with college students
3.  Downtown Towson is a destination for dining and shopping
Sushi/Asian restaurants in and around the area:

The four we will visit:

San Sushi Too, 10 W. Penn Ave

Kyodai Rotating Sushi Bar, 1 W. Penn Ave

Sushi Hana, 4 E. Penn Ave

The Orient, 319 York Rd.
Others in the area:

Sushi Ichiban, 1238 Putty Hill Ave

Kikumoto Sushi and Japanese, 510 York Road

Purim Oak Sushi, 321 York Road

Edo Japan, 825 Dulaney Valley Road (at the Towson Town Center)

PF Changs

(Algerina Perna/Sun photographer)

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 7:18 AM | | Comments (35)


I believe one place, Kikumoto Sushi, has turned into a Vietnamese eatery since then (new name escapes me).

If I were to rank the only three sushi places that matter in Towson, it'd be...

1. Sushi Hana
2. Olive and Sesame
3. Kyodai

I heard San Sushi Too was good, but I haven't been there.

Tangent: I was in Tokyo in January and came back a sushi snob. I'm trying to find someplace somewhere that makes tamagoyaki. No success so far. I am willing to travel. Anybody have some leads?

Now I want to go to Sushi Hana for lunch. Darn. Thanks for that, Elizabeth. :-)

San Sushi Too has very good sushi as well as good Pad Thai (from the Thai One On portion of the resturant). Although I've never been to the other resturants.

I heard that Olive and Sesame closed recently but I'm not 100% sure. San Sushi is good but Sushi Hana is better in terms of the quality of rolls, they don't fall apart and they are huge. The main benefit of dining at San Sushi is that you can also get excellent food at Thai One On if sushi isn't your thing.

Thai One On, incidentally, has some of the best Thai food in the area. I live in North Baltimore, and used to be a Thai Arroy fan, but no longer wanting to haul down to South Baltimore I am so happy to have found Thai one On. EXCELLENT Pad Thai, curries, Tom Ka Gai soup....

Sushi Hana is consistently good for Japanese.

What is the sushi place in Towson with the rotating sushi bar? I heard it is good...probably already mentioned.

That'd be Kyodai Rotating Sushi Bar, in Towson Commons. It's okay, but the good stuff is never on the belt. Going to a sushi bar anywhere and just getting some California rolls is like going to a rural farmhouse restaurant and ordering the seafood salad.

San Sushi hands down is the best in Towson.

I work right next door to Kyodai, and while it's not the best, it's a quick and cheap option. Also, the owner (or maybe manager?) couldn't be nicer.

But I think San Sushi Too has the best sushi.

If we are going to focus on Japanese cuisine for a second, I think we need less sushi restaurants and a few more Japanese Steakhouses. Sushi is so 1998. Hmmm - when did Benihana go on a chain expansion rampage?

There is Sakura at the Hunt Valley Center and Kobe in White Marsh at the Avenue.

There is a Sakura in Glen Burnie also.

San Sushi Too's sushi is good and their combinations are always unique and creative. It's a good spot for me because I adore sushi and my mother hates it; so she can have Thai while I indulge.

Kyodai and Sushi Hana are also good. Stick to the Pennsylvania Ave restaurants for sushi, the York Rd ones are just so-so.

Try the "Tommy Roll' special at the Orient, it's not on the menu, but it's really incredible!

This has nothing to do with sushi, but is a question in a similar vein -- why are there so many Indian restaurants on Charles Street in Mount Vernon?

It's a legit question that I was actually thinking of the other day as Towson is where I tend to be. San Sushi is definitely my favorite but I still am baffled by the closure of Paolo's.

The coprorate parents of that place claim it had 6 months of unprofitability, but prior to that it was always doing steady business. I never once saw them even TRY to get patrons back to Paolo's. No major menu rework, no new interior. I am convinced that they could make it work if they tried something beyond just doing bud light night for the kiddies.

I hear the Royal Farm on Joppa Road has some mighty fine sushi.

The last time I ate at Sushi Ichiban it was awful. The real crabmeat was bad & the avocado had turned mostly brown. The ingredients are not fresh.

Trixie? Are you still out there? Are you alive? How is that food poisoning doing?

Right on BiggameDamon - San Sushi is the best!

Vudean - Food poisoning? Whatever do you mean? I do love this tail that I have recently developed though...

Trixie, I've had Royal Farms sushi. I thought it lacked walkability.

Trixie, you got a bit of tail? I've always wanted one, prehensile, preferably.

Walkability...oh, dear...

Trixie, you got a bit of tail?

Nope, not going there.

So where is RayRay when you need him?

As a life-long Towson resident, I have sampled all of the sushi restaurants. San Sushi Too has the best. Always choose from the specials, not the printed menu.

San Sushi has some interesting rolls and sashimi but you have to order off the blackboard behind the sushi bar. The stuff on the menu is pretty pedestrian. It's fun to sit at the tables across from the sushi bar and watch sports on the big screen. For the purist, Sushi Hana is better, although I prefer the Lake Falls Village location. You can do better at Wegmans than pulling stuff off the rotating sushi bar. If you order off the menu it's better, but with the other options, I don't see myself going back there. Edo Sushi still is the king of sushi in the area IMO, but you'll have to expand your horizon beyond Towson and head up to Padonia Road. They also are at the Harbor and have Edo Mae in Owings Mills.

I have to agree with terpfan about Edo Sushi and expanding beyond Towson. Only Towsonites can get excited about Thai One On.

Reply to Tyler's Tangent:

My husband and I happened across a wonderful little Japanese restaurant in Orlando, Florida. The place is Hanamizuki Japanese Restaurant. It's in a bland-looking strip mall (and quite boring-looking compared to the big, glitzy Japanese restaurant across the street, which has men pounding drums theatrically during dinner hours).

The menu is extensive and had whole pages of things I didn't recognize, which says to me that it's more authentic than most of the places I've been. The customers were mostly Japanese, too. Our sushi was wonderful. It's maybe a mile from the convention center on International Drive.

Bit of tail
Hand roll
Red snapper
My head just exploded!

Aw, come on, RayRay! We haven't even gotten to uni, sauces and spreads yet.

I think Kyodai is really great for the college students. It's definitely cheap, which I believe is their main criteria for choosing a restaurant. However, for the rest of us, it's mediocre at best. It's not very ambitious, and yes, you see the same dishes go around and around and around. Some variation might help. Sure, you can order off the menu, but even that isn't very exciting. The only real reason to eat their is for the immediate gratification factor, and the low prices.

Sushi Hanah is the best place in Towson, IMO. I like San Sushi Too/Thai One On. But only for the sushi, not so much for the Thai food. But I was spoiled by living in Northern Virginia for a while, where Asian food reigns and tastes about 100% better than it does in Baltimore. Cheaper, too.

I did go visit the newish Vietnamese place in Towson. Not bad, and it's nice to see another Vietnamese place other than Saigon Remembered.

Speaking of why there are so many of these restaurants in Towson... how come there are so few sushi places in White Marsh?? And why is there no Thai??? So frustrating.

Not in Towson, but close -- hands down best sushi is Yamato Sushi in Timonium!! Not only fresh and delish, but every dish is a work of edible art and super friendly atmosphere.

First off... Sushi Hana used to be the best but they are now sub-par. Yamato in lutherville near REI is quickly become my favorite. The fish is always the freshest I have eaten, even better than Hana when Hana was good.

If you was sub-par fish and terrible service, follow the hype to sushi hana.

I'm excited...going to Edo sushi in Padonia shortly. Been there just a few times. But each time the food has been fresh and the service sitting at the Sushi bar is great. Plus it is byob, so the bill is always reasonable.

Egads, I just realized the state fair starts today, I think...Traffic will be crazy. Oh well, it's worth it!

Trixie, I love Edo Sushi but I've never been to the one in Padonia. Hope you enjoyed!

Joyce - Thanks, it was delicious. The padonia location is the only one I have been to, but I would imagine (or hope) that the quality is the same at all the locations. Last night had the volcano roll, which I get every time. New favorite though, the Fire maki. Shrimp tempora with scallops and an amazing sauce. Unbelievable!

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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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