My first thought when I saw the crowd of customers waiting to be seated at Umami: Good thing I made a reservation. Diners occupied every table, booth, and bar stool at the city’s latest and most talked-about sushi restaurant, which opened in Bellevue in February.
The restaurant’s popularity shows that many local diners are hooked on sushi, and they’re willing to drive across town and endure long waits to get their fish fix. It also shows that Chef Keen Zheng made a good move when he left behind sushi-dense New York for Nebraska. Zheng has realized his dream of opening his own restaurant and helped fill the void of sushi spots in the Galvin Road area.
Zheng’s culinary background includes a stint at Sushi Nakazawa, one of New York’s top sushi establishments. The restaurant is run by Daisuke Nakazawa, a former apprentice of Jiro Ono, a world-renowned sushi chef in Japan and subject of the acclaimed documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi.
Umami’s vast menu features a variety of delicately prepared nigiri (seafood gently pressed over seasoned rice) and high-quality sashimi (thin slices of fish such as tuna or salmon served without rice). Also available are sushi rolls, known as maki, made with raw or cooked fish, vegetables, nori, rice, and other ingredients.
Those with seafood allergies or aversions to raw fish shouldn’t let that deter them. The menu includes sushi prepared with cooked ingredients, as well as teriyaki and hibachi dinners, noodle dishes, fried rice, soups, or Thai and Chinese entrees.
My dining partner and I both liked the pink lady roll, named for the pink soy paper that holds shrimp tempura, avocado, cream cheese, and asparagus. Those who don’t care for nori (seaweed wrappers) may prefer the soy paper alternative. A slightly spicy sauce drizzled on top lends a nice heat that’s not overwhelming. There are excellent versions of tiger shrimp sushi and inari sushi. The latter consists of marinated and fried tofu pouches stuffed with rice.
We also enjoyed the spicy mango shrimp roll, filled with cooked shrimp, mango, tempura flakes, and just enough spice to perk up the palate. Less successful, the coconut shrimp roll—crispy shrimp and Fuji apples topped with avocado and coconut flakes—has an appealing blend of creamy and crunchy textures, but coconut sauce on top dominates and is a little sweeter than we’d prefer.
Vegetarian options include a fresh and light farmer’s roll with slivered cucumber, asparagus, bean curd skin, lettuce, avocado, squash, and oshinko (Japanese pickled radish). Zheng is an expert at preparing sushi, each item well-crafted and beautifully presented. Diners who nab seats at the sushi bar can watch as he and his team hold command.
The staff is friendly and knowledgeable, but service can be slow, especially during prime dinner hours. Our server had a packed house to deal with the night we dined, resulting in long wait times to place and receive our order. Still, I’d happily return to try more of the menu. It’s hard to pass up quality, reasonably priced sushi executed with Zheng’s level of skill.
food: 4 stars
service: 3.5 stars
ambiance: 4 stars
Overall: 4 stars
Visit umamiasianne.com for more information.
This article was printed in the September/October 2017 edition of Omaha Magazine.