Sunday, February 10, 2008

Cho Cho San

If wonderful sushi is served in a strip mall in North Wales, is it still wonderful sushi? Why is this placed named after the iconic heroine of Madame Butterfly? Such philosophical questions are best put aside on your journey to Cho Cho San. I will not overhype this place for you, I will simply advise you to go. Put it in mapquest, print it out, and go.

First and foremost, Cho Cho San offers a unique creation (at least for me, perhaps another restaurant has also dreamed it up): the sushi sandwich. This happy idea, pictured at right (with spicy tuna) essentially sandwiches spicy tuna, or yellowtail, or another "salad" version of sushi, with tempura batter (think crispiness) between a layer of rice and seaweed. Thickly. Which means you get a rich taste of spicy tuna, a hint of crispiness for texture, with a relatively smaller amount of rice and seaweed. Believe me when I tell you this works. And for spice-phobes like myself, you can ask for it "not spicy." You will begin to crave these puppies, which prompted my second visit recently.

Second, there's everything else on the menu. The avocado salad with ginger dressing offers a generous portion of avocado; the seaweed salad is the perfect mix of sweet and savory, with the seawood done to a vermicelli-like perfection. The descriptions of the rolls take some time to peruse, but favorites will emerge. Mine is the "fancy roll," whose complexity makes up for its rather simple name. It includes shrimp tempura, caviar (don't get too excited, this is the same stuff in the other restaurants), top smoked salmon, eel, and avocado. I'm not a fan of mayonnaise in my sushi, but the "rock and roll" is popular, with shrimp tempura, top crabmeat mixed with mayonnaise and caviar. Roll specials are posted on the bulletin board as you walk in and are worth a look. Cho Cho San offers the kind of selection that has you planning not for just this order, but for your next visit.

What of the atmosphere? Did I mention it was in a strip mall in North Wales? Well, still not as bad as you might think. The servers are tremendously friendly, even conspiratorially giggly as we observed them devouring a bucket of KFC chicken in the back (it was an off time). The artificial fish tank in the back speaks to the charming efforts. It really doesn't matter. Order green tea, iced or hot, and save room for the sushi. This is a find and worth the drive.

Cho Cho San is located at 981 North Wales Road, North Wales, Pa., (215) 855-1681.

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