FEAST: Aloha Sushi


I admit it. 95% of my restaurant experiences these days are carryout. I like to eat my dinner laying on my couch and sipping a glass of wine, or beer, or a cocktail. I don’t dislike eating in restaurants. I actually enjoy the experience. But as a food service refugee, I know that restaurants make the highest profit margins on alcohol. So I would rather buy an inexpensive wine that is excellent rather than pay the 200% markup on what is often a mediocre wine.

Okay rant over – on to the food. I was in the mood for sushi so I went to Aloha Sushi on Charles Street. The restaurant has three sections. Upstairs is a traditional looking sushi restaurant. Downstairs is a dark bar with the usual neon alcohol advertisements. The newest addition is a liquor store that is open seven days – A boon to those of us who
tend to forget that Baltimore has draconian blue laws that prohibit the sale of alcohol
on Sundays.

I went upstairs to order carryout. As I walked up the stairs I noticed that on a ledge next to the stairs are little silvery (pewter?) figurines of former U.S. presidents. What an odd thing to have at the front door. Why are they there? Is this a collection? Is this the result of a drunken TV shopping spree?

Anyhoo – the waitress escorted me to the bar so I could place my order. After perusing the menu I settled on the Korean Chirashi – It was described as raw fish served over rice. I typically order nigiri – sushi made strictly of raw fish and sushi rice. No avocado, mayonnaise, cream cheese, or random fried crunchy bits for me. However when I order sushi I wind up dropping a sizable chunk of money. The chirashi was only $13.00 so I went with that. “I’ll have the chirashi”, I said. “Korean chirashi”, the waitress said. Apparently there is a difference.

The restaurant was hopping on a Sunday night. Clearly the kitchen was what restaurant industry folks call ‘In the weeds’ – which means they were behind. I paid, tipped the sushi chef (always tip the sushi chef), settled in, and watched the big flat-screen TV. The TV was on mute so my ears were treated to a screeching child and Hawaiian music. Aloha Sushi seems to be Korean-owned. That makes sense – Koreans traditionally eat raw fish as the Japanese do. The Hawaiian theme has me puzzled though.

My order came up and I was on my way. Minutes later, I was home unpacking my dinner. There was a cup of miso soup, a Styrofoam container of rice, a little plastic cup of a spicy red sauce I assumed to be Sriracha, and a large clear plastic container with my entrée. The Korean chirashi was not what I expected at all. It was beautiful. There was lettuce and vegetables topped with small cubes of raw fish topped with bright orange masago caviar. A taste of the red sauce told me it was not Sriracha but a pleasant spicy sauce.

Clearly I needed to do some research. A quick Google search revealed that I actually had Hwe Dup Bap a typical Korean dish. Rather than the Japanese method of eating the raw fish as close to it’s pure form as possible, hwe dup bap is meant to be eaten as a mixture of the fish, vegetables, rice, and chogochujang sauce – that mysterious red sauce.

The meal was satisfying. I added a touch of soy sauce as well. The spicy sauce, the fresh fish, the pop of the masago caviar, the crunch of the fresh vegetables made for an excellent light dinner. Korean chirashi or hwe dup bap will definitely be a regular on my menu. Aloha Sushi proves to be a solid and well-priced dinner option.

Aloha Sushi | 1218 North Charles Street | Baltimore, MD 21201
Reservations (443) 759-8531

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