Monday, November 9, 2009

cravings for sushi?

The other day, I checked out a new restaurant on the Corner. It was near my favorite local coffee shop, so I decided to stop by on a whim. It's called Sushi Love and it's on Elliwood Ave.

Charlottesville's sushi places have trained me to expect high prices for average food and ok service. Sakura on the Corner is very so-so. It's been frequented not for the food, but for pure convenience. Repeated poor service has led me to avoid it if possible. It once took thirty minutes for the menu to be brought out and about fifteen minutes for us to get water after we got the menu. I'll admit that I haven't tried sushi at Flaming Wok Teppan Yaki & Sushi Bar, but in general, sushi in Charlottesville is pretty pricey. So I was on a limb here, entering a sushi place and hoping that it would be decent. I was pleasantly surprised.

I entered Sushi Love. I was greeted by the manager and shown the three different types of seating areas, each of which exuded its own unique atmosphere. Instead of the intimate private seating in the back or the stately wooden chairs in the middle, I opted for the tall chairs, bathed in sunlight. I opened the menu to find to my delight Korean food! The chef must be Korean, because the menu boasted not only bulgoki, which is marinated BBQ beef, but also bibimbab, or mixed rice with vegetables and a spicy pepper paste. Although I had come for sushi, I had already made up my mind to taste Korean food. Nevertheless, I decided to ask the manager, who was also my waiter, what he recommended. Instantly, he pointed to the bento box, which I saw was priced at a ridiculously cheap $8 and something. He casually pointed to my neighbors who were enjoying their food and I saw that these were not small, mean portions. I was really tempted to scrap my bibimbab choice and go with the bento box. However, the fact that the bibimbab was around $6 sort of sealed the deal.

Service? I'd give it a 7.5/10. I know that the manager-waiter was very attentive, because the restaurant is new and I was one of the few customers. I'd like to come back later to see if service is still on par.
Food? I only got one entree... (which calls for several repeats to see if the rest of the food was as authentic as my bibimbab). But it was also pretty high: 8/10.

Of course, although I am giving Sushi Love high marks, excellent food and service doesn't guarantee its success. The managers of Sushi Love need to be business savvy and learn to cater to the college community, because of its close proximity to the University. This requires flyering, getting its name out there with CIOs, and encouraging students to bring friends. Being active in the Charlottesville community in general also doesn't hurt. I know Para Coffee is particularly successful because the couple who owns Para Coffee networked through the local artist community and the Christian community.

I'm not going to lie... restaurants on the Corner usually have a lifespan of two years. The Biltmore recently changed hands, despite years of going strong. Three used to be a different restaurant, Boylan Heights is a new addition, and recently, Rita's Ice Cream turned into Trinity, a snazzy new bar. While there are a couple of names going strong, such as The Virginian and College Inn, the majority of eateries on the Corner come and go within a student's college lifespan. At best, we can wish Sushi Love good luck and see how it thrives.

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