For the Love of Sushi

Lately, I have a craving for fish. But I don’t want spigola al sale (seabass baked in sea salt, a lovely dish). Nor my faithful sautee of vongle veraci, usually my favorite comfort food that makes me feel good no matter what is going on, or what the weather is like. Nor the ever so versatile, fun and popular in restaurants around the globe fried calamari with red sauce for dipping.

I want freshly plucked crustaceans, mollusks, bivalves, and other friendly animals from the ephemeral lands of Poseidon and Nettuno, and I want it raw. The obvious answer to that is sushi, and crudo, by default. Which means that I have visited many sushi restaurants, many times in the many neighborhoods of Rome in search of raw fish, in particular- uni (raw sea urchin). Being that I lived in Los Angeles with a Japanophile, in a neighborhood close to one of the USA’s largest Japanese communities, I often snobbishly feel that I know my fish and know how to eat it. I should demurely add that prior to the Japanophile, I spent every Saturday and Sunday morning in 1995 and 1996, as first mate on another boyfriend’s speedboat off the coast of Miami. Our main objective was spear-fishing, poaching lobsters, crabs and other delicacies in the wee hours of the morning. Unfortunately, as first mate, I had to clean the whole boat before we ate anything.

In loving memory of the boyfriend who taught me how to pluck bugs (lobsters) and the Japanophile who taught me how to eat sushi strategically, I have compiled a list of sushi and crudo restaurants in Rome which I hope will grow logarithmically. I’ve also learned that it’s not just what you eat or where you eat, but your attitude before you eat.

Crudo via degli Specchi 6, 06 6838989 (Campo de’ Fiori)
When in the artsy mood (and with some cash, lots?, to spare), Crudo is best for the lovely list of cocktails and the unique raw dishes that are based on sushi and crudo ideas. Nouvelle Cuisine, small but very beautiful servings. I like the design—that thrown together 1960s left over office desks and chairs, and the paintings on the walls. I am not sure if it has changed since last spring, I’d love to know.

Daruma Sushi via di Panico 66 06 6819233 (Piazza Navona en route to Castel Sant’Angelo)
Take-out’s delight—a small shop dedicated to delicacies of Japan—packets of miso soup, soba, dried seaweed, candies, beers, sake and yes, plastic ”bento” boxes of standard sushi fare—rolls, sushi with ginger and wasabe. Prices are wonderful! And there is Unagi (eel) (order in advance). Alessio (the owner) also runs a catering and delivery service (06 33610700) that reaches various areas of Rome, again, it must be ordered well in advance—best to call in the morning.

Doozo via Palermo 51, 53 06 4815655 (near Termini)
Doozo is a gallery slash art bookstore slash Japanese restaurant. It is a great place to browse art books, to catch up on the latest art show and to have a romantic lunch or dinner in the zen garden in the back courtyard. The menu is very simple and traditional Japanese-- soba noodles, basic sushi, tempura and even lovely wooden bento boxes. As you can imagine, presentation is beautiful. The desserts were delicious—to be honest, the only one I remember is a kind of cacchi cake. Prices are a bit high, but the servings are large.

Federico I via della Colonna Antonina 48, 06 678 3717 (near Pantheon and Parlamento)
Wonderful crudo, lovely setting, very romantic and pricey.

FISH via dei Serpenti, 16 06 4782962 (near Colosseo and Quirinale)
Ben said that this is a very hip place. In fact, he also told me he always went there with dates for cocktails. Its very modern, with raised bar tables in the front, seated dining in the back and midway a sushi bar. The menu has a variety of Asian dishes, however, I didn’t really care and just focused on the sushi which was adequate but not "wow, this is the best sushi evah."

Hakesura via dei Serpenti, 27 06 483648 (near Colosseo and Quirinale)
Just down up the street, on the same side of via dei Serpenti as Fish, is Hakesura, a place that reminds me of one of my favorite places in Los Angeles where guaranteed I always hit my head on the fuse box. Hakesura is simple and serves good Sushi and Japanese cuisine. Basic and good prices for what you eat. There is always a line. Note: Andrea, snobby Roman epicurean who does like sushi, did not like this place, mainly due to décor, hence my reference to Wave.

Hamasei via della Mercede 35, 36 06 6792134 (Piazza di Spagna, near Piazza San Silvestro)
The “deal maker”- I have heard of (and seen) many successful dates here. Hamasei has the reputation as the oldest, best and often considered most expensive sushi in Rome. The décor is modern Japanese with beautiful sculptures and ink paintings. The sushi was good, and I found uni here—I didn’t like it because it wasn’t fresh.

La Rosetta, via della Rosetta 8, 06 6861002 (Pantheon)
Very fancy, very good and very very very expensive. Seafood dishes, wonderful crudo, incredible setting—in front of the Pantheon. I just was overwhelmed with the price.

Osteria Mia vicolo della Cancelleria 13, 06 68892729 (Piazza Navona, near Corso V. Emmanuele)
Not sushi, but a traditional and season Italian restaurant, with an “under the pergola” outdoor dining area. It is romantic and last fall, I had the most amazing crudo platter in the world. I love this place.

Reef Piazza Augusto Imperatore 47, 06 68217532 (above Navona)
The named dragged me here, and I was happy. There is a light sushi and raw menu, and its good for a quick fix in a ultra modern, minimalist hip way. I often think it would be a good place to grab a cocktail and appetizers, a good meeting spot.

Riccioli Cafe Piazza delle Coppelle 10°, 06 68210313 (near Pantheon)
Some love it here, some hate it. Small, ultra contemporary with fluorescent lights, Ricciolo is a cocktail bar with crudo platters, fresh oysters and sushi. Slightly overpriced. The sushi is not good—simple rolls, it seemed. However, the crudo dishes are delicious as are the oysters. Good cocktails and nice enclosed patio.

Rokko via Rasella 138 06 4881214 (near Trevi)
Rustic Japanese kitchen style with simple sushi menu—and significantly lower priced than Hamasei, Zen, Bishoku Kobu, etc. I have a friend who comes here ritually for the seaweed salads and tuna. On occasion, there is uni, however, I have not been there on that occasion.

Zen Sushi via degli Scipioni 243 06 3213420 (Prati)
Zen is one of Rome’s hip restaurants— the Kaiten sushi comes to you on a conveyor belt, and you stack your plates of sushi, sashimi, tempura and desserts as they go round and round. Its well-lit, always busy and ideal for big groups, especially when you order the boat platter—lots of fish delivered to you in a lovely wooden boat. I have a lot of fun here.

Random Sushi/Chinese Place at Piazza Risorgimento (between Via Crescenzio and Via Porcari)
I don’t know the exact address, don’t know the number, but I saw the Chinese lantern and I followed it. (There is some Chinese/Japanese(?) graffiti sprayed next to SUSHI (in graffiti) on Via Porcari.) This little Chinese/Japanese place was a good fix for very basic sushi.

Places I have heard of but have yet to try:

Aim Sushi Bar Via della Penitenza,7 06 68307053. (Trastevere)
The name reminds of instant messaging. Supposedly it is a NYC-style sushi bar. Could also be the infamous ATM sushi which I was told was decidedly not good.

Bishoku Kobo via Ostiense 110b 06 5744190 (Testaccio)
Supposedly very elegant.

Crab via Capo d’Africa 2 06 77203636 (Colosseo)
Ah, the name beckons me. Seems to be seafood.

Hostaria del Pesce via di Monserrato 32 06 6865617 (Campo)
Reputation as “The Best Fish in Rome”.

Kisso via Firenze 30 06 47824677 (near Termini)
Kaiten sushi