SOMERS POINT - The sign on the front of the well-kept beige building on Bay Avenue leaves little question as to what you will find inside. Sushi, sashimi, tempura, teriyaki, udon and salad are listed in bold white print, one under each window. And those are only some of the things Bay Avenue Sushi has to offer. We always seem to over order there.
A seaweed salad ($4.50) is the typical blend of several types of seaweed seasoned with sesame seeds, sesame oil, and some hot pepper flakes. An order of shumai ($4.50) was composed of seasoned ground shrimp stuffing inside a little round steamed dumpling.
We ordered a couple sushi rolls from the cooked column for my dining companion. A mixed vegetable roll ($4) and an avocado roll ($4) had the rice and sesame seeds on the outside, nori seaweed on the inside. Served with the usual wasabi and pickled ginger, they were basic, fresh, and well prepared. Soy sauce was on the table.
From the special roll section, we selected a Red Dragon roll ($15) with crisp-fried tempura battered shrimp on the inside topped with tuna slices. We also sampled the daily special, a crispy blue crab roll ($15) which had pulled crab meat bound with a spicy Japanese mayonnaise, garnished with cucumber strips and topped with what were supposed to be crispy tempura bits that were not crisp at all. The sushi and sashimi combo ($28), a platter filled with the freshest fish available, included tuna, yellowtail, white tuna, and salmon. Sashimi is basically sliced raw fish, leaving no doubt as to the freshness and quality of the product. Sushi may be raw or cooked but always includes rice. Served with the traditional sides, there is something about the simplicity of the ingredients and the skill required to properly slice and arrange the fish that makes it so wonderful.
We took note of the sign on the sushi bar referencing H.A.C.C.P., the hazard analysis and critical control point system devised by the Pillsbury Company to protect the food astronauts ate in space. Good to know that Bay Ave Sushi is concerned about both the quality of the products they serve and the health of their customers. No food-borne illnesses here
The deck outside remains unopen for the season but looks like a great place to have a summer evening meal. Inside is a stark setting but very contemporary, with shiny white floor tiles and a one piece sushi counter made out of some type of solid white composite material. The tiny sushi bar seats five and gives you the opportunity to keep a close eye on the sushi chef at work. The color scheme on the walls stretches from creamy to assorted blue-purples with a sparkly wave-like material running overtop the banquette seating - cool but not cold. We always like to look at the assortment of plates and wooden sushi serving items arranged on the back wall, behind the sushi station.
Our server was friendly, helpful, and patient, considering we had a million questions at a busy time. Less than adept with chopsticks, we were happy to learn from the back of a take-out menu that sushi etiquette does not frown on using the fingers on a regular sushi roll. Also, don't mix the wasabi and the soy sauce together; it dulls that blast of green horseradish that travels up your nose and makes your eyes water.
We have been fortunate enough to visit Bay Ave Sushi on several occasions. On our last visit, it was a full house and took a long time for our order to be prepared. As with any restaurant that makes everything to order, we had no problem waiting for our plates. In a sushi restaurant it's good to see the product move through quickly, so busy is good. You don't want to be caught dead hanging out at a quiet sushi bar.
C.C. Hoyt is the pseudonym of a southern New Jersey food writer. Write to Hoyt c/o Taste Editor Felicia Compian at firstname.lastname@example.org. Ratings guide: 4 stars, extraordinary; 3 stars, excellent; 2 stars, good; 1 star, fair; 0 stars, poor.