Fan-fugu-tastic!

Ok, it was bound to happen sooner or later; a post about Saso’s.  All our friends have had to endure, at one point or another, our gushing about this terrific gem of a restaurant.  Saso’s is one of the best things Albany has going for it (assuming you are a fan of good sushi).  Cati and I have been going (pretty much monthly) for years, and the place is incredible.  What makes it so good? 

Here is a list:

  • Saso.  His dedication to his craft is remarkable.  The guy seems a little obsessed about what he does (in a good way).  There is a constantly changing “specials menu” and he is a meticulous quality fanatic.  For evidence to support my claim, all you have to do is go there.  You’ll find Saso-san behind the sushi bar, preparing (or at least inspecting and plating) every piece of sushi that is ordered.  At times that might mean a longer wait when the restaurant is busy, but it is well worth it.  Order some edamame and have a beer.  His attention to detail is also demonstrated by the artwork on the walls.  What looks like multicolor lithographs, are actually painstakingly carved sheets of paper that are laid over one another to create a complex landscape.  They were done (and signed) by Saso-san himself, and each one took about one year to complete.  The place is obviously HIS restaurant, and it seems to me that he feels responsible for the quality of the food his patrons receive.  You won’t find some teenager reading off a list of ingredients while s/he makes the sushi (as we have actually seen at other sushi places in town). 

I hate to go off on a tangent here, but ever notice how lower end sushi restaurants’ and grocery stores’ sushi-counters exclusively employ young Asians at their sushi bars?  Why is that?  What makes a Chinese, Thai, or Vietnamese teenager, anymore knowledgeable than any other ethnicity when it comes to sushi?  I think these places expect us to say, “Hmm, he looks Asian, he must be well-versed in a tradition which can be traced back to ancient Japan.”  Gimme a break!  That’s like expecting a red-haired American to know a good haggis recipe.  Oh, and don’t even get me started on the little wooden boats either; I am convinced that’s the sushi equivalent to the Happy-Meal Box. 

Where was I?  Oh yes, Saso-san.  He is quite serious when he is working, and he is usually busy as hell whenever we are there (we usually do Friday or Saturday night).  He obviously holds his kitchen and wait-staff to the same high standards.  Which brings me to the next point.

  • The staff.  The servers are always courteous, attentive, and knowledgeable of the menu (especially Kris; the guy has every ingredient in every roll memorized).  I often ask them for pointers if I am going to try something new, and they are always helpful.  I’ve never had a bad server.  If you’re lucky, Saso’s wife Kathy will be there greeting people and helping the wait staff.  She is always pleasant, charming, and prompt and she really adds a nice touch to evening if/when she is there. 
  • The ambience.  Saso’s is relatively small, and essentially one room.  The decor is minimalist (you expected otherwise?) and elegant.  We like the “one-room layout” for the lively feeling of a bustling eatery.  We enjoy Jack’s Oyster House for the same reason.  There is something energizing about a roomful of people enjoying themselves (and each other).  Saso’s ambience is not particularly upscale, but that just indicates where the emphasis is; the food.  Also, the unassuming storefront, in a not-so-great part of town, makes us feel like we are in on some great little secret every time we go. 

So that’s that.  If you can go, and haven’t; go.  The sushi is amazing.  If you don’t like sushi, there are more items on the menu, like udon, tempura, teriyaki, etc.  We know nothing about these things though.  Cati and I keep telling ourselves we will try the noodles or some other menu items, but we like the sushi too much to miss it. 

Sayonara.

2 Responses to “Fan-fugu-tastic!”

  1. […] phallus by two people in all-white skintight unitards (pffft, artists).  Then Cati and I swung-by this little restaurant I may have mentioned once or twice for some dinner.  Then we went back to party the night away at Ryan and Esti’s swanky […]

  2. […] in the Goya section of your local grocery store) before heading to…wait for it…Saso’s for even more fish.  We actually had some cheese and crackers too, but that doesn’t fit into the […]