No sushi? No problem at Nippon Grill & Pho

02/04/2013 10:01 AM

02/04/2013 10:03 AM

My initial disappointment at the removal of sushi from Nippon’s menu was soon allayed by a warm bowl of sirloin and meatball pho.

The Maize restaurant, which was taken over by new owners four months ago, stopped serving sushi because it didn’t have a sushi chef. The new owners added pho, a popular Vietnamese soup, to the menu and say they may serve sushi again eventually.

On a recent lunchtime visit, we found the dining room at Nippon to be clean and neatly furnished with tasteful Asian decor. The two walls of windows provided a nice dose of sunshine on a cold winter day.

After several minutes of staring at the menu board and with some helpful suggestions from the two gentlemen behind the counter, we placed our order, prepared our drinks and sought out a table near the windows.

Shortly after we found a seat our order of six fried dumplings ($2.99) was delivered to our table. They were fried to crispy perfection, but the filling could have used a little more seasoning. At the same time, one of my fellow diners received her house salad, a less-than-impressive plate of lettuce mix straight from the bag. A deliciously tangy creamy ginger dressing almost entirely made up for the unimpressive lettuce.

Next arrived a steaming bowl of sirloin and meatball pho ($6.99 for a medium bowl) with a side of bean sprouts, lime, basil and hoisin sauce. Nippon also offers chicken or meatball pho and has a larger size available for just 50 cents to $1 more.

I must admit that my experience with pho is somewhat limited but I found it to be nicely seasoned with fresh herbs and lean sirloin. I would definitely order this again, and it was a hit with everyone in our party that day.

Our other lunch entree choices were the hibachi shrimp ($6.49) and the spicy teriyaki chicken with mushrooms ($5.99). Both are served with a generous portion of fried rice, most of which we took home with us. The shrimp in the first dish was fresh and tender and was served with a crisp blend of grilled mushrooms, onions and zucchini.

We added broccoli to our spicy teriyaki chicken and were glad we weren’t charged extra since there were just a couple of sprigs on the plate. This dish had just the right amount of heat from colorful cayenne pepper flakes to satisfy this hot food lover. Anyone sensitive to heat should steer clear of menu items labeled “spicy,” as they really do mean spicy. But for the rest of us, this dish was a treat.

Dinner portions were listed as being just slightly more expensive than the lunch items, making this an affordable option for lunch or dinner.

This hidden gem of a restaurant is just a minute or two north of the hustle and bustle of NewMarket Square and is well worth driving a bit extra to find fresh, impressive food. I am pleased that my travels take me up this way and will give me more chances to take advantage of a new favorite local find.

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