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If you knew sushi, like they knew sushi

  • 'FRESH FROM HAWAII': At Sushi Cafe.

It's sensible of the readers of the Times to vote Sushi Cafe the area's best sushi. The restaurant's sushi list lives up to its promise in taste —“Fresh from Hawaii!!” As is apparently de rigueur in these parts, it mixes unadorned standards (tuna roll, salmon roll) with East/West fusions (the “Heights,” for example, is grilled eel, cream cheese, crabstick and BBQ sauce). There's even something called the Cowboy Roll that's a California roll stuffed with mango and topped with seared NY strip.

Co-owned by Lulu Chi (who also owns Sekisui and several Chi's) and operating partner Robert Tju, Sushi Cafe opened at the tail end of 2007, at the outset of Arkansas' Great Sushi Boom, when new entrees into the market seemed to sprout up almost weekly, from West Little Rock to Sherwood to Searcy.

Sushi Cafe might've emerged as the leader of the new crop, but all that sushi-love seems to have come at the detriment of something far more unique in Central Arkansas — really good fish tacos. Far fewer people are talking about those heaping grilled red snapper delights or other Western items on the cafe's expansive menu. In the same spirit as its fused sushi, the cafe does an excellent quesadilla burger (an Angus beef patty on a flour tortilla, topped with a four-cheese blend and pico), a Waygu beef hot dog and the most decadent dessert since fried cheesecake, tempura fried cheesecake. Tju should open a food cart.

It's a testament to Sushi Cafe's menu that it draws repeat customers. Situated in a narrow corner storefront on Kavanaugh in the Heights, the space is cozy and sleek — more swank bistro than typical Arkansas sushi restaurant — but even on weekdays, come dinner time, you're lucky to even snatch a seat at the sushi bar, much less a table. It's rare to pass by and not see a cluster of folks gathered outside waiting for a seat at the bar to wait some more.

Owner Tju talks of expansion, of creating an adjacent lounge, but there's no timetable in motion, and Tju says he's in no hurry. In the meantime, eat early or late or stick out the wait. It's worth it.

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