When you see the phrase “vegan sushi” in the name of this restaurant, you might be inclined to wonder, “Wait, what is vegan sushi?” And it’s a good question. Basically, instead of raw fish sliced up with really expensive knives and placed atop or inside rice, you get raw (or cooked) vegetables. If you’re then inclined to ask, “What is the difference between this and chopped vegetables over rice?” Our answer is... exactly.
We’re not wholly against the concept. In fact, having tried vegan sushi in New York, we saw how the concept can work. So we wanted to believe. We wanted to write that we had conquered our skepticism and found a true hidden gem — a vegan sushi restaurant that could stand up to the best raw fish in town. We wanted to be able to interrupt conversations about o toro and haughtily say, “Oh, well, that sounds nice, but you really haven’t eaten sushi until you’ve tried eggplant nigiri.”
But we can’t. Because Shizen’s vegan sushi is strictly mediocre.
There are some good moments, like the solid seaweed salad and the suitably fried dumplings. The spicy garlic miso ramen even veers into we’d-go-back-for-this territory. But it’s mostly downhill from there.
The nigiri, i.e. vegetable slabs over rice, are weak. Bland plant matter over two blobs of bland rice is fairly outrageous at $5. What’s the margin on that, 85%? The rolls continue down the wayward path. Tempura is a recurring theme — why feature vegetable flavors when you can mercilessly reduce them into fryer oil?
The restaurant is nice enough, but we couldn’t shake the persistent feeling that we were the rubes in a vegan game of three-card monte. We’ll keep on the lookout for our next opportunity for a vegetarian revelation.
A fully inoffensive seaweed salad. Not the best we’ve had, but not the worst.
An odd mushroom dumpling filled with “crab meat.” Not terrible, but the scare-quote-crab didn’t taste very delicious.
Fried dumplings. These are pretty good.
Genuinely tasty. If we were wandering by and forgot that there are dozens of good places to eat nearby, we’d come in just for this.
Generally a huge rip. Avoid.
Signature rolls, but with purely vegetal ingredients (e.g. beets, cashews, cream cheese, avocado, sweet mustard, orange zest). Probably better than the worst sushi rolls with meat in them?