Friday, December 20, 2013

Tamaki Custom Sushi and Wraps Arrives in Ann Arbor

East Liberty Street is a pretty bustling stretch of fun shops, restaurants, and bars in Ann Arbor. It used to be the home and headquarters of Borders Inc, a still greatly mourned loss to the city because Borders was such an anchor for the Liberty & State district. Since Borders has dissolved, a lot of surrounding businesses have come and gone after losing the crowd of customers that once flocked to the giant bookstore on a regular basis. Well, though modest in size, East Liberty has a new draw, and I think it's a fine one: make your own sushi.

Tamaki Custom Sushi and Wraps has taken over Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory's spot at 521 E Liberty, right next to one of my favorite shawarma places, Hommus Express, and across from the Dawn Treader Book Shop. Their first location is in Lansing at 310 N. Clippert, and another location has been added at 1381 E. Grand River in East Lansing.
You might be asking yourself, "What is custom sushi?" Well, it's a lot like how Chipotle is a custom burrito, or Subway is a custom sandwich. There are some set recipes you may choose from, such as Tamaki's Double Cheeseburger, comprised of ribeye steak, pickle, cheese, tomato, and red onion, or the more classic Claifornia rolls and spicy tuna rolls. But coolest thing is that they will make a custom wrap for you, just like Chipotle makes burritos and Subway makes sandwiches.

You walk up the long counter with a sneeze guard and first pick whether you'd like a roll, wrap, rice bowl, or noodle soup. Next, choose a protein, which can be either raw or cooked. I picked raw tuna. The man making my roll warned me about the tuna being raw, and I assured him that was perfect. I think he assumed that because I had taken so long looking over their menu that I was hesitant about their offerings, when really I was feeling a but overwhelmed. Also, they don't have all your choices listed right up front, so it took me a while to figure out what my 20 choices of ingredient were.

After you've picked your protein (they recommend no more than 1 or 2 because the wraps are a limited size), you decide on vegetables and other fillings. He told me no more than 4, and I chose cucumber, pickled radish, shiitake (which they misspell as shiitaki for some reason), and shaved carrots. Once again I was questioned on my choice of topping when I asked for carrots. I told him that I have used carrots in making my own sushi at home before, and that they add a nice sweetness. He answered that some people order carrots because they think they're being healthy and don't end up liking the taste. 

The final step to making your own sushi is to pick a sauce, which at first I declined because most of the choices are spicy and I don't like spicy. I didn't know what "white sauce" was, and when I inquired about it, the woman behind the register got me a sample. It's a slightly sweet mayonnaise, as it turns out, and I liked it a lot, so I had her add that to my roll. 

Without asking, the man had put sesame seeds on my roll, which is fine because I used to that with uramaki, or the inside-out roll with the rice on the outside rather than the seaweed. I did not realize until later that in this, too, I had choices. Your topping options include the usual sesame seeds and tempura flakes, but also the astounding Doritos and Flaming Cheetos. Bwuh?? I admit, I am intrigued by both of these choices. I don't like Flaming Cheetos because they are too spicy, but Doritos? I would like to try that. I just don't know what would go with them. Probably not my tuna and veggie roll, but maybe the cheeseburger roll, which I absolutely try. 

To go with your sushi, you may also order miso soup, gyoza, and more. There is also a drink bar that includes, I kid you not, a large metal drink jug with a spigot devoted to soy sauce. Brilliant! If only they had one for hot tea. 

Tamaki offers lunch, dinner, and late night specials. They also, my favorite part, deliver! Whoo-hoo! I can get fresh sushi delivered to my workplace! Or walk the few blocks to Liberty and pick it up on my way between jobs. Any way I look at it, I have a new terrific place for lunch when I am downtown, and I could not be happier.

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