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If you lived in a large metropolitan neighborhood, you would probably find a good sushi restaurant on just about every block. Not so in Vermont. But we’re glad to report that if you are willing to take a nice leisurely drive, there are at least three very good places to enjoy fresh, tasty and healthy sushi or sashimi.

For those who have not yet experienced this Japanese delicacy, here is some of what you may want to know. Basically, sushi is a dish of prepared vinegared rice which serves as a bed or mini platform for fish, usually raw. The word sushi actually refers to rice. The rice is balled and pressed with two fingers to form the basis of the nigiri or sushi. In Japanese, ni means two and giri means fingers.

Sashimi, the thinly sliced raw fish without rice beneath, is technically not sushi. Sashi means pierced and mi means flesh, noting how the fish was caught. This unique and flavorful eating experience goes back to the second century when it began as a way to preserve the fish by salting and storing it in fermented rice.

The most popular sashimi and sushi choices are sake (salmon), maguro (tuna), unagi (eel), hamachi (yellowtail) and ebi (shrimp). These bite-sized pieces are served with pickled ginger, wasabi for spice and soy sauce for salt. Although many Americans use chopsticks to eat sushi or sashimi, most Japanese use their hands, which is perfectly proper etiquette here in the States. Feel free to request that your sushi be prepared with brown rice. Most Japanese restaurants do this without an extra charge.

Preparing sushi is a learned art and skill. The Itamae or head sushi chef is a person of great accomplishment and honor. They spend at least five years as an apprentice learning to find the right balance of rice and vinegar. It may take a decade or more to earn the recognition of sushi master. Their heads are often shaved to demonstrate cleanliness, precision and dedication.

Snowfish

The first of our three recommended restaurants is Snowfish, in the village at Stratton Mountain. Snowfish provides outstanding sushi and sashimi, much of it flown in from Hawaii. Snowfish can be found at Mulligan’s restaurant where it has its own separate and stylish dining room on the second floor. But the really good news is that you can also order your sushi anywhere you sit at Mulligan’s, including the bar, as well as their outside seating areas, both porch and patio.

With Hawaiian ahi tuna and Pacific King salmon as the headliners, Snowfish can deliver these pieces of fish in a bowl with rice and salad, in a roll of rice blended with other ingredients, simply on a bed of rice or as a standalone piece of fish. Portions are generous. The selection is extensive. Our favorites are the crunchy spicy tuna or salmon bowl at $25. Sashimi is priced at $14 for 3 pieces, sushi at $12 for 2 pieces. We also like the spicy tuna roll at $18 and the rainbow roll at $26 with assorted pieces of fresh fish. Prices for sushi and sashimi have gone up recently because of the escalation in the cost of fish and the expense of transporting it long distances.

Snowfish is great for takeout. The schedule for Snowfish does change depending on season, so it is recommended that you call 802-297-9293 before heading up the mountain.

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Blue Mango

A short drive from Bennington, you’ll find Blue Mango at 27 Spring St. in Williamstown, home to a wonderful theater festival and many fine dining venues. This unpretentious, storefront restaurant in this lovely college town is open for lunch and dinner seven days a week. Blue Mango has an extensive menu, including at least 20 appetizers, numerous salads and soups and nearly 10 noodle dishes. In addition, several tempura and teriyaki dishes are offered with miso soup.

But the sushi and sashimi are the real stars of the show. Our salmon sashimi slices were substantial, silky smooth and melt-in-your-mouth delicious. For lovers of unagi or eel (I am; Myra is not), Blue Mango offers it in rolls, as sushi or as sashimi. To me, eel tastes better with the vinegared rice, especially with brown rice as we order for all our sushi where available. Blue Mango offers more than 25 rolls, including a Boston roll of shrimp, avocado, cucumber and lettuce for $8.95, a Spider roll of soft shell crab, avocado and asparagus at $12.95 and a Beauty and the Beast roll at $13.95 consisting of tuna, eel, avocado, cucumber and sesame seeds. We recently had an excellent lunch here with friendly service and complimentary green tea.

Morrissey’s Lounge & Bistro

For those of us willing to drive to Saratoga, we recommend the newly renovated boutique Adelphi Hotel at 365 Broadway for outstanding sushi. The hotel was recently recognized by Conde Nast Traveler magazine as having a “Great Gatsby” feel. A smartly lit, elegantly wood paneled bar room with red leather stools at the bar create just the right ambiance for a terrific drink, lunch or dinner

The sushi menu is available in the bar room, at the bar, in the glass-ceilinged atrium toward the rear of the hotel, as well as on the extensive patio in the front of the hotel. Although this column is about Japanese cuisine, we’d be remiss not to mention that all dining locations at Adelphi offer huge, mouth-watering Carnegie Deli hot pastrami and hot corned beef sandwiches. Just something to keep in mind when the mood strikes.

While the sushi and sashimi at Morrissey’s in the hotel are fabulous, we love the rolls here because they are creative and uniquely delicious. Take, for example, the French Cake Roll composed of salmon, avocado, tobiko (red fish roe), yellowtail, tempura flakes and a mildly spicy sauce. Or the Mango Salmon Roll with just the perfect blend of salmon, avocado, fresh mango and wasabi mayo. Try the Kobe Maki roll of shrimp tempura, avocado, crab meat, Kobe beef sashimi and scallions, topped with a sweet and spicy sauce. Sushi is priced at $12 to $18 for two pieces or for three pieces of sashimi. Rolls are priced from $14 to $22. All servings are generous. Morrissey’s can be reached at 518-350-7945.

Sushi is all about properly textured and flavored rice, extremely fresh, high-quality fish and artful presentation. All three of these restaurants hit the mark. Go, enjoy and share your opinions with us.

David Meiselman and Myra Packman are food and restaurant columnists for Vermont News & Media. They can be reached at davidandmyravt@gmail.com.


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