Red Sushi Grill
In a word: In Madison, "red" means go. Wait, what?
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JM ate the filet mignon with a lemonade.
Nichole ate the miso black cod with an iced tea.
Nino ate the chirashi.
We split some dumplings and mochi.
The bill was $75, or $25/person, plus tip.
We all gave Red Sushi Grill an A- (see our grading rubric).
We started with some shumai, a four-piece appetizer of steamed shrimp dumplings. Right after they landed on our table, the man behind the sushi bar said, "How about that! Aren't those the biggest dumplings you've ever seen?"
He's totally right. Those little shrimp on top? Jumbos. Just kidding. Cocktail-sized shrimp. But still, the dumplings were generous and delicious, steamed through perfectly despite their 3- or 4-bite size, and had a subtle sweetness that was very appealing.
The chirashi was a good way to sample the breadth of fish on offer. Nino ended up choosing it almost of necessity, as he's not a fan of avocados. For those with no love for the slimy green drupe, Red Sushi's menu shrinks substantially; while avocado is definitely a key ingredient for a sushi bar on a mission to offer inexpensive and healthful food, it's odd (which is not to say miserly) that avocado was in upwards of 70% of the rolls offered. Avocado is on the chirashi, too, but it's easier to pick off.
The rest of the chirashi, with mega-thanks to sushi chef Chad for his mad ID skillz (see larger photo with notes - any factual errors are ours, not his), was comprised of octopus, shrimp, crab stick, tilapia, ahi tuna, clam, scallop, and one yellow mystery item. Nino was impressed by the freshness of the fish, as well as the the combination of black sesame seeds and pickled squash (just underneath the mountain of fish) which added a nice flavor break.
JM went big and got a filet mignon, which was fatty and tender. It gave the impression it was not an afterthought for the non-sushi-eating patrons, which is so nice from a place whose heart is elsewhere. The vegetables were "very palatable" (high praise) and it all came together well.
The miso black cod was sweet and soft, but not much to write home about, so we'll just use a strained analogy in case anyone cares enough about our untethered, philistine ramblings to puzzle it out.
(Speaking of untethered influences, just because references to pop music here will never be lowbrow - Born this Way : Express Yourself : Respect Yourself :: Lady Gaga : Madonna : Staple Singers. Enough. What is this? The SAT?)
Yay for mochi! We ordered two balls of the ice cream treat and Nino and Nichole cleaned the plate. The green tea and strawberry versions were equally tasty, fresh, and supple, garnished with fresh blueberries, blueberry sauce, and a cherry.
Nino described the staff as "charmingly offhand about all being newbies." We asked a bunch of questions and eventually had several people putting their heads together to find out the answers. By now, barring big turnover, we bet that's no longer a feature.