Shoyou Sushi – Baltimore

For the last few years, I have heard my friend, Anthony, talk about how good this sushi restaurant is in Baltimore, Shoyou Sushi.  I was a total skeptic.  I just couldn’t imagine how any sushi could possibly be worth driving all the way to Baltimore when there are so many amazing restaurants in DC.  I cannot express enough how truly wrong I was.

A couple weeks ago, Anthony and I were sitting at a brewery with Chris and Andrew (aka the other 2/3 of the Hungry Trio).  Someone said something about going to Baltimore to get Sushi for dinner, and Anthony said, “let’s do it!” I honestly thought he was joking, but apparently you don’t joke about this sushi.  So low and behold, Torsten (Anthony’s boyfriend) met us in Silver Spring, and the five of us crammed into Chris’s GTI and drove to Baltimore for some sushi.

My first impression of the restaurant was that it is very small.  I can see why there is often a wait, but that is also a sign that they do a lot of business.  I greatly appreciate their logo with the glasses.

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I’d describe my first experience at Shoyou Sushi as nothing short of shocking.  My first “shock” came when we glanced at the alcohol menu.  Andrew noticed that they were selling bottles of wine for $16/$17.  We looked at each other and thought that just can’t be right.  It is not unusual to have to pay $14/$15 for a glass of wine in DC.  Paying that price for a whole bottle in a restaurant is just nonexistent.  Depending on the type of wine, that is just above retail value.  You best believe our first order of business was to ask for a couple bottles of chardonnay.

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Already, I was impressed, but I suppose $34 for two bottles of wine will do that.  The question was: will the food live up to this initial impression?  I think they said it best on their website, “although we are small, our sushi rolls are truly larger than life.”  I may be drawn in to the accidental Backstreet Boys reference (especially because today is the 20th anniversary of their Millennium album being released).  That doesn’t make that statement any less true.

I have never seen such momentous sushi in my entire life.  I believe the roll pictured above was the “Hot Night Baby!”  It has spicy tuna, shrimp, crab, avocado, tempura flakes, spicy mayo, eel sauce, and masago.  This is the tallest sushi rolls I have ever seen.  I honestly don’t know how they get it to stand up on its own with all those ingredients piled up inside and on top of the roll.

When picking what sushi rolls I wanted, I’ll admit I was limited due to my food allergies.  I had to find rolls that had neither shrimp nor sesame.  Many of the sushi rolls feature shrimp as a main component, and sesame oil and sesame seeds were hidden in a number of menu items.  Fortunately, we had a very accommodating waitress.  She talked to Sushi Bruce and found me some excellent options.

The roll in the top left picture was the “Big Boss,” which is a tempura roll with just about everything under the sun: tuna, salmon, yellowtail, crab, cream cheese, avocado, spicy mayo, eel sauce, tempura flakes, and masago.  The name is incredibly fitting.  This sushi roll was so huge that I couldn’t fit a whole piece in my mouth.  I tried to eat it in bites, but that was a challenge with chopsticks, as it just fell apart when I took a bite.  Honestly, I don’t care that this sushi was difficult to eat, because it was the best-tasting sushi I have ever had.  The quality of ingredients is unreal, and Sushi Bruce clearly handles these ingredients with care.

The roll on the top right was a salmon tempura roll.  This was a much simpler roll that could actually fit in my mouth.  I have never had salmon tempura before, but it is quite good.  I tend to gravitate towards tuna rolls before salmon rolls, but I was happy that our waitress convinced me to try something new.

I like how this restaurant has traditional sushi rolls but also items that go a bit outside the box.  For example, the sushi roll above on the right had slices of toasted garlic.  I have never seen toasted garlic on sushi before, but somehow they made it work.

Even their standard sushi rolls were above and beyond what you’d typically get at other restaurants.  The spicy tuna roll is stuffed so full of high-quality tuna that I am not sure if they could possibly fit anything else in there.  Some sushi restaurants pack so much cucumber in their spicy tuna rolls, so I appreciated that this roll was almost entirely fish.

Even the California roll was phenomenal.  I tend to stay away from California rolls because they are so basic, but I tried a piece of my friend’s roll.  That seriously was the best imitation crab I have ever had.

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Shoyou also has what I imagine is an incredibly popular menu item (seeing how our table ordered four of them) and that is the sushi burrito.  This was the first time I had ever seen a Sushi burrito in person and not on some Facebook or Instagram video.  I unfortunately could not try one due to my allergies, but that did not stop me from snapping a great pic.

These burritos are huge and stuffed with half spicy tuna and half imitation crab with shrimp tempura and avocado in the middle.  It is served with a side of spicy mayo and eel sauce.  I just couldn’t comprehend how much fish was in this burrito.  From what I gathered watching my friends eat these burritos, they are very good.

Honestly, every part of the dishes I tried were phenomenal.  My mind was absolutely blown.  I now see why my friends would drive all the way to Baltimore just for sushi.  I was so impressed with this restaurant that I just had to share it with someone who I knew would appreciate it as much as I did, my dear friend and fellow food blogger, Desiree.  We came back last weekend.

The atmosphere was quite different my second time.  We came on a Sunday evening as opposed to Saturday night.  The restaurant was calmer and less busy, making for a smooth and relaxing dining experience.

I challenged myself to order dishes I hadn’t tried the first time around.  To start, I ordered the fried calamari.  Being my second time here, I thought I couldn’t possibly be surprised by the food, but I had no idea what I was about to be served.  What I can only describe as the tallest and most beautiful pile of calamari I have ever seen, this appetizer rocked my world.  I love fried calamari, but this was next-level.  There is just something about tempura batter that elevates any fried dish.  The tempura was so light and crisp, bringing this calamari to life.

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After the calamari, I almost couldn’t eat any more, but I persisted.  I ordered a spicy tuna roll and a California tempura roll.  I had to bring a lot of both rolls home because I was so full.  They were delicious nonetheless.

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My second experience at Shoyou was just as impressive as the first.  I totally see the appeal of this place.  The food speaks for itself and literally defies gravity.  My only regret about this experience is that I waited until a few months before I move away to check it out.  If you live in the area, don’t make my mistake.  Make a trip to Shoyou Sushi right away if you can!

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