I was not filled with hope when I crossed the threshold of A&A Sushi House. When it opened last year, the owners had rebuffed our efforts to write about it. Nor had I any reason to think it would be much of an improvement on the undistinguished Shiki Asian Bistro, which it succeeded in this oft-churned Hauppauge location.
But a reader wrote in to say that the sushi at A&A was a cut above, and that’s how I found myself pulling up a stool at the sushi bar. I made my standard request when trying out a new place: Could the chef make me chirashi (fish arranged on a bed of rice) but with the day’s “omakase” selection, i.e. whatever was freshest and most interesting. In other words: Impress me.
Over the years, this request has been met with more blank stares than I’d care to remember, but A&A didn’t skip a beat. Better yet, the chef delivered, presenting a truly impressive platter of fish. There was otoro (fatty tuna) and chutoro (medium-fatty tuna) and yellowtail and baby yellowtail and madai and uni (sea urchin) stuffed into a little hollowed-out cucumber cup. There was a scallop shell on which were splayed thin slices of raw scallop, each slice topped with caviar and something new to me, chopped wasabi root marinated in soy. There was one boring boiled shrimp, but also my very favorite shrimp preparation: ama ebi (sweet shrimp) whose tail was served raw and whose head was deep-fried and intended to be eaten whole in one bite (I obliged).
I won’t say this was the most refined presentation I have seen. That chopped wasabi wound up garnishing almost everything, a hillock of brown (!) rice was topped with a little wig of prepared seaweed salad and clunkily diced, pickled daikon. But it was head and shoulders above most of the sushi I’ve had in Suffolk County.
Can we talk for a moment about Suffolk sushi? Earlier this year Newsday published its Top 10 sushi list and there was some reader feedback and online chatter about its lack of Suffolk restaurants. Readers, we always strive for balance, but the two counties have different strengths. (Suffolk trounces Nassau when it comes to fish markets, for example, and coffee roasters.) When selecting our top sushi bars, we are looking for something very specific — a wide variety of super-fresh fish, some changing with the seasons, that are artfully presented with an eye toward highlighting their particular virtues. The restaurant should be able to — lo, should want to — prepare omakase.
Conversely, the number and intricacy of the restaurant’s sushi rolls play a much lesser role in our rankings. That’s how we roll.
But back to A&A Sushi House. It has a broad menu of hot and cold Japanese food (including a couple of dozen baroque sushi rolls) and boasts two pleasant dining rooms in addition to the sushi bar.
A&A Sushi House is at 321 Smithtown Bypass, Hauppauge, 631-656-8577, anasushihouse.com.