Long Island’s all-you can-eat sushi scene offers sweet and spicy deals for fans of the Japanese culinary art form, turning a traditional appetizer into an affordable feast. For as low as $18.95, sushi lovers can spend a couple of happy hours gorging on shrimp, tuna, salmon, octopus, eels, flying fish roe sushi and practically anything else the sushi bar can slice, dice and roll into rice. And although not all sushi contains raw fish, you can always find cooked items such as tempura vegetables or shrimp teriyaki, also included in the pay-one-price deal.
The bounty doesn’t come without caveats. Most local all-you-can-eateries impose rules intended to prevent waste, sharing and over-ordering (there are no doggie bags).
If you’re in a sushi kind of mood, you won’t have to travel far. All-you-can-eat spots are popping up in many a downtown shopping center and along stretches of major thoroughfares such as Long Beach Road and Jericho Turnpike. The majority are sit-down restaurants, where you mark your choices with a pencil on a paper menu and hand it to the server. (Some are in Japanese buffets.) Soon, bountiful plates from the sushi bar and kitchen are ferried to your table. Still hungry? Repeat.
Soy sauce is included for dipping, wasabi mustard paste (Japanese horseradish) for spicing up your sushi, and pickled ginger slices as a second garnish or for palate cleansing while you wait for the next course. If you want a different condiment, such as spicy mayo, you may be charged extra.
Seafood lover Maria Isernia, 66, focused on fish sushi and sashimi on a recent visit with friends to Watawa Sushi & Lounge in her hometown of Bethpage. "The salmon sashimi one was really good because it was very fresh," Isernia said. Overall, she adds, "It wasn’t expensive considering that that you get as much as you want and are able to try a variety. ”
All-you-can eat prices vary, with the best deals at lunchtime. Prices tend to rise on weekends and holidays. Teriyaki, tempura, garden or seaweed salads, and a dessert of red bean or green tea ice cream are also generally included in the deal.
As you polish off your dish of ice cream, you may wonder, how do they do it? The secret is you may be trading the highest quality for quantity, says Long Island commercial fishing industry expert Sean Barrett, co-founder of Montauk-based Dock to Dish, a community-supported New York State fishery program.
Such all-you-can-eat deals offer an economic introduction to a healthy but often pricey cuisine, says Mamie Nishide of Laurel and Manhattan, chef instructor at the Japanese Cooking Studio in Manhattan. “If you order sushi at a regular fish restaurant, the price goes over $100.” Nishide recommends sampling as much of the menu as you can at the cheaper restaurants, so you can order only what you really enjoy at the pricier restaurants.
WHERE TO EAT ALL YOU CAN
A big Vegas-style dining room attracts a family crowd. The spread includes sushi in brightly lit cases, and stations for hibachi, raw oysters, Ramen and soba noodles. $17.95-$34.45. Prices for children 12 and younger are based on height. 219 Glen Cove Rd., Carle Place, 516-294-9541, minado.com
Watawa Sushi & Lounge
Check off what you want on small white menu slips provided at the table, and the servers will keep it coming, albeit at a relaxed pace. On a recent night, the crowd was stoking up on fish such as striped bass sushi. $21.95-$23.95, 164 Hicksville Rd., Bethpage, 516-731-8989, watawany.com
Ying Asian Fusion
In addition to western-style seating at tables, traditional Japanese mat seating is available. On a recent night the crowd was mostly well-dressed seniors. If you like lots of crunch in soft-shell crab roll, it’s one of the best deals around — $18.95 for all you can eat within a two-hour limit. 2780 Long Beach Rd., Oceanside, 516-763-1188, yingsushi.com
Yummy Yummy Restaurant
Choices range from vegetable tempura appetizer to hand rolls and chef’s special maki. Leftovers may incur a $5 charge per person. $29.95-$30.95, 153 E. Park Ave., Long Beach, 516-897-5598, yummyyummylb.com
Sushi Palace III
A sushi bar and kitchen serve an extensive menu including soup, salad, sashimi, tempura and more, in two brightly decorated dining areas. $21.95-$23.95, 1141 Jericho Tpke., Commack, 631-343-7626
An extensive pan-Asian menu runs from soup, salad and vegetable rolls to Thai and Chinese specialties. An additional $6.99 buys all-you-can-drink Sapporo or Bud Light beer. $21.99-$22.99, 23 Broadway, Massapequa, 516-882-0328. A slightly different menu but an identical beer deal is offered at the same owner’s Sake Asian in West Babylon. Hidden away in a big shopping center, this low-key spot features two dining areas. $21.99-$23.99, 76 Rte. 109, West Babylon, 631-620-3888, sakeasian.com
“Order all you want, but eat all your order,” is the motto at a rest-stop-style restaurant with red walls, big wooden tables and an extensive all-you-can-eat and a la carte menu. $19.99-$21.99, 846 Portion Rd, Ronkonkoma, 631-588-8885, tangdynastycuisine.com
RULES TO ALL-YOU-CAN-EAT SUSHI
All-you-can-eat doesn’t mean as long as you can keep eating, so before you order, read the fine print on the menu or the rules posted near the cash register or entryway.
The worst sin: not joining the clean-plate club. Leaving leftovers is not only frowned upon. If you wind up ordering more than you can eat and leave it on your plate, you won’t be offered a carry-home bag. But you may be charged for the full price of the leftover pieces. One restaurant adds a $5 surcharge per person for diners who skim the rice off their sushi and just eat the fish inside.
Another caveat: All-you-can eat doesn’t mean you can close the place down. Diners are usually limited to a 90-minute or two-hour session.