At Merrick Sushi Bar & Tea, the fish may be raw, but the deals are anything but. Not only does the restaurant feature a multicourse $23 prix fixe, but there are other discounts built into almost every check.
The place is small and tastefully decorated in a Zen-contemporary look. It's also mercifully free of the throbbing techno-music prevalent at so many new sushi spots. And servers couldn't be nicer.
DEAL ME IN
My sushi prix fixe amounts to six courses. It begins with two appetizers - a hillock of tuna and yellowtail tartare surrounded by avocado petals plus two crunchy spicy snow-crab salad canapes. Next comes soup (miso or clear broth with shrimp shumai), followed by a vibrant avocado-asparagus salad. Instead of a sushi or sashimi entree, a friend chooses the royal lobster king roll - lobster tempura, spicy snow crab, cucumber and avocado rolled in soy paper. Very good, if you go for the ornate and the fried. After that, there's red-bean or green-tea ice cream.
The kitchen prix fixe, while good, is not quite so dazzling. A vegetable-stuffed spring roll and pan-fried gyoza (pork dumplings) are followed by crisp chicken tempura. One alternative, salmon teriyaki, is salty and unexciting. Give me my salmon raw.
ON A ROLL
Here, fancy rolls rule. Among favorites: the deluxe rainbow (nice mix of crunchy spicy tuna, avocado and tobiko), the Frank (crunchy spicy tuna, salmon, yellowtail with white tuna and a piquant fillip of jalapeño). I'm let down, though, that the Zen Zen (choose among salmon, tuna, yellowtail and eel, used both inside and out) is made with cucumber rather than avocado, as promised. But the vegetarian inari mango proves that tofu skin, rice and fruit make a surprisingly good combo.
What puzzles me about the sashimi regular entree is the mountain of chopped ice beneath impeccable but too-cold fish. What's wrong with putting food directly on a plate?
Even if you don't order a prix-fixe, you'll still save. There's a $5 discount on checks more than $30, $10 off tabs more than $50. What's not to like?