Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Restaurant Review: Kobe Hibachi Sushi & Asian Cuisine, Poughkeepsie, NY

One of the exciting things about moving to a new place is discovering the good local restaurants. Though we've been living in New York's mid-Hudson Valley for nearly two years now, that process is still going on. We thought we'd found our go-to place for sushi, and for a while, that was true: Bull & Buddha on Poughkeepsie's Main Street.

But three things have nagged us about it: 1) it's expensive, particularly for the area, 2) their special rolls come with only six pieces, versus the typical eight, and 3) on more recent visits, the sushi has tasted a bit fishy, not of the same quality we experienced the first several times dining there. So we've been on the hunt.

Happily, that hunt has been very successful. I'm just sorry we didn't find this place sooner: Kobe Hibachi Sushi & Asian Cuisine, also in Poughkeepsie. It's set in an average, unassuming strip mall; the kind of place you'd easily drive by and not give a second thought. But would you be wrong.

A long hallway transports you deep into the restaurant and far from thoughts of the strip mall parking lot. From there, the restaurant splits—the front half is the hibachi room, where we've never dined, and the back half is the dining room, which includes the sushi bar. Kobe offers gluten-free soy sauce, and with a bit of communication with one's server, the best sushi (gluten-free or not) we've had in the Hudson Valley.

We've dined there on three occasions (so far) in recent weeks, twice in the restaurant and once as take-out. Our litmus test for any sushi restaurant is the hamachi (yellowtail) with scallions. If something's going to taste fishy, this one is the canary in the coal mine. Kobe's tastes clean and fresh.

But while Kobe offers up many of the usual standards: tuna roll, California roll, etc., the sushi menu really shines with the house specials, some of which have become some of our all-time favorite sushi rolls. Take, for instance, the Fried Mountain Roll.

Normally, it would be prepared as follows: shrimp tempura and avocado wrapped in seaweed and sushi rice, generously topped with spicy tuna, a piece of grilled shrimp, drizzled generously with spicy sauce and eel sauce, then topped with tobiko and shredded scallions.

We, naturally, modify the roll to make it gluten-free: swap plain shrimp for the shrimp tempura, omit any tempura crunchies (which are often added to spicy tuna) and omit the eel sauce (which contains regular soy sauce). It is nothing short of divine.

Another similar roll we also enjoy is the Crazy Roll, which includes spicy tuna, shrimp tempura, avocado, and cucumber, wrapped in seaweed and rice, and topped with white tuna, yellowtail, and tobiko. Again, swap plain shrimp for shrimp tempura, omit any tempura crunchies and eel sauce, and enjoy!

Overall, we've been pretty impressed with Kobe's attentiveness to gluten-free dietary restrictions. Not once have they batted an eyelash when we've asked for the gluten-free soy sauce, or flinched when we explained that we need to order our sushi rolls gluten-free.

On our first visit, our server keyed in the sushi roll modifications into our order ticket and also spoke with both sushi chefs directly, to make sure everything was prepared appropriately. The one snafu—due to a miscommunication—was that they omitted the shrimp tempura, instead of replacing it with plain shrimp. That was easily corrected on our second visit.

On our third visit, we ordered the rolls just as we had the previous two times. This time, the rolls came out drizzled with a second sauce that hadn't been on the rolls the first two times. It was a dark eel sauce that immediately screamed "regular soy sauce." We double checked, and they confirmed that it was a mistake. To Kobe's credit, the restaurant remade the entire tray of sushi—soup to nuts—easily $50 or more of sushi.

You can bet we'll be back for a fourth visit. With a little personal attentiveness to "watch your own back" (a good habit to get into if you're gluten-free) and always double check your order when it arrives, Kobe promises to offer up superb sushi at a great price, with in-house gluten-free soy sauce. You can leave your packets or tiny bottle at home.

–Pete

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