The Sushiya sign features the label “asian fusion” under the black and white title of the restaurant. The stark contrast of the white “ya” next to the black of “sushi” is reminiscent of the hesitant response one would give when asked, "Sushiya or Sushino? Should we go?"
When describing the food and space, the word that comes to mind is "meh". When entering the multi-business complex a person finds what they'd expect of a standard middle-class asian fusion/sushi restaurant: hues of maroon, mint, and bamboo pattern, black lacquered furniture, silk screen motifs, televisions overlooking a bar, and a bathroom hidden behind a partitioning curtain of the well known woodblock "The great wave at Kanagawa". The assorted fake plants complete the atmosphere. The Beatles, the Doors, and the Who intermix with the low hum of electronics and patrons. The sound level is low, not having to compete with the three small families with their children. The host typically won’t even need to ask “reservation?”, because there will be room.
The Asian fusion between Korean and Japanese offered by Sushiya features dishes ranging from complicated and spicy to simple and familiar, but lack the wow factor. It is beige, much like the wall color. From Egg Cake Sushi and Korean Kimchi to Oshinko Roll (pickled Japanese radish) and the standard California Roll, the taste is enjoyable but unimpressionable. The experience is asian fusion, but the emotional impact is the neutrality of Switzerland. If it were a paper, it would receive something in the lower B range. The Egg Cake sushi is sweeter than usual, but still pleasant. The kimchi leaves that tingle of spice in the corners of a smile, but spice-lovers will find themselves wanting. The vegetable udon has familiar white radishes with pink edges and a plethora of other pleasantries like cabbage and fried noodles, but has nothing that surprises or captivates a customer to fight for the last noodle. The steamed gyoza may come closer to room-temperature than desired, but still has the craved texture of a dumpling. The seaweed salad has a light dressing with a hint of chili and lime amid vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil and seeds, complete with two lemon slices on the side. The Kalamazoo Roll combines elements like avocado and eel: a combination that always gives a pleasant reaction purely because the tastes were made for each other. Everything was as expected, and for the things that weren’t, they still aren’t impressive.
Sushiya’s menu is so heavy with laminated pages and choices it can double as bar-bells, almost to the point of overwhelming. The best way to navigate it and the over-loaded portions and prices of entrees and specials is to order a surplus of small dishes from the extensive appetizer menu and share with a large group. Order an entree individually and the price will range between $18.95 - $37.95 for just the main dish. Order a series of rolls and they’ll be brought on a wooden boat that is convenient for sharing. (Order from multiple selections and for multiple people and the portions get cut down and the cost is diverted by splitting the check evenly.) If a group of five evenly splits the cost it will be closer to $15 per person, whereas in a group of two expect to spend at least $25 per person.
In the menu, there are multiple ice creams offered for dessert. This is the closest to wow you’re going to find, with flavors ranging from Green Tea, Mango, Sesame, Red Bean and Ginger. The bowl comes with two scoops, which can be mixed and matched if the diner finds they're too indecisive. The joke is if you want a vegan dessert [here], get alcohol; you better like dairy or not be lactose intolerant. There’s another downside. Some flavors, like Plum Wine, are in high demand and therefore run out, even as early as six (two hours after they open for dinner) on a Sunday or Monday. But don’t fret. Instead, order the Red Bean or Sesame Ice Cream. The latter is nutty, and almost has a coffee feel to it, whereas the former is a favorite that replaces any craving for the vanilla bean. For a surprise, go for Ginger. It is tart but subdued (compared to the generous hunk that comes on the sushi boat), and has a pleasant way of tickling the nasal passages.
Other positives are Sushiya’s waitstaff and tea. Both bring some warmth to the space. The tea is the real stuff, complete with the cloud at the bottom indicating the use of a tea acorn instead of a bag. It comes in a plastic teapot painted with a bamboo stalk, but it is warm and heats both your insides and the standard clay tea cups just-so. The waiters are also as real as they come; genuinely accommodating, friendly, flexible, respectable and prompt, while giving space to a customer’s indecisiveness. They are fastidious in leaving a water venn diagram on the table to grab free refills of the green tea teapot, but still ask if they should refill it in the first place. The waitstaff does their best to answer special requests such as how the bill is split, or portions (like the ice cream), and are attentive enough to make good ordering suggestions or noticing a customer leaving their wallet and promptly return it.
Sushiya isn’t sensational, but it can satisfy a sushi hankering after a four minute drive from Kalamazoo College’s campus through downtown Kalamazoo. Nothing is atrocious or slimy or outstanding; it doesn’t leave much of an impression other than on your wallet. The plates are square, the chopsticks are take-out style, the wait staff is friendly, and the menu has variety. Its selection is wider than Sakura, a further but similarly priced Japanese Hibachi restaurant in Portage, and can give access to the same type of food with less travel time, for a price. The quickest way to describe Sushiya’s selection is crisp, convenient, and coin.