Sheila Christensen Jeanneau
Popular with kids and adults alike, this out-of-the-way but totally worthwhile sushi bar has a whole lot more than sushi to offer.
This year Sushi Ito celebrates 20 years in business. The first four years, Sushi Ito was located on Miguel Dasso in San Isidro and then moved to their current location in the El Polo Mall where they have been enjoying 16 years in business. Roger Arakaki, is the owner, chef and the driving force behind Sushi Ito. He is one of the hardest working chefs in the business. Besides Sushi Ito, Arakaki is also involved in two other popular restaurants in the same El Polo area, Fiamma (open 11 years) and a popular newcomer to the area, Lima Thai .
(Photo: Owner/chef Roger Arakaki/AmaraPhotos)
Sushi Ito is perhaps an “under the radar” establishment due to its location far from the trendier restaurant areas of San Isidro, Miraflores, and Barranco. The consensus of the team of Living in Peru (all of us sushi lovers) found Sushi Ito to be a straightforward and a worthwhile, reliable destination for sushi and Japanese cuisine. It goes to show that you don’t have to be situated in the trendiest or hottest spot to have a large and consistent following. The fish at Sushi Ito is very fresh and there is a multitude of dishes with excellent innovations. I found Sushi Ito to have first quality products and ingredients and offered cuisine that was refined, yet light. Sushi Ito offers many options, classic as well as Peruvian fusion (Nikkei) and vegetarian options.
Sushi Ito is not big in size but enjoys a regular and steady business. The interior is quaint, cozy and comfortable. There is seating for approximately 40 people. The day of our visit we found the restaurant to be full at lunchtime. The majority of diners were from neighboring offices as well as a good amount of clientele from the nearby U.S. Embassy. There is also a private area available for small groups.
(Photo: Barco Sushi Ito/AmaraPhotos)
We began our dining experience at Sushi Ito with the Barco Sushi Ito (S/. 129). A multitude of sushi, sashimi (12 pieces), nigiri sushi (8 pieces) and maki rolls (15 pieces) were presented on a boat along with the typical garnishes such as pickled ginger, wasabi, cucumber slices and shredded radish. I liked the extra touch on every table of both a bottle of soy sauce and a bottle of the sweet eel (unagi) sauce. This “boat” could easily be shared between four or five people. This was an excellent sign of good things to come.
The usuzukuri dos tiempos (S/. 39), was probably one of my favorite dishes. I savored every bite of this dish. Typically this dish incorporates the “fish of the day”, leche de tigre and crispy fried calamari. The day of our visit this dish showcased extremely fresh, thin slices of mero (grouper) with very thin-sliced crunchy fried onions instead of the fried calamari. The word usuzukuri is derived from the word “usui”, or thin. The importance of slicing the fish so thin is to emphasize its translucence. White fish is typically best sliced thin since it has a nice bounciness that is pronounced when cutting this way. The flesh of white fish loses the bouncy texture when it is cut thick. The fish was so translucent that you could see the beautiful blue color of the ceramic platter shine through.
Another table favorite was the Hans roll (S/. 43) 8 pieces, with thinly sliced smoked salmon, lettuce, carrot, turnip, sesame seeds and all wrapped in rice paper. A nice option if you do not want rice. If you enjoy salmon, you will find many other salmon options to choose from on the Sushi Ito menu.
The fuente moriawase (S/. 79), was an appetite-provoking glass platter presentation of an assortment of 25 pieces of assorted maki rolls……five each of the popular acevichado, salmon ahumado (smoked salmon), empanizados (breaded), popular California roll, and samurai (deep-fried shrimp, smoked salmon, cheese, avocado and eel sauce). This was another great sharing option.
We also sampled the quinoa maki, a popular menu item which consists of crab meat, avocado, and rice covered with crunchy, toasted quinoa. All of the maki rolls are available in 5 pieces for 25 soles and 10 pieces for 39 soles. You get more for your money ordering the 10 pieces.
After thoroughly examining the Sushi Ito menu, I noticed that a large amount of the menu items are not just raw or cold menu options, but quite an array of hot menu items are available as well. This makes the restaurant ideal for a variety of clientele. We sampled four of these hot items below.
(Photo: Ramen Gyoza/AmaraPhotos)
The ramen gyoza (S. 37) was a hearty soup bowl filled with gyoza (dumplings) filled with pork and shrimp, along with shiitake mushrooms, ramen noodles, boiled eggs, sliced green onions, bean sprouts and a liberal amount of seaweed. This could easily feed two diners and is a nice comfort-style food for the chillier weather.
One of my favorites of the cooked dishes was the Wagyu al Panko (S/. 43), a generous portion of skirt steak covered with Japanese bread crumbs (panko) and fried to perfection. A wonderful creamy sauce of shiitake mushrooms and aji amarillo enhanced this dish. The sauce is so good that it is drizzled on top of the sliced steak slices and a bowl of this sauce is served on the side. Once again, another ideal dish that could easily be shared.
We sampled two different dishes from the rice section of the menu. The vegetarian rice (S/. 17) was a typical fried rice with various wok-sautéed vegetables and pieces of cooked egg….nothing out of the ordinary. The arroz teriyaki (S/.19) was a bit more exciting…..pieces of pork and pecans were mixed into the rice along with a teriyaki sauce, and a rather large thin egg omelet (tortilla) was placed on top of this rice mixture along with slices of green onion, sesame seeds and a drizzle of the teriyaki sauce. This was a very satisfying rice dish.
(Photo: Yucamochi dessert/AmaraPhotos)
Desserts were a pleasant surprise. The yucamochi (S/. 19), an oriental flan with yuca and homemade lychee ice cream was a bit on the heavy side for me, but had a pleasant texture and was unique.
The chocolate sushi, a mix of six truffle flavors sliced in the form of maki rolls, was a conversation starter and a slightly decadent dessert. It has the dense texture of a truffle and is ideal for sharing. It was also accompanied by a scoop of the lychee ice cream. I enjoyed the crumbled pieces of crunchy caramel covered crushed nuts that accented this dish as well.
Sushi Ito is not only popular with adults, but is also a hit with the younger crowd (grammar school kids). Many of these kids come after school with friends, especially to enjoy the maki rolls. Sushi Ito offers small group classes (2 to 5 people) between Monday and Friday for both children and adults. There is a class that teaches you to prepare three varieties of maki rolls, the price is 135 soles per person and you consume what you prepare. Individual and corporate classes are available, but only for small groups.
Sushi Ito has several great things going for it…..the varied and extensive menu, the optimal price to quality ratio and the quality ingredients and presentation in every dish.
Cold & Hot Starters: S/. 33-42
Salads: S/. 21-33
Sashimi: S/. 29 (for 6 pieces)
Traditional Makis: S/. 25 for 6 pieces
Special Makis: S/. 25 for 5 pieces S/. 39 for 10 pieces
Tamaki (Cones): S/. 19.50
Deep-fried dishes (Agemono): S/. 31-43
Stir-Fried dishes (Itamemono): S/. 31-42
Grilled dishes (Yakimono): S/. 38-42
Butter-sautéed (Batayaki): S/. 38-41
Rice Bowls (Domburi): S/. 39.50-41.50
Soups (Suimono): S/. 12-37
Rice dishes: S/. 9-21
Desserts: S/. 12-26
Soda/Juices: S/. 8-11
Tea Infusions: S/. 9
Sake: S/. 25
Beer: S/. 10-16
Wine by glass: S/. 18
Wine list: S/. 35-109
House Cocktails: S/. 29-39