On a quiet corner in Fairmount sits an unassuming restaurant. Driving by quickly on 22nd Street, you’d never know it was a sushi restaurant. Of course, calling Umai Umai a sushi restaurant is a bit over simplistic as appetizers and entrees are also available on the menu. But, as we happily discovered, distinctive sushi and designer specialty rolls are unquestionably the restaurant’s calling card.
Chef-Owner Alex McCoy has been challenging the limits of traditional sushi for over ten years in Philadelphia; over twenty years in total. The imaginative menu at this Art Museum area restaurant represents his unique personality and experiences. He prides himself on pushing the envelope of culinary artistry and experimentation, especially with his inventive specialty rolls.
Chef Alex has worked under several world-renowned Japanese sushi masters, including Iron Chef Morimoto and Teikoku, and has also received dozens of accolades. He is now recognized as not only one of the top sushi chefs in Philadelphia, but as one of the top chefs in Philadelphia.
Our recent visit to Umai Umai convinced us that it is, without a doubt, one of the best sushi restaurants in Philadelphia.
We started our meal with very special Oyster Shooters ($12) – oyster & sea urchin set in citrus-soy, with a quail egg and roe on the half shell.
Not only is it a very beautiful plate, but it’s really fun to eat! You pour the egg into the Oyster-urchin shot and drink.
Our 2nd course was an amazing Filet Mignon Carpaccio ($16). We haven’t met a carpaccio we don’t like. However, this dish introduced us to a new level of raw meat goodness. Supremely thinly sliced filet mignon is served with citrus-soy, piquillo salsa, cherry tomatoes, chives, ginger, and extra virgin olive oil. It literally melted in our mouths.
The filet mignon carpaccio is a beautifully colorful dish that is a feast for the eyes as well as the mouth and stomach. You must try this!
We also tried the special Crispy Brussels Sprout Salad ($10). If you think you’re not a fan of the often hated and misunderstood mini cabbage, you’ll reconsider after eating this. The preparation and taste of this dish will definitely change your mind. Crispy fried Brussels sprouts are served with red onion, carrot, purple cabbage, scallions, crispy shallots, and savory-sweet chili-tamarind dressing. The shallots and dressing add a lovely umami flavor to the sprouts transforming the flavor into something you can’t help but find utterly delicious and love!
We feel the mark of a good sushi restaurant can be graded by the quality of their sashimi. So, we had to order the Sashimi Combo ($30). Chef’s choice of six selections, three cuts each, from left to right: sublime scallop, sumptuous salmon, amazing amber jack (kanpachi), superb striped jack, grand golden eye snapper (kin-madai), and astounding albacore.
In a word: perfection. Especially the scallop sashimi. It was so supple and buttery, and melted in our mouths. This was the first time I ever tried striped jack fish. I am normally not a fan of skin on sashimi, but this opened my mind and I won’t be so averse to ordering it in the future. We absolutely adored this ultra fresh sashimi combo.
Even after eating all of that succulent sashimi, we were eager to order and sample several of the highly-lauded Designer Rolls. If we hadn’t already eaten so much by this point, we might have shamelessly ordered all of the special rolls, but we figured five rolls would be a sufficient amount for our evaluation.
We selected from left to right: Eternal Sunshine – $10 (crispy escolar, cucumber, avocado, salmon, apricot-miso, blueberry balsamic, pine nuts), Krakken – $12 (shrimp tempura, eel, avocado, soft shell crab, cherries, worcester aioli, almond bits), Henrietta – $14 (lobster tempura, mango, spicy tuna tarter, avocado, cashew bits, eel sauce), Godzilla – $10 (shrimp tempura, eel, avocado, strawberry, honey, macadamia bits), and Ping Pong – $10 (crispy spicy tuna, inari, chives, spicy mayo, pineapple salsa). All of these sushi rolls are extremely well-priced, especially for the size of them. I’ve seen rolls of this size easily priced above $15 at other sushi restaurants.
The pictures do not do these sushi rolls justice. Let me be blunt, they are XXL rolls and not for the sushi timid. They are definitely works of art in addition to being packed full of flavor and delicious, naturally. While we loved all of them, the Eternal Sunshine and Godzilla rolls were notably spectacular.
Strawberry on sushi?! Talk about a game changer for me. Yes, it totally works. I’ve had bananas and mango in sushi rolls before, but never strawberry to my recollection. You really have to try the Godzilla roll to believe how amazing that is. Also, apricot-miso and blueberry-balsamic on sushi… together?! Hell yes! In fact, I reckon non-sushi lovers could really start to love sushi rolls because of these more familiar, yet non-traditional sushi ingredients and touch of sweet flavor. A truly captivating experience with every bite!
At this point, we couldn’t possibly think of eating another bite! But they insisted we try the fried funnel cake sticks with a chocolate hazelnut dipping sauce. The perfect sweet ending to an amazing sushi dinner experience at Umai Umai.
We want to thank Umai Umai for hosting us and Plug In Rewind for coordinating our visit, ensuring we had a most pleasurable and delicious experience for this feature. I’ve been to countless sushi restaurants and sushi bars throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey, so I feel confident pointing out a great sushi restaurant when I see/taste one. This is one of the better ones we’ve experienced.
We can’t recommend this sushi restaurant in Fairmount enough! Make a reservation by calling (215) 988-0707. You can also walk-in, too, if there are seats available. Also, don’t forget it is BYOB. So bring your preferred wine or beer. We recommend a red blend wine!
Have you been? Let us know your thoughts. If you haven’t, put it on your to-go list very soon! And, as always, tell them Philly Grub sent you.