A fresh local tuna roll wrapped in cucumber is a light and refreshing take on the traditional rice and nori wrapping.
Since Happy Fish closed its doors early this year, St. John sushi fans have been forced to travel off-island to indulge their hankering.
Soon the creative culinary team at La Plancha del Mar will more than fill that void. The team will open Zero Sushi at Happy Fish’s old location on the second floor of The Marketplace “very, very soon,” explained La Plancha owner and general manager Jason Howard.
And while there will certainly be fresh tuna rolls and other offerings to make traditionalists more than happy, the Zero Sushi menu will also include playful takes on pan-Asian cuisine.
“One thing we’re going to have are lettuce wraps,” said Howard. “Instead of being rolled in rice and nori, we’re going to use romaine lettuce with ponzu salad dressing for some rolls. Other rolls will be wrapped only in cucumber for a really light and fresh taste.”
Purists need not worry. The Zero Sushi menu will include two separate sections; one full of all the traditional rolls and sashimi, and the other dedicated to distinctly La Plancha takes on sushi offerings.
“We’re going to be crossing the Japanese and Chinese gap,” said Howard. “We have one roll that will be made with either tuna or hamachi. It will be a nice spicy version wrapped with rice and nori and then tempura fried and drizzled with General Tso’s Chicken sauce.”
Zero Sushi will also offer plenty of cooked options as well. The team installed a grill in the kitchen, so look out for fresh grilled steaks and seafood and plenty of rice noodle bowls.
“We’re going to move away from strictly Japanese food and make it more of a pan-Asian experience with hot food on the menu too,” said Howard.
Diners can also expect a pared down menu, offering far fewer than Happy Fish’s 75 roll options, Howard added.
“We’re drastically reducing the size of the menu from what Happy Fish offered,” he said. “We’re going to have a small menu based on what we know we can get all the time. But being that we are on an island, there are times when you just can’t get some items.”
The new sushi menu will also reflect the La Plancha team’s dedication to local fare. There will be plenty of fresh local vegetables and salads and, whenever possible, local treats plucked from nearby waters.
“We’re really going to try to focus on local products as much as possible,” Howard said. “We have a supplier who has been going out 80 miles south of St. Croix on two-day fishing trips and bringing back 80 to 90 pound tunas. We’re going to serve that as much as we can.”
“Local mahi, snapper and wahoo are fantastic for sushi too,” he said. “One of my favorites is also rainbow runner, which is like the Atlantic version of hamachi with the same texture and flavor.”
With help from La Plancha mixologist Kevin Baker, the bar at Zero Sushi will also offer plenty of craft cocktails along with sake, both hot and cold.
“We’re going to have sake cocktails and some of our infusions, but we’re going to keep the crazy stuff here and make Zero more accessible,” said Howard. “You won’t have to take a class on sake to enjoy the bar at Zero.”
With this new venture, the La Plancha team officially shut the door on the old Black Sand Bistro days, explained Howard.
“We moved our lease from Black Sand to take over this space,” he said.
Zero Sushi will at first be open only for dinner Monday through Saturday from 5 to 10 p.m. but Howard has plans to start serving lunch after a while, he explained.
If a recent dish of fresh local tuna and micro greens, wrapped in cucumber and sprinkled with sesame seeds and a light ponzu vinaigrette is any indication of things to come, no one will want to miss the anticipated opening of Zero Sushi.