The place was packed during a weekday lunch visit, though on a recent weeknight dinner my companion and I were the only diners. Throughout both meals there was a steady stream of people popping in for take-out orders. Lunch features some sushi, sashimi and bento specials, and dinner options include a mix-and-match menu ($18.95) where you can combine classic items like chicken or salmon teriyaki, tempura or beef short ribs, with generous complements of sushi and California rolls.
We started with the vegetarian gyoza ($4.95), deep-fried potstickers which were piping hot but pretty unremarkable. The seafood udon, on the other hand, was terrific. Served in a large cast-iron pot, the soup was loaded with real calamari, large green-lip mussels and loads of thick-cut chewy noodles. Though the broth was salty, the flavors of the seafood shone through and the serving was so large, the two of us could not make it to the bottom of the bowl.
The maguro lover's plate ($19.95), a dinner special, is a feast of tuna variations: a hand roll, two nigiri, eight pieces of sashimi and a roll, all accompanied by a small salad, soup, and rice.
But the big draw has got to be the amazing variety of rolls ($5.95-$11.95). They range from the traditional combinations you see pretty much everywhere to unusual inventions, many named after local landmarks — Bay Bridge roll, CalTrain roll, 49er's roll. The rolls are enormous, and each slice requires at least two bites, which can make for a messy meal.
We had the Caterpillar Roll, made of unagi and crisp cucumber topped with slices of avocado, flying fish roe and sweet unagi sauce, and a Spider Roll, filled with deep-fried soft-shell crab. Another visit we tried the Paul Blossom, a center of dark tuna and avocado topped with thick slices of salmon and roe, as well as the Lambada Roll, a moderately spicy version filled with salmon and tuna. Thick with rice, all the rolls were tasty and satisfying, though certainly not exceptional. The draw is in the unusual concoctions and very generous portions.
Service was attentive and pleasant. Our water glasses were kept filled, empty plates were cleared promptly, and questions about the menu were answered with great patience. Green tea is served as soon as you sit down.
The original Joy Sushi has been a popular spot in San Mateo for the past six years; the sister version in Mountain View opened five months ago. While the menus are similar, it would be a plus if a little more thought was put into the mall location's ambience. Blocking the piles of Styrofoam takeout containers from view or adding cushions to the utilitarian seats would make the site more welcoming and warm. The manager later informed me that the decor is going to be updated next month, which should make Joy Sushi a more attractive stop to fill up on rolls and more.
225 East Middlefield Road, 1-B