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Issue date: December 01, 2000

For Japanese food lovers, a well-kept secret in Mountain View For Japanese food lovers, a well-kept secret in Mountain View (December 01, 2000)

By Karen Alden

Satsuma's sushi chef Sho Yi prepares a plate of unagi (eel) sushi for customer Evangeline Oribio.

@vcredit:Josh Keithley

The next time you crave sushi, try Satsuma Japanese Restaurant, an unexpected gem on El Camino Real just south of Highway 85.

A small but attractive place tucked next to Albertsons, Satsuma offers an extensive menu of Japanese cuisine including sushi and sashimi in every shape and type; soup; salads; and tempura (deep-fried lightly breaded vegetables and seafood), teriyaki, udon (noodles), and donburi (rice) dishes.

The decor, pleasant and restful, is traditional Japanese with light neutral colors and wood, Shoji screens, and rice paper lanterns. There are four types of seating available: the small sushi bar, tables and chairs, bench booths with low dividers, and the traditional tatami booths. The tatami booths have wells in the raised floor under the table for diners to place their legs, enabling them to enjoy the ambiance without pain. Popular music plays quietly in the background.

The service is prompt and pleasant. After we removed our shoes and were seated on cushions at the table, a waitress quickly appeared with small dishes of marinated bean sprouts and edamame, soy beans cooked in the pod. We ordered hot sake to drink ($3.00 small, $5.25 large), but Satsuma also offers chilled bottled sake ($6.50-$39.95), hot tea, beer ($2.50-$5.25), soft drinks ($1.50), and wine by the glass ($3.00-$4.00).

The appetizer choices are plentiful, including shrimp shu mai (small steamed Chinese dumplings, $4.95), gyoza (pot stickers, $4.50), soft shell crab ($7.50), and many types of sushi. We ordered California roll ($3.95) with crab, cucumber and avocado; the hot and crunchy gyoza roll ($4.24); and the "caterpillar" roll ($7.95), which is made with eel and wrapped in avocado slices.

All our selections, which were delicious and filling, came artfully arranged on a large platter, sliced into eight pieces each with mounds of pickled sliced ginger and wasabi, the classic Japanese green horseradish paste. A word of warning about the wasabi: it adds flavor but is potent, so proceed with caution.

We also tried the vegetable tempura and tonkatsu dinners (tempura dinner, $10.95; tempura and tonkatsu combination dinner, $14.95). These meals come with richly flavored miso soup and a small salad consisting of iceberg lettuce topped by a subtle creamy dressing. A small bowl of white rice also accompanies all entrees.

The tempura included pieces of green pepper, broccoli, yam, squash, and carrot. The breading was light and crunchy and the vegetables fresh and slightly cooked. The only shortcoming was the dipping sauce for the tempura, which was a bit flat. The tonkatsu, a breaded and fried pork cutlet served with sweet brown sauce, was tender.

Vegetarians do not lack choices at Satsuma. In addition to sushi rolls with avocado, cucumber, black mushroom, different kinds of tofu, pickled plum, and wild carrots ($3.25-$3.75), the restaurant also offers seaweed salad ($4.50), vegetable sukiyaki ($10.95), tempura donburi ($9.50), tempura udon ($9.00), and mushroom udon ($8.50).

The dessert menu has an intriguing assortment of ice cream flavors to choose from, including green tea (2.50), mochi (strawberry or mango $3.00), and tempura ($4.95). The mango mochi ice cream consists of a 2-inch round ice cream ball covered with a gelatin-like coating made from rice flour, and lightly dusted with powdered sugar, and cut in fourths. It is not too sweet and is a cooling finish to a meal.

For lunch, Satsuma serves a Bento lunch box with your choice of two or three of the following items: chicken or beef teriyaki, chicken katsu, gyoza, shrimp or vegetable tempura, sashimi, broiled saba or salmon, and California or cucumber roll. The two-item box costs $8.25; with three items the price is $10.50.

Teriyaki, tempura, sukiyaki, udon, donburi entrees, and sushi are available at lunch as well. Of the items available at lunch and dinner the katsu don (lunch $7.25, dinner $9.95), which consists of a sliced, batter-fried pork cutlet, onion, egg, and sauce over rice, is especially hearty and savory. The meal also comes with miso soup and a marinated bean sprouts appetizer.

Satsuma has long been an oasis for Japanese food lovers in the south end of Mountain View, and it provides diners with a wonderful way to spend an evening enjoying the flavors of Japan.

Satsuma Japanese Restaurant, 705 E. El Camino Real. Phone: 966-1122. Open for lunch Mon.-Fri., 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.; open for dinner, Mon.-Sun., 5-10 p.m. Credit cards accepted. 


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