Photograph by Carlie Statsky
Fine fast food: As the name suggests, Sushi on the Run emphasizes tempting takeout, though a handful of tables are available for those who would rather linger.
Sushi on the Run trades fancy decorations for affordable quality
By Selene Latigo
Going out for sushi is usually quite an occasion for us. We fall into an extravagant mood, ordering large beers, sake and every roll that strikes our fancy. A common destination for special group events, a sushi feast finds us sharing a table laden with this festive cuisine. And so, to find myself in sleepy Aptos on a quiet weeknight ordering sushi from a counter in a one room, cafeteria-style space felt a bit strange compared to our typical sushi outings. But, too many people for me to ignore had tipped me off about the quality and value of Sushi on the Run.
The emphasis of this somewhat awkwardly located spot on Soquel Drive is certainly on take-out business, thriving from what I could tell by the stream of customers coming through the sliding glass door. We countered this trend by deciding to actually eat there, choosing one out of about four small, naked tables with folding chairs to sit at. The only noticeable touch of décor was the random sprinkling of orange minipumpkins, standing out brightly in contrast to the minimal surroundings. It is obvious, once sampling from the straightforward menu, that the focus of this low-budget operation is appropriately on the food.
We settled in with our small paper plates, disappointing Styrofoam cups and disposable wooden chopsticks to wait the short time until the first of our selections arrived. I promote a ban on the use of Styrofoam products, not only to support environmental health, but also for the simple fact that it is audibly and texturally unpleasant to eat off of. That said, Dave tried his best to ignore the Styrofoam cup that held his steaming miso soup ($1.75), mild and even in flavor with medium firm tofu squares and crunchy green onion. I began with a bowl of the "Otter's Bed," or seaweed salad ($3.50). Each toothy and vibrant green-hued strand was cool and concentrated with oceanic salt, sesame and a hint of pleasantly slight fishy aftertaste.
The next wave of our order was delivered in plastic baskets, featuring piles of wasabi with a light, whipped texture, some oddly much spicier than others, and thick ribbons of pink pickled ginger. Our small paper plates became mixing tools for the necessary tamari wasabi preparation. The classic spicy tuna roll ($4.50) could have used a bit more bite, but was blended so expertly that each piece felt smooth and silky in the mouth. Even without the typical mayo-based sauce, this version attained an appealing creaminess.
Another textural gem was the "Down by the Sea" roll ($4.50) with tender, not chewy, barbecued eel, perfect chunks of ripe avocado and a refreshingly restrained drizzle of sweet sauce dusted with crisp, toasted sesame seeds. The rice surrounding this roll, as with all the others, had a balanced and subtle flavor of seasoned rice vinegar to enhance the not overly sticky grain. The rice was especially showcased in the "Sweet Pillow" ($0.75), a thin, chewy tofu "skin" that was treated with a tangy sweet marinade and bundled up around a ball of rice with sesame seeds on top. I wanted to order more for dessert, my one bite feeling like a tease.
Our two nigiri selections distracted me from thoughts of more sweet pillows. Fresh, buttery cuts of yellowtail ($4.25) were like satin, almost disappearing on the tongue in the first chew, and the mackerel ($3.75) was like a sip from the sea, the pure flavors of salt water and ocean air filling this silver-skinned slice of fish.
Our most unique menu items arrived last. The first was from the vegetarian section and sounded so weird that we had to try it. The "AAA" ($3.75) combined rich avocado, artichoke hearts and a sweet dollop of applesauce that actually came together well, a trio of acid, salt and sweet. Finally, the Masa's tempura roll No. 3 ($5.50) stood out as the heartiest item; hot, crisp and generous in size, this roll featured thick and meaty tempura-fried albacore, encased in nori and dotted with tiny bits of carrot and asparagus.
We dropped off our stack of plastics and papers at the small counter and bid farewell to the Sushi on the Run proprietors. Even though we hadn't been "on the run," instead creating our own leisurely little sushi picnic, this stop proved to be a worthwhile one and definitely won't be the last.
Sushi on the Run
Address: 7959 Soquel Drive, Aptos
Hours: 11am-7pm Mon-Sat
Price Range: $1-$16.
Send a letter to the editor about this story.