Sushi Kim

By | July 7, 2006

Sushi Kim
1241 Penn Ave
Strip, 15222
Tu-Th: 11:30-10; F-Sat: 11:30-11; Sun: 12-9

Sushi Kim is two things: Sushi and Kim (where ‘Kim’ = ‘Korean food’). The sushi had a time and a place in my life, but frankly it isn’t all that great. I hear tell from native Koreans that the Korean dishes aren’t so great either, compared to what they could be. However, Sushi Kim remains a presence in my restaurant sphere. Why? Because if you go up the mystery stairs you find yourself in the middle of a festival of Korean BBQ!

Well, maybe it’s not so much a festival. In fact, it is almost never busy up there. But the word must not have gotten out yet, because it is way good. Going to Sushi Kim for the BBQ is like going to a different restaurant entirely. To my knowledge, you cannot order anything off of the downstairs menu – its all BBQ all the time. While you might find better Korean BBQ in the San Francisco and the like, it is one of the only Korean BBQ’s we have in Pittsburgh and it most certainly does not disappoint.

At the bar in the middle of the room you first collect your fixins. The meats and veggies are all super fresh, the marinades are sufficiently spicy, and you get all the kim chee you can manage to stuff in your mouth. You can get scallops, shrimp, Bulgogi, chicken, mushrooms, green onions, bean paste (MMM), crisp refreshing radish shreds, mung bean sprouts, etc. They have all the accoutrement you could desire, plus lettuce leaves you might put it all in for easy transport to your mouth, if you are into that kind of lettuce-taco thing. Your table has a big cast iron cooktop in the middle on which you cook all your meats and veggies. It is mostly flat, but there is a significant well in the center where the heat is more intense. My favorite thing to do it put all the meats on the outer rim to cook more slowly, while putting bunches of veggies in the center. Let them release their juices, then put a few of the partially cooked marinated meats in there, and cook the whole thing till its all bubbly and delicious looking. The onions get sorta caramelized and the center well then gets permanently flavorful for the rest of your meal, allowing even the scallops and shrimp to get that delicious grilled flavor with a nice crust. MMM, it is so good! And not all the bad for you either.

Now, all this delicious Korean BBQ will run you something like $20-$25 a person. Not exactly a cheap date. If you can’t afford it, there is always the downstairs Sushi Kim. The menu is absolutely enormous, only the last page of which is sushi. If you are going for sushi, then you get this little slip of paper on which you put checkmarks in boxes next to the items you are ordering. They have all the standard rolls you might find at a medium-weight sushi house, including spider rolls and all that fun stuff. It is at Sushi Kim that I found my love for Unagi (eel) in their Kim’s Favorite Roll combo platter, which has yellowtail, eel, tuna, and salmon. Kim and I share taste. I also fell in love with spider rolls here too. Crispy and hot they are, but I reasoned later in life that it must not be the freshest soft-shell crab in the world, since they always seem to have it regardless of the season. Must be frozen. Anyway, just because I ‘grew up’ on sushi at Sushi Kim doesn’t mean I will love it forever. It took me a few years to grow out of it, both in taste and pocketbook, but now I have and their sushi just doesn’t appeal to me anymore. It’s a little dry, the rice isn’t all that great, etc. etc. It is a terrible place to try really exotic sushi, such as Uni (sea urchin roe). They offer it, for sure, but it’s a little sub-par (one person described Sushi Kim’s Uni as the flavor of shag carpet). Go to Umi in Shadyside for such items. If you do go to Sushi Kim for sushi, stick to the usual suspects. They are likely to be the freshest.

Also, you should definitely get their seaweed salad. They have a mighty tasty seaweed salad. Don’t be afraid. Just get it – it’s delicious.

As for the Korean side of things, I cannot speak with any authority. However, the menu is hilarious. It has pictures of every dish next to its description. For a real hoot, check out the Katsu dishes. Stare carefully at the pictures. You can get all manner of Korean dishes here, all of which come with zillions of little side dishes containing various pickles and whatnot. He who orders from the Korean menu will receive many jealous looks. (I got that in a fortune cookie once.)

So while this isn’t a rave review, I do recommend Sushi Kim for certain things. For sushi, I recommend it to the budget-conscious. It is pretty good for the low price (just not good enough for me anymore now that I have a job and make money). For Korean, I’m neither yay nor nay, except that you get a bunch of delicious pickles. But for the upstairs Korean BBQ I highly recommend Sushi Kim. If nothing else, go for that. And sizzle a scallop for me while you’re at it.

Korean BBQ
Seaweed Salad

Really exotic sushi. Save your money up and go to a more upscale place.

They have a lot you can actually park in for free! Be careful though, you must go inside and get a tag for your mirror or else you will get towed. Make sure to make is as visible as possible too. The lot is past Sushi Kim by one block (it is that gravely empty lot on the next corner, same side of the street as Sushi Kim).