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Komachi Sushi: Authentic Japanese Cuisine in Lodi

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When my companion, Dee Yates, and I arrived at Komachi Sushi during a busy Saturday lunch hour, we were delighted to learn that Sunny Chong, the proprietor, would be preparing the food herself. We both eagerly anticipated the opportunity to chat with her as we tasted her unique selections, and as the dishes began to make an entrance, we knew this was going to be an exceptional Japanese culinary experience.

While Sunny popped in and out of the kitchen, she wanted to make sure we understood that authentic Japanese cooking is just that, mostly cooked. “People are moving away from traditional Japanese cuisine, thinking that it’s all about raw foods like sushi and sashimi,” she said. She wants to bring back the old recipes, which are rarely found in restaurants anymore. Her eyes lit up when I told her about my Hawaiian-Japanese teacher who first introduced our second grade class to sukiyaki, a dish of meat and vegetables, slowly cooked or simmered at the table. And this is how much of our meal was prepared, simmering in a paper pot, kami nabe style, or grilled over a hibachi right there at our table.

As Sunny presented one unique and beautiful dish after another, we could see that she was in her element. We learned that she trained employess at Fuki Sushi in Palo Alto and also worked at Hana Sushi in Stockton. And now, with Komachi Sushi, located in the Raley’s shopping center in West Lodi, she has picked up another group of loyal clientele. She has catered events for many of Silicon Valley’s upper crust.  Sunny and her husband, Tim, claim that one can find the best Japanese food by walking through their doors and into the dining room.

But the evidence is in the edamame, and when the first course was lovingly placed in front of us, we were completely smitten. It was Chawan Mushi, savory steamed egg custard with shiitake mushrooms served in an exotic little Blue Willow pot. I wanted to finish every smooth, creamy bite, but my attention was drawn to the seafood soup that would be cooked right there at our table. Kami Nabe is a traditional Japanese soup that is cooked in a special paper pot and allowed to simmer until the end of the meal. I could hardly wait, but the Poke Salad with tuna, avocados, cucumbers and seaweed was so fresh and tempting.

Sunny’s slight frame was dwarfed by the mixed Seafood Platter she brought to our table next. Piled high with seasoned giant prawns, mussels, clams, scallops, octopus, a whole crab and garnished with roasted garlic, it was definitely the show stopper. Of course, we came for the sushi, and we were not disappointed at the beauty of the Oishi Roll, tuna, salmon, hamachi, cream cheese and asparagus, all rolled up in thinly sliced cucumber. I was doing my best to internalize all the dishes that Sunny so painstakingly prepared and brought to our table, but honestly, I lost track. My comrade and I were completely overwhelmed.

When everything was finally assembled and the Kami Nabe was savorously simmering away, Sunny sat down to give us a lengthy lesson on real Japanese cuisine. “The meal is recommended to begin with a citrus cold dish to bring out the flavor for the taste buds. In American cooking, you have soup first, but in Japan it is served last because it changes the palate,” she explained. As the lunchtime crowd oohed and aahed over each exquisitely prepared dish, it became obvious that Sunny Chong takes delight in not only the preparation and presentation of her food, but in the appreciation of her audience. In the words of Sunny’s pastor, “Her food is love.” She was the consummate hostess ensuring that her guests didn’t leave hungry; even after a seven-course meal, she insisted that we order more food to go.

With such a wide variety of flavors and dishes on Komachi Sushi’s menu, no one will go hungry. When you visit, take advantage of the expansive roll menu, with 64 different types of rolls to entice your taste buds. If you are having a party, you can count on their experienced catering team to ensure your guests are all well fed. ■

Komachi Sushi is located at 307 S. Lower Sacramento Road, Suite D. For reservations, phone (209) 334-3131. Business hours are Monday through Thursday, 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 11:00 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.