Sushi 51: American-style sushi near Camp Zama

Sushi 51: American-style sushi near Camp Zama

by Takahiro Takiguchi
Stripes Japan

White Dragon, Volcano and Spider Roll may not sound like something you’d want to eat. But if you like sushi – and more importantly, even if you don’t – these are some sushi rolls unique in Zama that you just might want to try.

A quick drive from Camp Zama (8 minutes), Sushi 51 is known as a great place for tasty American-style sushi dishes in a cozy atmosphere.

Run by Japanese owner Osamu Narushima, who cooked for six years in a Japanese restaurant in California, the restaurant offers the “authentic” sushi dishes you typically see in the States.

Authentic American-style sushi dishes? Wait a minute – Didn’t sushi originate here in Japan?

Yes. Traditional “edomae zushi”-style sushi was developed in Japan hundreds of years ago, and has been prepared in a strict manner with very specific ingredients. Usually, it is made from raw fish, vinegar-flavored rice, seaweed and wasabi; and eaten with a soy sauce dip.

Stateside in 1954, however, the art of sushi making was forever altered. The California roll was born – ushering in the era of American-style roll-sushi. It is said that a Japanese sushi chef at a restaurant in Los Angeles came up with the idea for a sushi roll filled with cucumber, crab meat and avocado with mayonnaise to appease the pallets of his American clientele.

Narushima introduced the America-style rolls in Zama two years ago.

With a typical Californian Japanese restaurant façade, Sushi 51 has large wooden bars and tables arranged as you’d see in the U.S., and can accommodate 22 customers.

Sushi 51 not only offers colorful seafood such as salmon, shrimp and salmon roe to please the eyes and pallets of their customers, the sushi rolls also include anything from scallops, tuna, beef or chicken to tempura and assorted vegetables.

According to Narushima, popular standards among American customers at the eatery include the Crunchy Roll, topped with shrimp tempura, cucumber and avocado along with bits of fried tempura batter and roe for 880 yen ($8), and the Dragon Roll topped with conger, cucumber and sliced avocado for 1,200 yen ($11).  

So, if you are not used to eating raw fish used in traditional hand-shaped edomae-sushi, you can choose variety of cooked, baked and deep-fried alternatives along with the more traditional raw-fish assortment.

The entire Sushi 51 staff speaks English, so you can communicate with ease.

“You can call us in English to order any take-out dishes, too,” Narushima said.

Besides their American-style rolls, the set dishes during lunch are also tasty at a reasonable price. Both the Seafood Ball Set, and Special Lunch Set (you can choose the main dish from six or more options) come with rice, soup, salad and egg omelet for 780 yen.

Narushima is constantly looking to create new rolls and add more variations to the menu.

“I always challenge myself to make new sushi dishes, so our customer can enjoy the unusual taste of sushi,” Narushima said. “The last thing I want is our sushi dishes to be considered old and obsolete.”

Among the wide variety of sushi rolls, the Sizzler is one that pulls out all the stops.

“It is a tempura roll topped with beef cutlet and garlic stalk,” Narushima explained. “It is served on a sizzling iron plate with creamy wasabi sauce, melting cheese and coriander.

“Although it is very different concept of sushi, the new dish is quite popular among our customers.”

If a taste of Japan from back home is what you like, visit Sushi 51 and see just what rolls Narushima and his staff come up with next.

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