MORRIS COUNTY — I must admit that I am an amateur at sushi/sashimi, but I have been to enough sushi restaurants to know good from mediocre sushi, and I know the signs when to turn around and run. One of my personal rules is to avoid fast food sushi places. There’s quality food, and then there’s fast food. Sushi is one food where quality is imperative. Fortunately for us, in the Parsippany area, we have, what I consider, a great sushi restaurant right on Halsey Road in the Lake Parsippany area of our township.
Asahi Sushi Ramen is another inconspicuous little eateries that one may pass numerous times and never really pay attention to. I know I have. This cute little, attractive, stand-alone building, with its canopy-covered patio, is your doorway to a wonderful Japanese dining experience. The site was previously occupied by Delizia Pizza.
Asahi Sushi Ramen, a family-owned and operated establishment, opened its doors for business on August 5, 2021, amid the COVID pandemic. A risky venture, but owners Lee Li and his wife, Tina Lin, felt they had much to offer the community with their high-quality, traditional approach to this highly popular cuisine.
In my interview with a very personable and welcoming Tina Lin, I acquired an enlightening education in sushi/sashimi history and preparation. Ms. Lin, who arrived in the U.S.A. from Fujian, China, in 2008 and settled in Lake Hiawatha in 2014, expressed her love for Parsippany and desires Asahi Sushi Ramen to be a “valuable part of the community, not just a business.” Her dream is to create an environment where “people can come and enjoy themselves and put the world behind.” They already have plans to renovate and expand the restaurant next year.
The restaurant is small, with five booths along the walls and seven two-person wooden tables comfortably around the dining area. It is immaculately clean, warm, bright, cozy, and comfortable—lively, fun, well-thought-out Japanese-themed décor, with paintings, ornate light fixtures, and wall hangings. Great ambiance and aesthetics, very friendly staff, warm color scheme, wood grain flooring, and open cooking station (where you can sit and watch Chef Frank Chen showing off his knife skills), well-spaced seating, all set the proper relaxed atmosphere and vibe for the wonderful meal to come. Oh, did I mention that it is BYOB? With that in mind, our group brought some imported Orion and Sapporo beer and a bottle of Saki, which they were glad to heat up for us.
As we perused the menu for our appetizers, we were introduced to Asahi, sliced white Tuna with black Truffles in a tasty, sweet, spicy, hot truffle sauce. Our mouths were watering as we quickly made quick work of that fantastic, light, and fresh dish. The menu consists of a wide selection of soups, salads, appetizers (from the kitchen and/or the sushi bar, Sushi, Sashimi a La Carte, Vegetarian Rolls, Roll or Hand Rolls, Special Roll, Sushi Bar Entrees, Party Specials, Ramen, Kitchen Entrees, Bento Box, and special Lunch Menu.
We did start with the Chef’s Amazing Roll (Spicy Tuna, Avocado, Crunch Tuna, with a Garlic Sauce). Superb! If this is available on your visit, I highly recommend it as an appetizer or an entree! Miso Soup (Soybean Soup) was next, followed by our shared appetizers of Haru Maki (Japanese Spring Rolls), Edamame (cooked Japanese Soybean), Shumai (Steamed Shrimp Dumplings), Tempura Appetizer (Shrimp, Chicken, & Vegetables), and Crispy Calamari (Lightly Fried Squid with sweet sauce. The delicate flavors (mild, sweet, savory, rich, and sour) and textures (flaky, meaty, tender, firm) were all delicious.
Entrees were up next. Didn’t know how we could beat those appetizers, but we were ready and willing to give it our best. I chose the Sushi & Sashimi Combo (Five pieces sushi, nine pieces sashimi, and one California roll). It was a fresh and generous portion of expertly prepared, magnificently presented, tasteful selection of salmon, tuna, yellowtail fish and perfectly balanced seasoned rice (not too soft or firm). After all, rice is the foundation on which sushi is built. The sushi had a light, fresh, umami-savory taste. At the same time, the thinly sliced sashimi had a texture that was delicate, firm, slightly salty, smooth, and melted in your mouth. Remember, Sushi and sashimi are not the same thing. Sushi is made with rice, while sashimi is not. Sashimi has a bold and savory taste, while Sushi is mild and neutral flavored, and no strong fishy flavors are involved. Of course, everything came with sides of that fantastic sinus-clearing fresh wasabi and pickled ginger to clear your palate. It’s evident in the preparation and presentation that Sushi is as much a science as it is an art.
Others in the group chose either the Tuna Sushi or the Bento Box (Teriyaki, Nigimaki, Tempura, or Sushi), along with side orders of Spicy Mayonnaise and Fried Rice. Everyone agreed their choices were delicious and satisfying. The Banana Tempura Special for dessert was a perfect closing statement for this meal. WOW! Decadently delicious is an understatement.
After dinner, I got to sit down with Tina Lin again to continue my education in the art of Sushi. Ms. Lin advised me that Asahi uses only the freshest, highest-grade sushi quality fish (not all Sushi restaurants do), which is picked up regularly (all Daily Specials are picked up that morning). According to Ms. Lin, “The best sushi restaurants take great care in sourcing their seafood, as well as all their sushi ingredients, from a reputable fishmonger or market.” All of Asahi’s fish is acquired from a trusted Japanese company in South Jersey. She continued, “All Asahi’s sushi/sashimi is prepared by a highly trained Chef using only those high quality, fresh items, and all their food is prepared in an authentic, traditional consistent manner.
Ms. Lin said her mother was also a restauranteur and communicates closely with her restaurant-owning relatives in Japan to discuss the latest recipes and best seasonal options. Yes, Asahi’s menu does change seasonally to keep everything fresh and meet demands. I also learned, and something that most people do not realize, that skilled sushi chefs, those who prepare truly authentic Japanese sushi, must go through years of rigorous training, often up to ten years, to become an itamae, or sushi master and that Asahi Chef Frank Chen (a cousin) went through that demanding training. The result of that training is evident from your first bite.
Expert knife skills are imperative to cut different types of fish expertly and precisely to bring out the best pieces of the fish. In sushi preparation, rice and the careful mixing of sauces and arrangement of other ingredients must also be very exact. Neatness and accuracy are crucial to present a visually stunning and deliciously perfect piece of sushi for every guest. In addition, preparing sushi rice is a special process that requires precision and consistency. Finally, knowing which ingredients work well together is crucial to a successful sushi dish.
Proper etiquette, eating techniques, freeze storage, and much more can add to your knowledge of this wonderful cuisine, but I am out of space for now. Possibly we can get to that at a future date. And the last thing is to compliment and thank the chef right after eating the sushi if you’re eating sushi in a traditional Japanese restaurant.
Thank you to Owner Lee Li, Tin Lin, our hostesses Coco Pan, Jade Li, and Chef Frank Chen for your gracious hospitality, making us feel like family, and especially for the wonderful dining experience.
“Arigato gozai•masu” (thank you very much.
Asahi Sushi Ramen is located at 157 Halsey Road, Lake Parsippany. Hours: Seven days per week, 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. (Monday – Thursday); 11:00 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. (Friday and Saturday) and 12:30 p..m. to 9:00 p.m. (Sunday) Note: The restaurant closes daily from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Delivery (within 5 miles) – Catering – Dine In – Take Out. Bike Parking – Off Street Parking – Takes Reservations – Vegetarian Options; BYOB.