Sunday, July 27, 2008

Jinsei Review Pt. 1: Michela's Opinion

Remind me not to trust so-called foodie blogs in Birmingham. This is the second time we've been been unforgivably deceived (the first time being Gianmarco's which I will perhaps review some other time).

We showed up at Jinsei, a sushi place in Homewood, a little after 7pm last Wednesday. There were some people there, but it wasn't full yet. The inside space is small–a bar and probably 10 tables or so. They've obviously put a lot of thought into the decor; sadly for them, that thought led them horribly astray. The interior looks like what someone who's never been to New York thinks a New York restaurant is like. It might not have been so terrible except for the techno playing at a volume that made all enjoyment of life impossible. Thank god they had outdoor seating.

The prices were about what you would expect of a nicer-than-everyday sushi place in a bigger city. We ordered conservatively to test the waters. Evan and I started with a carafe of the house sake ($26). Their sakes are served cold, which is how I like it. Unfortunately, by "cold" they meant barely chilled and left on your table to get even warmer.

The miso soup was about three times the size of what is typically served at a Japanese restaurant. It was loaded with fresh straw and shitake mushrooms, but otherwise was standard. Almost every roll on the menu had something tempura-fried in it, a cheap move and not very interesting. First we picked a roll with tempura shrimp inside and avocado and eel outside ($15). It was good (tempura and unagi sauce can't go wrong), but far short of what I would expect for the price. The spicy tuna roll ($8 or $9) was run of the mill.

At three exorbitant dollars per piece we ordered from the sashimi and nigiri menu. The Jinsei chef got something right in using only a small amount of rice for the nigiri. This failed to make up for the so-so quality tuna. But excessive amounts of sauce made the unagi nigiri impossible to hate.

The short of it: For the price, I expected excellence or at least creativity. What we got was an uninspired menu, average quality fish, and oppressive atmosphere. In the end we choked back our room-temperature sake and decided to fill up on gas station gummi worms. At least they know their place.