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Intro Course 

Good sushi at good prices

Having fun and making people feel at home is the intent of Sushi 101 Noodle and Sushi Bar. Co-owner and Chef Hank Lim and Rick Taing, a silent partner, opened Sushi 101 last April. Says Lim, "I had been thinking about opening this concept in Charlotte for four years. I used to come up to Charlotte from Atlanta to visit friends in Pineville. Charlotte has the pace for this type of restaurant while Atlanta is too big and there is already too much competition."Lim moved to Charlotte six months ago in order to order Sushi 101, but he is not a stranger to the world of restaurants. He grew up in his parents' Chinese restaurant in Atlanta. After the family sold that restaurant seven years ago, Lim worked in other Atlanta area restaurants learning the front of the house at Bones and Checkers Bar and Grill. He then worked as a sushi chef in an Atlanta area Japanese restaurant for six years.

Lim designed the 80-seat Sushi 101 with fun in mind. The long narrow space is dominated by a long, 30-seat sushi bar. The walls are sponged painted in vivid orange and yellow. Large contemporary paintings of noodle bowls complete the wallscape. A darkly painted concrete floor, urban light fixtures, and turned-up popular music combine to create to an atmosphere that is both fun and intense. To the rear is the alfresco dining space containing 10 tables and bamboo planters, but it high enough above street level to be a more quiet place to dine.

One of my dining buddies refuses to eat at any sushi bar which serve globs of mayo, even disguised as aioli or cutesy named sauces, with sushi. He says we Americans have a nasty habit of transforming even the simplest culinary import into something bland. While I agree that soy and wasabi are better suited, more complimentary and healthier with rolls, sashimi, and nigiri than mayo, dismissing restaurants which try to be all-taste inclusive seems silly. Besides, with this lackluster economy, finding a place that serves good food at a good price is a worthy endeavor.

Sushi 101 fits that bill. Freshness of ingredients is essential to sushi restaurants. For many sushi chefs who arrive in our area from cities like New York and San Francisco which have wharves where chefs can personally select fish each morning, finding appropriate fish purveyors is critical to their business' success. Lim notes he has three fish suppliers, and he personally inspects all the fish that is delivered. He says, "There are enough companies now that you can pick and choose your fish. Once or twice a week I send stuff back and have it replaced. I don't feel bad (to have high standards) because my customers expect it from us."

The freshness of the ingredients is evident in the S & S Combo 101 ($24.95) which comes with two types of tuna and salmon sashimi, an assortment of nigiri and a rainbow roll. The nigiri had thin slices of salmon, yellowfin tuna, yellowtail, cooked shrimp and mock crab riding small cushions of warm vinegared rice with only a murmur of wasabi. This is a worthy entree even if the guy palming the rice bundles forgot the wasabi and ginger on the first go, a situation quickly remedied by our server.

The staff at Sushi 101 is suitably rehearsed. They know what the mood is supposed to be and yet can be as helpful, but not as tedious, as a TA (Teaching Assistant) if you need them to be.

Navigating this lengthy, but unthreatening, menu seems as complex as selecting freshman year classes. One excellent salad for a sweltering summer evening consists of thin slices of cucumber immersed in a ginger vinaigrette. The best deals at Sushi 101 are the noodle bowls which range from $7.95 to $11.95 depending on the choice of toppings which include tofu, vegetables, chicken, beef, shrimp, salmon or fish of the day. Diners then choose from glass, ramen, somen, or udon noodles or rice and finally, select cooking style, stir fry (Yaki style) or broth (Any style). The Any styled shrimp and udon noodles was a terrific entree. A bountiful amount of grilled shrimp bobbed above a tangle of noodles laced with thinly sliced vegetables and spinach leaves. This proved to be a delightful, while filling, pick.

Lim hopes to lure the budget lunchers with specials that change frequently. On one visit the eight piece sushi combo plate (with mayo on the side) was a mere $5.95. Other weekly specials includes the $1 Martini night on Mondays. On Wednesday nights a DJ is on hand to play.

Sushi 101 offers free delivery with a $10 minimum order in a five mile radius which includes SouthPark, Myers Park, Dilworth. Lim adds, "The area extends from the hospitals (CMC) to almost as far south as Pineville." (Please call for specific delivery locations.)

Sushi 101 offers a balance of conviviality, energy, and informality with dishes that are simple, yet well-priced, a sure bet to outlast the summer heat and go into the next school year.

Sushi 101 Noodle Sushi Bar, 1730-F East Woodlawn Road, Shops at Woodlawn Road, across from Park Road Shopping Center. Hours are Monday through Friday 11:30am until 2:30pm; Monday through Thursday 4:30pm until 11pm; Friday and Saturday 4:30pm until midnight; Sunday 2pm until 11pm. 704-672-0990. AmEx, Visa, MC, Diner's, Dis. Free delivery with a $10 minimum order in a five miles radius.

TidbitsSteve Deutsch, president of Prestige Wines, recently bought out co-owner Scott Redd to become sole owner of Prestige Wines. Deutsch then also bought Charlotte-based Niche Distributing, owned by Max Perkins and Duane Rose, and has now sold an interest in this newly formed company to The Charmer-Sunbelt Group, a multi-state beverage wholesaler. Says Deutsch, "Max and Duane are two extremely knowledgeable people in the wholesale wine and beer business. We are thrilled to have them join our already formidable team." The Charmer-Sunbelt Group, one of the nation's leading distributors of fine wines, spirits, beers, bottled water, and other non-alcoholic products, currently has operations in Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and the District of Columbia.

Do you have a restaurant tip, compliment, complaint? Do you know of a restaurant which has opened, closed, or should be reviewed? Does your restaurant or shop have news, menu changes, new additions to staff or building, upcoming cuisine or wine events? You can fax this information, at least 12 days in advance of event date, to Tasty Tidbits: 704-944-3605, or leave voice mail: 704-522-8334, ext. 136.

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