A row of succulent fresh fish sits atop accompanying mounds of rice, sprinkled with orange tobiko and eel sauce and garnished with a dab of wasabi and thinly-sliced ginger. A nearby mug of hot tea wafts steam over your plate.
When you walk into Ruby Sushi (on University Avenue), the restaurant is cozy, with eye-catching purple velvet chairs, wooden tables, and an L-shaped configuration of low-hanging lights that warm the room. And whether you dine in or order pick-up or delivery, their service is efficient and the food arrives well before the estimated time. My go-to for delicious sushi for a relatively decent Palo Alto price, Ruby Sushi delivers — figuratively and literally — which is sure to enliven the upcoming weeks of the quarter.
Though I’m no sushi expert (the extent of my knowledge stems from the Netflix documentary “Jiro Ono Dreams of Sushi,” various Wikipedia rabbit holes and wandering Little Tokyo and Sawtelle in Los Angeles), I do like to learn more about what I eat.
Sushi, which derives from a Japanese term meaning “sour rice,” once referred more directly to a process of preserving fish by wrapping it in lacto-fermented rice, up to months at a time. The rice would be discarded before the fish was eaten. By the 16th century, vinegar was added to the process, eventually cutting down the need for fermentation, and only during the Edo period (1603–1868) would fresh fish would be served over vinegared rice and nori (seaweed). (If you want to refer to slices of raw fish, the proper term is sashimi.) Gradually, sushi became popular with the rest of the world, especially considering its low-calorie value and high percentage of nutrients (including omega-3 fatty acids).
While under United States FDA regulations, all raw fish brought into the country must first be frozen, the distinctive taste of several varieties, such as salmon (first introduced into rolls by a Norwegian businessman in the 1980s), still manifests, especially with Ruby Sushi’s attention to detail and generous portion sizes.
The Stanford Roll, a Ruby Sushi special, contains shrimp tempura and (imitation) crab meat, topped with spicy tuna, unagi, and avocado. While not a traditional classic by any means (crab meat, avocado, and cucumber are Westernized additions), the flavors work well together, a golden-battered crunch for every umami-flavored bit of eel, tied with the occasional spice from chili oil. The eight pieces are quite filling and will leave you satisfied, even refreshed.
For more variety, I often order spicy chicken karaage alongside this roll, an appetizer with a juicy, well-seasoned bite that contrasts with the more acerbic taste of sushi rice. Other dishes to try are the seafood udon, ideal for the upcoming cold nights, along with the Chewy Lover Roll, unagi and avocado layered with white-streaked orange salmon and “special sauce.” Their assorted sashimi is also a steal for the price, especially when considering the restaurant’s convenient location.
Try Ruby Sushi for your next sushi craving — your stomach (and wallet) will thank you.