UMI Sushi & Tapas: Merry-go-round Sushi and No TapasPosted: May 31, 2012
Blue Back Square | 53 Isham Rd West Hartford, CT | 860.206.0290
Click here to visit their website and view the menu and prices
There is much to be said in favor of creating a convivial restaurant environment that encourages the sharing of sisterly or brotherly camaraderie. So when Gaspar received an invitation to a luncheon with some of his dearest friends; Pedro Lucumi, Dr. Motumbo 3X, Selig Mwandenga, Kotoku Sakae, Goodtry Methuselah, and Aquiles de las Baleadas, he jumped at the opportunity despite the fact it would mean venturing into Blue Back Square in West Hartford, known to some as “Blue Blood Square.” Goodtry sent excuses from Shanghai, Aquiles bowed out; they were both sorely missed. Nevertheless, the large booth at UMI Sushi & Tapas accommodated the remaining five amigos, who enjoyed their outing tremendously – despite the decidedly uninspiring food.
UMI is a clever restaurant with plates of sushi making the rounds on a conveyor belt or kaiten. This restaurant format is not uncommon in Japan, where customers can even fill their tea cups from a spigot at their seats. The little plates that circulate on the conveyor belt all have a colored band around them with different hues denoting different prices. UMI also features high-definition televisions, colorful lighting, and a posh bar serving sake cocktails such as “Tokyo Sunrise” and “Sakerita.” The room could be described as trendy or kitsch. It’s certainly comfortable. However, the sushi is mediocre at best.
You can’t make sushi without rice; and you can’t make good sushi without good rice; well prepared and properly seasoned. Sadly, this is where UMI fails. The variety, texture and seasoning of their rice is all wrong. It’s not the right kind of rice, it’s not properly cooked, and it lacks a well prepared vinegar-sugar-salt dressing. If you can’t get the basics right, it does not matter much how good the other ingredients are. As any reader familiar with Gaspar’s taste knows, he is not obsessed with so-called authenticity in cooking. To the contrary, he admires adaptability, so long as it is carried out with sensitivity. So while you’d be hard-pressed to find a “BLT roll” in Japan, Gaspar harbors no inherent prejudices against such concoctions. Unfortunately, at UMI the bacon was soggy and the roll tasted rather musty. Like the “BLT”, the traditional maki rolls were also insubstantial and tasteless. And so it went. Gaspar did not try the ramen or udon but if he were to visit UMI again, he’d strongly consider that option instead of the sushi.
In-keeping with the high-tech atmosphere, there is a gadget on the table with several buttons you push if you want service, a refill, the check, etc. Selig sarcastically theorised that pressing the buttons administered a small electric shock to the server in order to get her attention. Gaspar could not help but feel all the lights and buttons were a bit gimmicky, as was the inclusion of the word “tapas” in the restaurant’s name. But if you’re looking for a good place to watch a sporting event or have a few drinks, and you don’t mind the “plastic” atmosphere of Blue Back Square, then UMI Sushi & Tapas could be a agreeable option.