Jellyfish - 2924 NE Alberta
Until recently, the diverse restaurants of Alberta Street had almost every style of food imaginable, save one glaring exception--SUSHI. However, since Jellyfish jumped into the fray both diners and indierock layabouts now have the opportunity to satiate their raw fish jones and wasabi highs. That is, if Jellyfish can overcome some rather serious hurdles.
The interior of Jellyfish is a welcoming space. While design and lighting often takes backseat to the pressed-plastic booths and the helter-skelter Pier One furnishings of many Alberta eateries, Jellyfish provides a simple, calming atmosphere with a subtle Asian touch. This, along with the snappy, encyclopedic service, laid the foundation for what I hoped was going to be a great meal.
I have to say, however, I was in for a disappointment.
While I appreciate the menu's generous selection of hot and cold sake, there were two items that nudged at my nerves: the inclusion of tapas, and Pabst Blue Ribbon. Now, as most of Portland knows, I loves me some PBR. However, sometimes I just want to go to a nice restaurant--especially on Alberta--that caters to people other than scuzzbags such as myself. Serving PBR in a nice place like this is like finding a rubber sheet on your bed in the Four Seasons hotel--it casts a distasteful pall on the entire endeavor.
And while I am generally opposed to tapas unless they are where they belong (in a TAPAS restaurant), I probably wouldn't be howling about the Ahi Tuna Ceviche if it hadn't tasted like a fruity salt-block. The raw tuna, marinated in mango and spicy habanero, was served in an excessively tiny bowl, which for $5.50 seemed pretty pricey... especially for a dish that's so salty you can't finish it.
Things took a turn for the better with the makisushi; I opted for a spicy tuna roll and an eel/avocado roll--both of which were fine. Nothing amazing, but the ingredients tasted fresh and the wasabi was powerful enough to deviate my septum. In the nigiri camp, my dining partner and I split an order of Sake (a thin slice of salmon over rice), which was the most rousing success of the evening. Light, fresh and flavorful, the salmon, according to my tablemate, "Goes down like buttah!"
Unfortunately, the buttery taste of salmon was obliterated by the worst piece of nigiri I've ever tasted, the Hotategai (or scallop). The closest comparison I can make is that I felt like a contestant on Fear Factor who's been asked to wolf down a pile of rotten fish. While I partially blame myself for not smelling it first, as a diner, I would like to think the kitchen is keeping a better eye on what they're sending out. I choked it down, but spent the better part of the night waiting for the sweats that would signal its unwelcome return. Happily, the Hotategai, like much of the world's woes, eventually passed without further incident.
Overall, Jellyfish is not a bad restaurant, and some of their offerings hit the nail right on the head. However, to fit in with the destination eateries on the rest of Alberta, they're simply going to have to try a little harder.