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Star Sushi

The latest entry on the Ashland sushi scene opened earlier this month on Main Street and should prove popular with tourists, students and locals.

Star Sushi offers a familiar menu and competitive prices.

The restaurant is owned by Ricky Nam, who also operates Star Sushi at 1080 Biddle Road, Medford, and recently sold the original Star Sushi in Beaverton. Another member of the Nam family opened Umi Sushi in Jacksonville early this year.

The restaurants share a virtually identical, and apparently quite successful, menu. It includes a selection of traditional and innovative appetizers, lots of sushi rolls running the gamut from simple classics to exotic, premium rolls and other typical Japanese fare such as teriyaki, noodle dishes and bento boxes.

On the appetizer menu, the Star pizza ($6) is a broiled, open-faced maki roll layering salmon, crab, white fish, rice and special sauces on a sheet of nori that might tempt even people unsure about sampling sushi. Traditionalists might want to try the yellowtail ($8) or salmon ($7.50) kama to pick the rich cheek meat from the bones and cartilage that connect the fish's head and body.

The extensive sushi menu includes vegetarian, classic, crunchy and super premium rolls. Prices range from $2.75 for an avocado or cucumber roll to $13 for one of Nam's favorites, the Samurai roll, which includes crab, yellowtail, cucumber, avocado, green onion and sweet sauce.

On a midday visit, I was drawn to the bento-box selection. They are pleasantly portioned for lunch, and Star's build-your-own approach enables customers to choose from a list that ranges beyond the default teriyaki chicken and a California roll offered at many places around the Rogue Valley. Other options here include baked mussels, spicy chicken, Korean-style grilled beef yakiniku, grilled salmon, tofu and vegetables, tempura vegetables, spicy tuna roll, avocado roll or veggie roll.

Diners can choose two items for $12.50 or three items for $15.50. Each meal also includes a house salad, miso soup, steamed rice and two gyoza. Simpler kids' bento is available for $10.

I decided to try the spicy tuna roll and vegetable tempura.

My meal started with a bowl of delicately flavored, white miso soup, enhanced with silken tofu cubes, pieces of seaweed and crisp bits of fresh, green onion. The sectioned tray with the rest of the food arrived moments later.

The house salad featured mixed greens, crescents of seeded cucumber, a few broccoli florets and a jumble of finely shredded carrot, all topped with a savory miso dressing.

Golden tempura batter encased green beans, an onion ring and slices of zucchini, winter squash and sweet potatoes in crunchiness. A mild dipping sauce was served on the side.

The fried gyoza dumplings were crisp outside with a soft filling of shredded vegetables inside. The steamed rice was perfectly cooked.

The spicy tuna roll lacked spice but was generously stuffed with rich tuna.

The little restaurant is a bright and pleasant place that offers seating at the sushi bar or at large or small tables. Murals layer colors and images on the walls in intriguing patterns while Japanese parasols and silk bamboo and cherry trees add more Asian flair.

Nam, originally from South Korea, has more than 30 years of experience making sushi, having started in his parents' restaurant in Hawaii as a young man. He says he cooks for his customers the same way he cooks for his family.

With the new Star Sushi in Ashland, it looks like he has created another welcoming restaurant using a family recipe for success.

— Anita Burke

Star Sushi