Stingray Sushi Bar + Asian-Latino Grill
59 Lake Ave., Rehoboth Beach; 227-6476
Prices Appetizers $9-$18, sushi rolls $7-$15, entrées $15-$30
Recommended dishes Grouper ceviche, sushi, fish tacos, filet with Asian demi-glace and gorgonzola butter
Saketumi Sushi Bar and Lounge
18814 Coastal Hwy.,Rehoboth Beach; 645-2818
Prices Sushi rolls $8-$16, special rolls $12-$15, a la carte $4-$8, sushi and sashimi $22-$36, entrées $15-$26
Recommended dishes Sushi rolls, Thai lemongrass soup, smoked spareribs and lamb chops with Tibetan spices
Everybody was kung fu fighting,” sang Carl Douglas on the radio. “Those cats were fast as lightning.” Chopsticks in hand, I cast a furtive glance around the dining room. There was something politically incorrect about hearing an inane 1974 tune while dining in an Asian restaurant. Shouldn’t I be listening to soft flutes and chimes?
Expect the unexpected at Saketumi Sushi Bar and Lounge in Rehoboth Beach, whose whimsical name demonstrates that it is far from the average Asian eatery. “Girls Just Want to have Fun” was next up on the radio.
Saketumi is not the only Asian restaurant that’s bucking the norm. Stingray Sushi Bar + Asian Latino Grill debuted last year at the beach. There are similarities. Both modern-looking restaurants execute dishes that tweak Asian cuisine, and both are owned by Wilmington restaurateurs who’ve already found success with sushi. But there are differences, too, which may nudge you in one direction more than another.
Saketumi sits on busy Del. 1, just outside Rehoboth, in the building formerly occupied by Ann Marie’s Seafood & Italian Restaurant—though you wouldn’t know it, judging by the extensive renovation. There is plenty of parking and, inside, there is plenty of space. The restaurant is divided into a sushi bar area, a main dining room and, in the back, a lounge with its own bar, cushy leather sofas and high-top tables.
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It’s all cool and contemporary with uncovered tables, curved black booths, glass tiles and the same floor-to-ceiling silver beads that dangle from the ceiling at Jasmine, co-owners Tammy Wang and Winson Chinupakit’s popular restaurant on U.S. 202 in North Wilmington.
The secret, I learned, is to visit when sushi chef Shigeki Tanaka—also a presence at Jasmine—is in the house. Or so I was told by a loyal customer after I visited the restaurant twice. Unfortunately, I missed Tanaka both times.
Nevertheless, the sushi is still the star here, and the less fuss the better. A glistening piece of yellowtail (hamachi) perched alone on a raft of rice, and a textured but tender square of octopus (tako) boasted the clean, fresh taste that is sushi’s signature. A dab of wasabi and a swish of soy sauce were the only accompaniments needed. For color, we ordered salmon roe, which shimmers in its seaweed wrapping like tiny rubies.
As far as special rolls, I would order the Volcano Roll again. The spicy “lava” sauce was a welcome pick-me-up after sampling a lackluster soba noodle salad in a greasy coconut dressing. The roll contains tuna, crab stick and pillowy mozzarella, which seamlessly meshes with the velvety fish.
Sunset rolls—bundles of tuna, eel, and cucumber draped with salmon and yellowtail—and Rainbow rolls—crab and avocado packages topped with salmon, tuna, yellowtail and white tuna—are familiar to sushi lovers. Saketumi does a respectable job, but they didn’t knock my obi off. Maybe things would be different if Tanaka had been on hand.
Much more interesting was the Crouching Tiger: soft shell crab, lobster salad, tuna, albacore and asparagus, all wrapped in a paper-thin soybean sheet the color of iceberg lettuce. It was a satisfying blend of crunchy and soft, sweetness and, thanks to a dollop of wasabi, spice.
As for non-sushi offerings, Thai lemongrass soup imparts a light tingle that won’t leave you gasping for water. All four shrimp in my bowl were sweet and fresh. One dining partner liked the seared Chilean sea bass, which fell off the stick at the slightest touch. Though the miso-orange sauce was tasty, the fish still tasted boring to me. Small but succulent tea-smoked spareribs were more appetizing and more fun.
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Don’t bother with the lobster-crabmeat fried rice, which at $18 is a bland-colored mound of rice and seafood. Better to put your money toward the $15 Tuna-Tuna Surprise, a roll containing blackened tuna, asparagus and wasabi aïoli.
Most of the main dishes mine Asia for inspiration. There are curries, noodles and rice, woked entrées, tempuras, terikayis and hibachi dishes. Lamb chops are dusted with Tibetan spices. Salmon is garnished with black beans, bamboo shoots and stir-fried edamame.
Like Saketumi, Stingray Sushi Bar + Asian-Latino Grill features a contemporary decor and a lengthy sushi list.
There’s no missing this restaurant. Owner Darius Mansoory painted the building a bold, deep orange. Inside, the layout remains similar to the 59 Lake days, but the walls are burnt orange. There’s an angular Chinese lattice between rooms, and the dance floor is now occupied by a round sushi bar. Glass tiles and etched Stingrays, which glide across concrete tiles, put the restaurant’s stamp on the space.
Stingray, like Saketumi, has quickly become better known for its sushi than its other menu items, and that’s no surprise, really. Mansoory also owns Mikimotos Asian Grill and Sushi Bar in downtown Wilmington, a sushi mecca.
Mikimotos customers will recognize rolls like the Hairy Mexican, which has graced magazine covers. It’s worthy of the attention. The pretty fringe of crabstick gives the roll its glam. The fried shrimp, spicy sauce and avocado inside bring home the goods.
The Yama Roll is another Mikimotos favorite that’s relocated to Rehoboth. Inside: eel, shrimp tempura and avocado. Outside: eel sauce, wasabi mayo and tempura “frick,” another word for crunchy crumbs.
I was less impressed with the Sloppy Joe, which earns its name. Sprinkled with sesame seeds, the roll contains tempura-fried eel, cream cheese, egg and avocado. Cut in glutton-sized pieces, a single slice made my cheeks bulge while cream cheese squished between my teeth. This is definitely not date food.
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When I visited, there wasn’t a lot to warrant the “Latino” in the Asian-Latino Grill portion of Stingray’s name. But I liked what I ate. Grouper ceviche, diced white fish in a bright citrus marinade, was inspired by Mansoory’s many trips to Costa Rica. For a touch of fusion, the ceviche was served in a bowl alongside fan of crisp, golden wontons.
Fish tacos, made with grilled grouper instead of fried fish, were as good as any I’ve had, including those in Mexico, and I loved the addition of chipotle sour cream and sriracha sauce.
Since my visit, chef Drew Lopuski, with the help of chef Sean McNeice—who oversees all Mansoory’s restaurants, including the Washington Street Ale House—has crafted a new menu that adds more Latin-influenced favorites.
Consider fresh-made guacamole accompanied by your choice of sesame-soy marinated sushi tuna or quesa fresco, toasted pine nuts, roasted garlic cloves, cilantro and tomatoes. There’s a Mexican pulled chicken salad and duck confit quesadilla.
Still, the menu is heavy on the Asian side. Take the lettuce wraps, served with the expected chicken and, in a clever twist, moo shoo barbecue pork and miso-grilled vegetables. Our version had bibb lettuce. Now it’s made with iceberg, which is far more refreshing. There’s a duck and seared sea scallop pad Thai, grilled lobster with tempura asparagus, and a coconut-curry stir fry with tofu.
My perfectly cooked filet was finished with a light Asian demi-glace. It now comes with gorgonzola butter. I can live with that. But it’s a crime to substitute the mac ’n’ cheese tots with truffle-chorizo mashed potatoes. The mashed potatoes might be very good. The breaded and fried cubes of mac ’n’ cheese, however, were brilliant. Here’s hoping they’ll appear as a side dish.
With the venerable Cultured Pearl still going strong, Saketumi and Stingray can’t afford to rest on reputations their sister restaurants enjoy upstate. Add Abstractions and Tokyo Steakhouse to the mix and there’s no shortage of sushi spots. Saketumi has an easy-in, easy-out location on its side. Stingray’s multicultural menu will appeal to those who don’t care for Asian cuisine.
The battle of supremacy will only benefit diners. These days, customers can happily demand a raw deal.
Page 5: High Water Mark | Chesapeake City is a diner’s paradise any time, but there’s no season better than summer.
Chesapeake City is a diner’s paradise any time, but there’s no season better than summer.
Could one of the area’s best dining destinations belong to a neighbor? Consider a quaint, waterfront town where fine and casual dining, rustic seafood and more mix in a pretty little package: Chesapeake City.
There’s the Tap Room Crabhouse (Second and Bohemia streets, 410-885-9873), where steamed blue crabs go down with cold draft beer. There’s the Chesapeake Inn (605 Second St., 410-885-2040), where you can gulp a rum-filled Voodoo Bucket to the tunes of a live reggae band. Its deck offers one of the all-time great water views.
There’s Bayard House (11 Bohemia Ave., 410-885-5040), inside one of the oldest structures in town, serving its famous tournedos Baltimore with a frosty pint from The Hole in the Wall pub. There’s the Yacht Club Restaurant (225 Bohemia Ave., 410-885-2267) for breezy, bistro-style seafood. The Bohemia Café and Bakery (401 Second St., 410-885-3066) is a breakfast classic that serves eggs Chesapeake. (Think Benedict with crab meat.) And of course, there’s tiny Kilby’s Canal Creamery (9 Bohemia Ave., 410-885-3030), a perfect end-of-the-evening stop for hand-dipped ice cream.
Nick Vouras, owner of the Wilmington classic Kozy Korner, is opening a second location in Chesapeake City this month. There have even been rumblings that the famous Schaefer’s Canal House could reopen.
“I think it’s the whole atmosphere of the town,” says Chesapeake Inn owner Gianmarco Martuscelli. “You don’t have to go to the beach. You don’t have to go to Annapolis to get the great waterfront dining. If someone comes to this town, you can do the whole kit and caboodle in one nice little waterside block.”
“We’re right on the banks of the canal,” says Bayard House general manager Natalie Gentry. “And it’s one of those places where you can sit and relax and enjoy yourself. You might not feel like you’re on vacation, but maybe somewhere else far away.” —Matt Amis