Gaijin Sushi: non-traditional, creative sushi in Oklahoma City [closed]

by | July 9, 2008 | 15 Comments

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Gaijin Sushi has two locations including 200 N. Harvey Avenue in Oklahoma City (map) and 1228 N. Interstate Drive in Norman (map). For phone numbers and information, please visit their website.

PLEASE NOTE: Gaijin Sushi is no longer in business.

It wasn’t long ago that I noticed Gaijin Sushi’s bright awnings going up on a storefront at the Park Harvey building downtown. Naturally, this caught my attention every time I visited the downtown library. I was very excited to see this new eatery opening in the downtown space. As soon as it was open, I wanted to try it, but since I am personally a bit of a sushi novice, I invited Andrew and Greg along to provide their more experienced sushi insights. This article includes thoughts from all three of us.

We are all unanimously in favor of the atmosphere and the location. We got to sit right by the window, looking out at all the people shuffling around downtown at lunch time. The corner storefront space offers a great view. The interior decor is very hip yet soothing. Nothing wild or harsh but just great lighting, good colors and modern accents. Congrats to the owners for creating a brilliant, urban experience that truly adds to the downtown landscape.

Another unanimous winner was the crab cake appetizer we shared. Andrew claims that “they were possibly the best crab cakes I’ve had in OKC. The crab mousse really gave them a light and fluffy texture.” Greg adds, “The presentation was beautiful, and I was especially enamored with the stripes of sauces on the plates, which provided a delicious flourish on the already tasty dish.” I have to agree. They were very good and quite possibly worth the trip just by themselves.

Now, onto the sushi. Even though I am a sushi novice, I was able to pick up on the fact that this isn’t a very “traditional” sushi place. I think the name Gaijin (which, from what I can tell, is a slightly derogatory Japanese term meaning “outsider” or “non-Japanese person”) is an odd choice, but it did seem fairly appropriate as we noted that the people around us, including those who were preparing the dishes, were predominantly non-Asians. It seems that Gaijin aims to provide a more “American” spin on sushi or at least a non-traditional spin. This results in the creation of some very unusual rolls.

The rolls are very special, indeed. The Devil’s Advocate is the top-seller according to general manager, Cristian Clay, and it’s easy to see why. At $9.50 for 8 pieces, it packs a good punch with salmon, cucumber, avocado, masago, cream cheese, spicy pistachios and a spicy aioli drizzled on top. Also interesting was the upscale Geisha roll at $12.95 with lobster salad, avocado and cucumber inside and lobster claw, caviar and miso on top. Both of these were very complex rolls and like nothing we’d tasted before.

We were all less impressed with the Spider roll ($8.75) which was a bit fishy. It did have bits of kaiware, which is a radish sprout, to give it some spice. Usually, kaiware is more of a garnish so we thought putting it in the sushi was a cool use of the ingredient.

The favorite roll for all of us was the Rock and Roll ($8.25). At Gaijin, the rock and roll is an eel roll. The eel is laid across the top with a sweet sauce and toasted sesame seeds while cucumber and avocado are wrapped up inside. This was really tasty and we highly recommend it.

We also sampled some Nigiri sushi — rice balls topped with fresh fish — and we found them less appealing than the rolls. As Greg puts it, “I don’t know if the Nigiri lacked flavor or if the rolls were just so full of flavor that the fish paled in comparison. Regardless, I’d opt for the rolls.” I have to agree and I think that’s par for the course at this non-traditional sushi place. Their creativity and presentation serves them well. When you come here, look to try those unique items that really set them apart.

The pricing at Gaijin is on the higher end of Oklahoma City’s sushi offerings, though perhaps not quite as high as Sushi Neko or Kang’s. Given the location, the atmosphere and the experience, we all felt the prices were reasonable and as expected.

Overall, our experience was really positive and both Greg and Andrew claim they will be going back. Andrew says, “I’m particularly excited about the coming lunch additions such as duck breast. Can’t wait to try those. I also look forward to taking my wife there, without kids, and gorging on those delicious crab cakes.”

Greg adds, “I will likely go back for a Rock and Roll and maybe a chance to try their Veggie or Gringo rolls. But I would also like the chance to try the full flight of sake that Cristian recommended. I did have a few sips of the fruity Gekkeikan plum sake and sweet, milky Momokawa pearl sake.”

Will I go back, you ask? I would love to, but I’d have to find the right occasion and really do some convincing to my wife, who is not a sushi lover at all. Perhaps I can coax her with some crab cakes.

Gaijin Sushi is new to downtown, so give them a try if you’re in the area, and let us know what you think in the comments. Also, if you’ve been to the Norman location, we’d love to hear your thoughts on it as well.

Gaijin Sushi on Urbanspoon

Gaijin Sushi on Urbanspoon

This article was posted by Tim Wall on Wednesday, July 9th, 2008. It is filed under:

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  • Kimberly says:
    July 17th, 2008 at 3:25 pm   

    I didn’t know it was non-traditional sushi, but when I ate it, I thought it was particularly bad but maybe it’s because I like sushi… And Sushi Neko is less expensive in sushi and alcohol. :)

  • Paula says:
    July 31st, 2008 at 2:52 pm   

    The sushi was good…when we finally got it, but it took a very long time. I can’t see how they’re going to make it serving the lunch crowd. Our waitress was less than pleasant; we had the feeling we were imposing on her. I doubt I will be returning.

  • Kelly says:
    September 20th, 2008 at 2:11 pm   

    My experience wasn’t much better than those above. The sushi took forever to order, and one was made incorrectly. They did remake the roll, and took the charge off our bill, but it took almost half an hour to get the new roll. Perhaps the food is good for someone who is not familiar with sushi, but I found it quite unpalatable.

  • ZakkFlash says:
    October 2nd, 2008 at 11:24 am   

    I’m a regular customer at the original Norman location. Gaijin has consistently delivered the goods. I’m not aware of the alcohol prices but the food itself seems to be a tad high.. not too much but enough to make it a special occasion thing. I recommend the Geisha roll as a special and the Gaijin roll. Devil’s Advocate is my wife’s favorite and is definitely tasty. Gill, the owner, is regularly in Norman and knows how to treat customers right. 4 Stars.

  • Samdaman says:
    December 20th, 2008 at 2:33 am   

    Went to this place for the first time and was quite disappointed in how non-Japanese this place is. If you want REAL Japanese Sushi, go to Tokyo Sushi. This place is a bit overpriced and some of the roll selections were really not that great. I guess if you’re a novice you may not notice how sub-par this place is, but if you have no other choice for sushi in downtown, this would be a decent place to go. The wasabi is watered down and and rolls weren’t all that great. It’s a good attempt at sushi, but they’ve got a bit of a ways to go to really become a “real” sushi place.

  • Michael says:
    December 20th, 2008 at 9:42 am   

    Before moving out of state I had been to the previous location a number of times. Some of the rolls are quite creative, but the main motivation for going to Gaijin over Neko or Tokyo was a desire to stay in Norman. Gajin isn’t bad but I don’t think it’s worth making a trip to Norman if you’re elsewhere in the city, especially since there are better options elsewhere in the city. I would definitely echo Samdaman in recommending Tokyo.

  • hjk says:
    January 31st, 2009 at 12:11 pm   

    I love sushi and have tried almost all the sushi places in OKC. I am really excited to see another sushi place located downtown (wasn’t too impressed with Raw- new sushi place in Bricktown). I am going today to check this place out. I will tell you though, my favorite place for sushi in OKC so far is Okuras on May. The fish is super fresh and the rolls are a fun party in your mouth.

  • shonda says:
    March 9th, 2009 at 5:45 pm   

    I’ve eaten sushi at several places in town and I really enjoyed Gaijin. Really, its one of my favorites. I live in far western Oklahoma, so I always bring extra sushi home when I make it to the city. You see, my father lived in Japan as a a child and my grandmother, perhaps the best cook I know, still enjoys learning to make new dishes. Needless to say, I grew up with quite a bit of Japanese cuisine most of my life from restaurants and my grandmother’s kitchen. However, perhaps I am a “sushi novice,” as Samdaman explained, because I enjoy this restaurant’s menu quite a bit. In fact, my not-so-hip-on-sushi husband with eat as much of the Gaijin and Chuxoi rolls as I bring for him and I think that speaks volumes about the taste. Maybe it is more “American” than traditional sushi, but I am judging it on the taste. And, to my family, it tastes very good.
    Now, as far as the cost and the wait time are concerned, because I don’t have frequent access to sushi, it is always a treat to me at any time or price. For me, that doesn’t really factor in as it is an indulgence without choice.

  • Jacob says:
    May 8th, 2009 at 10:08 am   

    Unfortunately I tried to go there a few weeks back and it appears they have closed. Just wanted to give everyone a heads up.

  • Kevin says:
    May 15th, 2009 at 7:50 am   

    Yes, it’s been closed and new combo sushi and sports bar is apparently due for opening in June, or so say some of the regular posters at OKCTalk.com
    (see posts 66 and 67) at
    http://www.okctalk.com/okc-metro-area-talk/15883-gaijin-sale-3.html

    Not being a sushi person myself, to put it mildly, Not sure I grasp this particular combo, but I wish them many many customers who will embrace their plan.

  • emily says:
    May 15th, 2009 at 4:01 pm   

    huh. i hope the new place is good.

  • Julie says:
    July 17th, 2009 at 5:08 pm   

    We live in Norman and are regulars at the Gaijin Sushi here. We have always enjoyed the atmosphere, service and sushi. My husband loves the Devil’s Advocate and I am a die hard California Roll girl. Not having had traditional Japanese sushi, I have no frame of reference in regards to the reviews below. Occasionally it takes a little while to get our rolls, depending on the crowd and take out orders before us, but we have always received our food in a reasonable amount of time and the orders have been correct. The service is consistently good and the owner makes frequent rounds to visit with the guests. Overall this is one of our favorite places for date night and we have often been there for lunch as well. In the spring and fall the outdoor dining is wonderful, as well. Very tasty, all around!

  • michaela says:
    September 28th, 2009 at 11:09 pm   

    they have a new location on main street in norman. The decor is really beautiful, and the rolls were very generous. my favorite was the devil’s advocate. I loved the spicy pistachios on top. my friend didn’t want sushi, so he ordered the seabass. It came out on BLUE mashed potatoes! I had to taste them. They were GREAT! So was the lobster sauce on top. The new bar looks really good. I would recommend this place for anyone who is scared to try sushi. Dont fear the roller.

  • Christine says:
    December 5th, 2009 at 11:09 pm   

    Gaijin Sushi
    Downtown Main Street in Norman
    The OKC and Norman locations were closed. But the owner has reopened the Gaijin restaurant at a new location in Norman under the name “The Copia Wine Bar.” Its the same Gaijin restaurant, same menu, same owner, but a different name. Still great Sushi.
    It is on the south side of Main street close to the Porter intersection, a ouple doors down from a tattoo parlor.

  • Alisa says:
    March 8th, 2010 at 10:25 am   

    I finally got around to trying Gaijin. It was good, but it was much for expensive for lunch than In the Raw.

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