All fish go to heaven

In case you missed it, here’s my review of Carmel’s Sushi Heaven that appeared in Thursday’s Go! section of the Monterey Herald. I’ll be reposting my reviews and stories from my weekly column for the Herald here on my blog along with extra photos that didn’t appear in print.

I’ve been craving sushi like a fool these past couple of weeks. And when I get the craving, I always head to Sushi Heaven in Carmel. And heaven it is!

Sushi Heaven offers a wide variety of sushi selections--even if you're not a fan of traditional sushi!

But first, let me come clean — I’m one of those sushi fans who doesn’t eat raw fish. I never seemed to develop a taste for it.

You might as well stop reading now if you’re expecting any reviews of sashimi or other raw dishes — my sushi selections include veggies or cooked fish.

How can I possibly review a sushi restaurant? With this review, I’ll let you in on my favorite cooked sushi selections. I suspect I’m not alone among sushi-lovers in my preference for cooked and otherwise unconventional sushi fare.

Sushi Heaven features a mix of traditional rolls alongside sushi nouveau, like fried rolls. So many sushi spots have introduced fried rolls to pretty disappointing results.

The Good Stuff roll is good stuff indeed--very good stuff!

Sushi Heaven is the only place I’ll order a fried roll, the Good Stuff, because it really is good stuff — a roll of salmon gently fried with a bite of crunch from the golden breading.

The Dancing Ebi has always been my favorite roll at Sushi Heaven.

My favorite roll at Sushi Heaven is the Dancing Ebi. Filled with shrimp tempura, cream cheese and cucumber, this is one of those Americanized sushi rolls that I’m sure has traditional sushi-philes shaking their heads right now. Cream cheese in sushi? Yes! When the warm tempura melts the cream cheese just a tad, it’s a perfect bite, giving extra richness to the roll.

But the Wakame roll is quickly becoming a new favorite!

I’ve recently discovered the wakame roll, with seaweed wrapped in rice, topped with imitation crab. The seaweed gives a nice crunch that’s a good contrast to the soft rice; the crab on top has a nice spicy kick, perfect against the sweet seaweed.

And let’s not forget about veggie rolls. I have many vegetarian friends — true vegetarians, mind you, not pescatarians — who regularly dine on sushi.

The sweet potato tempura roll is sure to be a favorite for vegetarians.

Whenever we eat at Sushi Heaven, the sweet potato tempura roll is a must, and it’s delicious! Try other veggie combinations too — I’m itching to try a simple roll of avocado and cream cheese myself.

And, OK, just a quick note on the raw dishes: I’ve got a friend who’s working her way through Sushi Heaven’s entire menu with scientific precision. Her favorite raw roll? The Sensual Pleasure. She likes it so much, she wrote a poem about it! Behold:

Sensual Pleasure
My love for you I cannot measure
Topped with tobiko the color of garnet
I hope it’s sustainable and that they did not farm it
The tuna and scallops are so delicate and nice
So good that I often order it twice!

The rolls cost about $8 to $12 apiece, so ordering roll after roll can get expensive. But if you go in expecting to order with some restraint, it’s not too pricey — that’s my “don’t go out for sushi when you’re really hungry” rule. And the lunch specials are pretty affordable.

Not a fan of sushi rolls? Try other Japanese specialties, from teriyaki to tempura.

Of course, there’s more to eat at Sushi Heaven than just rolls. I find teriyaki a little boring, but the tempura is tasty. I usually go for the combo tempura appetizer ($8.95), with a couple pieces of shrimp tempura, along with some veggie tempura.

Edmame were eda-yum-may, but I've had better.

I also tried the edamame appetizer ($2.95) for the first time the other day. It’s good, but nothing that knocked my socks off. But the soybeans were nice and crisp.

The atmosphere at Sushi Heaven is fun, with bright orange walls plastered with photos of smiling customers, and the sushi chefs seem to have a good time with customers. Even if you’re not the biggest sushi fan, you’re sure to have a fun time here.

Sushi Heaven, Dolores Street and Eighth Avenue, Carmel, 625-2067, www.yelp.com/biz/sushi-heaven-carmel-by-the-sea

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