Hello, Moto

In case you missed it, are my first impressions of the new Sushi Moto restaurant 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.

While strolling Alvarado the other night after picking up a late-night froyo fix, I popped into the newly opened Sushi Moto to grab a takeout menu.

Perusing its menu, I was intrigued, especially by the large selection of vegetarian sushi. I have a number of vegetarian friends who always feel short-changed at sushi restaurants. My curiosity was piqued — could Sushi Moto be their saving grace?

Sushi Moto is a tiny shop with interesting sushi choices for all sorts of palates.

So I decided to swing by a couple days later to check out its vegetarian options — and challenged myself to go vegetarian for my meal.

The seaweed salad was pretty tasty--but that raw carrot topping felt out of place.

I started with a couple of appetizers — seaweed salad ($3) and edamame ($3). The edamame were a little bland — a quick toss with salt or chili flakes would have been a big help. But the seaweed salad was pretty good, with a slight bite of heat that built as you ate more.

My friend and I ordered four rolls, all vegetarian, but some tastier than others.

The Miami roll had a nice crunch and good balance of flavors.

The good? Definitely the Miami roll with tempura yam, avocado, negi (green onion) and lemon-miso mayo ($5). I appreciated the sweet crunch of tempura yam.

The Crob Burning roll with avocado, cucumber, shiitake mushrooms, cilantro and spicy mayo ($4.50) was also pretty good — and very flavorful.

The bad? The Janaroll with tamago (egg), avocado, negi (green onions) and cashews ($4.50) wasn’t quite what I had expected. The texture of the fluffy egg, smooth avocado and crunchy cashews didn’t quite work for me.

The Guido roll was an unusual experience--and one I'm not dying to repeat anytime soon!

The ugly? The Guido roll with avocado, cream cheese, garlic, basil and macadamia nuts ($5). I was curious about trying Italian flavors in sushi, and now that I’ve tried it, I don’t think I need to again.

I’m all for fusion cuisine, but maybe Italian and Japanese aren’t the best bedfellows. The basil was a nice touch, but the garlic was overpowering.

My original plan was to try a wholly vegetarian menu, but I was foiled by the cold weather outside. I couldn’t resist the siren’s call of a bowl of steaming hot udon soup on that chilly night. I ordered a bowl of tori udon with chicken, shiitake mushrooms and vegetables ($8.50).

A piping hot bowl of udon soup was too tempting to resist!

The udon soup was piping hot, with generous portions of roasted chicken, thick mushrooms and tender noodles.

The udon soup was very filling, packed with chicken, veggies and noodles.

The chicken was nicely seasoned, and I was even willing to forgive my suspicions that the chicken was precooked. This was a filling bowl of soup — perfect for the chilly nights ahead this winter.

Sushi Moto is still getting its feet wet with service and they have a few kinks to iron out, as most restaurants do in the months after opening. But first impressions can be telling, and I was pleasantly surprised by Sushi Moto.

I’m sure I’ll be back to sample more of the menu — and not limit myself to vegetarian fare next time.

Sushi Moto is located at 413 Alvarado St. in Monterey. 646-1109 or www.yelp.com/biz/sushi-moto-monterey.

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