Troy’s Unagi Sushi opened in late 2016 and has gotten mostly rave reviews ever since. Pictures of beautifully embellished small dishes with elegant, artful details surfaced all over my newsfeed (see Table Hopping’s early review). If that piques your interest, there is an eight course “Omakase” style entree option where you get the chef’s selection of dishes. Although I’m keeping my eye on this for a special occasion, $80 per person is a little rich for my blood on a regular sushi outing.
What I was really curious about was how good the specialty rolls are. Yes, I know that true sushi aficionados would go straight for the bulk sushi or sashimi plates to sample a high volume of fish and assess quality. But I am much more of a roll person, and this is what would sell the place to me as a repeat destination. I like lots of sauces and textural contrasts and unexpected ingredients.
And most sushi places around Albany just do a lot of the same. I can enjoy a good dragon roll or rainbow roll like the best of them, but it doesn’t do much to inspire me to pick one specific sushi place over the rest. There’s a lot of overlap, and when places blend together like that, I’ll often just go to the nearest one for my roll fix. So I was curious to see if Unagi would have something unique enough to draw me back.
If you haven’t perused the specialty roll menu at Unagi yet, please do so and immediately chalk this place into your calendar. It’s not an expansive menu by any means, but there is a solid variety of options that are all tempting. In addition to standard ingredients like shrimp tempura and avocado and spicy crab, there’s also lots of scallops, bacon (!), asparagus, fresh mango, and herbs like basil and cilantro.
After some careful consideration, I decided to try the Diablo (crab and asparagus topped with spicy tuna, white tuna, eel sauce, and a garlic/cilantro/basil oil), the Transformer (spicy crab and avocado topped with thin slices of pan fried beef and balsamic vinegar), and the Congress (salmon and mango topped with yellowtail, jalapenos, and a chili cilantro sauce).
I loved the basil flavors in the Diablo roll, but it was a little heavy with garlic. Not that I’m complaining too much. I also really enjoyed the unusual topping of beef on the Transformer, which gave the roll a much more savory flavor profile and bit more heft to each bite. The Congress roll was the lightest of the three, with crisp fruit notes shining through from the tender chunks of mango and the citrus based sauce. The flavors were brimming with the little bits of vibrant cilantro in the sauce, and the sweetness was nicely balanced by the jalapenos. The peppers were cut thin enough that they didn’t really register as a crunchy element on the first bite, but came back around to remind us of their presence with a light touch of spice.
These rolls were really wonderful. They were so different from each other, and quite unique and creative compared to a lot of other specialty rolls at local sushi joints that seem to follow the same formula. In particular, I liked that the sauces were a bit different, instead of only relying on eel sauce and spicy mayo. Were these traditional and authentic flavor profiles? Definitely not. But they were unexpected and delicious.
I also liked the size of the rolls, although I could see others disagreeing on this front. At a price range of $16 to $20 per roll, they are not bargain priced right out of the gate. And they are not very large when they arrive at your table. So if you’re in the market for the most bang for your buck volume-wise, you might be disappointed. This is no all-you-can-eat, family value type of place. However, I tend to find that some signature rolls can get too jam packed with ingredients, and then too unwieldy and difficult to eat. These rolls were compact, filled with the perfect ratio of ingredients, and very easy to eat. Perhaps too easy.
Finally, the fish was very fresh and tender, and everything was beautifully prepared. You can tell when a lot of care goes into a plate’s preparation, rather than being hastily thrown together. I am still curious to try more of the entree dishes and the pricier chef’s menu, but I know that the signature rolls will be my most likely purchase in the future. Finding a place with some standout options is such a welcome discovery, and a great addition to the burgeoning food scene in this corner of Troy.