Philadelphia's Ultimate Sushi Guide: Crazy Rolls, Exotic Fish, Hot Scenes and More

By Danya Henninger  |  July 29, 2013
Credit: Danya Henninger

Once viewed as exotic, sushi is now a go-to cuisine for a majority of Americans, and fish-forward kitchens have proliferated all over Philadelphia. With so many options, it can be hard to choose where to get your raw seafood fix. We’re here to help. Just click through this guide - next time you’re craving maki, sashimi or nigiri, you’ll know exactly where to find it.

  • On a Budget

    Vic Sushi Bar
    The prices at this tiny Sansom Street alcove would be considered inexpensive anywhere but are even more impressive considering it’s located in Rittenhouse. The “any three rolls for $10.95” deal is hard to beat (2035 Sansom St.; 215-564-4339).

    This hybrid Chinese-Japanese operation does brisk delivery business, but the Broad Street dining room is actually worth a visit. The elegant interior and great fish quality are belied by the pleasantly low prices (425 S. Broad St.; 215-772-0333).

    On both Wednesday and Sunday evenings, this Wash West Japanese offers an all-you-can-eat sushi deal for $25 per person. As you fill up on fresh fish, make sure to leave room for at least one specialty cocktail, such as the pomegranate lychee martini (1210 Walnut St.; 215-985-1838).

  • Credit: Danya Henninger

    Quick Work Lunch

    Both the University City and Rittenhouse locations of this popular sushi stop offer the same killer lunch deal: four mix-and-match half rolls plus a starter of miso soup for $8.95. The to-go platters are also solid, if you want to take some away with you for an easy dinner (multiple locations).

    Whole Foods
    Put aside any cynicism you might carry with you about getting sushi from a supermarket, because both the Callowhill and South Street locations of this chain offer great, daily-made grab-and-go packs. Plus, if you catch the chefs behind the counter, they’re happy to roll up a custom order (multiple locations).

    Shiroi Hana
    Center City workers have been depending on the lunch specials at this Asian pioneer since 1984. Assorted sushi, maki, sashimi and chirashi combos are all $17 or less, providing a fast meal that’s both healthy and filling (222 S. 15th St.; 215-735-4444).

  • Hidden Gems

    Sushi Planet
    Just far enough off South Street that tourists tend to overlook it, this Queen Village BYO has a cavalcade of vocal local fans, who make sure to frequent the dining room often enough that the fish stays pristinely fresh (624 S. Third St.; 215-922-5000).

    Kidari Sushi Yatai
    Recently opened on South Street West, this sushi house is run by former Raw chef Sam Yoon. Here his expertise is showcased in a wide array of raw plates, from what he dubs “seafood carpaccio” to more traditional rolls and plates (1824 South St.; 267-273-0426).

    Once Pizzeria Vetri opens down the block later this year, this Korean-Japanese hybrid from Patti and Robert Moon of Shiroi Hana will no doubt get more traffic, but as it stands, this three-year-old BYO is somewhat of a neighborhood secret. Dozens of rolls and a sashimi omakase provide plenty of ways to get your raw-fish fix (1822 Callowhill St.; 215-564-1114).

  • Exotic Fish

    Moon Krapugthong (Chabba Thai) enlisted Okinawa native Haruo Ige to launch the kitchen at this bi-level Manayunk BYO, and current chef Aus Lukito keeps the sushi excitement alive. More than 25 different kinds of seafood are listed on the menu, including scallop, spotted shrimp and three kinds of roe (4255 Main St.; 267-297-8151).

    Chef Corey Baver channels his experience at top Philly kitchens like Morimoto into creative fish plates on East Passyunk. Look for sea bream, surf clam, Spanish mackerel and plenty of other sea creatures on the daily list (1601 E. Passyunk Ave.; 215-271-1222).

  • Credit: Danya Henninger

    Celeb Chefs

    Masaharu Morimoto does drop by his Stephen Starr collaboration relatively often for a globe-trotting Iron Chef, and when he does, he always puts on a show worth the wait. He has trained his staff well, however, so don’t miss out on what head sushi chef Hiroki Fujiyama can do (723 Chestnut St.; 215-413-9070).

    Blond-haired and blue-eyed, Michael Schulson looks the part of a TV chef (he’s made appearances on multiple shows), but not like someone you’d expect to make great sushi. Appearances notwithstanding, that’s exactly what you’ll find at Schulson’s restaurant at the Borgata in Atlantic City (1 Borgata Way, Atlantic City, NJ; 609-317-1000).

  • In the ‘Burbs

    We know several tried and true city dwellers who aren’t ashamed to admit they dust off their cars for a quick trip across the Delaware just for the fish at this Collingswood spot. Hidden beneath an overpass, don’t go looking for ambiance but instead for a great selection at a very fair price (37 W. Crescent Blvd., Collingswood, NJ; 856-854-9773).

    It might be worth a trek out to Montco for a seat at the upscale sushi bar in Collegeville. Authentic Japanese takes on rolls and other raw plates are served with style, and the offerings change often (50 W. Third Ave., Collegeville; 610-489-7022).

    Patrick Feury brings his experience with both French and Asian cuisines to this spacious Berwyn fusion dining room. Go for one of two dozen rolls, or ask the chef to create a bespoke sashimi and sushi plate as an appetizer or entree (1091 Lancaster Ave., Berwyn; 610-725-9000).

  • Hot Scenes

    Duck into this sake lounge in Midtown Village for sushi with a hip crowd and a swanky vibe. Prices aren’t bad, considering the buzzy location - in fact, credit proprietor Tony Rim for being one of the first to recognize 13th Street’s potential (1225 Sansom St.; 215-238-1903).

    Fat Salmon
    The owners of former BYO favorite Shinju gave more than their liquor license an upgrade when they moved to their new Wash West digs. Thanks to sleek furniture and changing mood lighting, you’ll quickly get in the party mood as you savor your glistening slices of fish (719 Walnut St.; 215-928-8881).

  • Credit: Danya Henninger

    Crazy Rolls

    Hiroyuki “Zama” Tanaka takes great pride in his creative constructions, and often takes them even further with collaboration. For example, he recently created a “Drum Roll” inspired by Questlove - like a cheesesteak, it matches provolone cheese with beef and is served with cherry peppers on the side (128 S. 19th St.; 215-568-1027).

    Umai Umai
    A must-try for the the adventurous sushi eater, chef Alex McCoy’s Godzilla takes maki to the realm of sweet-with-savory, pairing eel and shrimp with strawberry, macadamias and avocado. Other rolls feature unorthodox ingredients like cherries, blueberry balsamic vinegar and apricot miso (533 N. Second St.; 215-988-0707).

    Makiman Sushi
    The longtime Northeast favorite now has a second branch in Center City, and both outposts serve nearly three dozen kinds of traditional maki. For more excitement, check out the “fusion” section, where you’ll find a Cap’n Crunch roll (with tempura flakes), a Nutty roll (battered fish with toasted almond) and a Ben & Jerry roll, in the shape of an ice cream cone (multiple locations).

  • Credit: Danya Henninger

    Special Features

    Philly doesn’t yet have Japan’s sushi-making robots, but thanks to this Stephen Starr outpost in West Philly, we do have conveyor belt sushi. Take a seat at the bar under multicolored lights and pluck whatever appeals to you from the ever-changing line of raw fish that streams past (3636 Sansom St.; 215-387-1803).

    Morimoto-trained chef Sam Ho sends out quality cuts at this newly revamped Old City lounge, but what makes the bar special is the array of sake and shochu options. The easiest way to make fresh fish even better is to wash it down with some strong rice wine (132 Chestnut St.; 215-925-9998).

    Fuji Mountain
    If sushi and song is the combo you’re looking for, reserve one of three karaoke rooms at this Rittenhouse Japanese restaurant. Each has space for up to 30 people, and if you order enough food and drink (the full menu is available), there’s no extra charge for the space (2030 Chestnut St.; 215-751-0939).