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All-you-can-eat ecstasy, McSushi Blues

Blast San Francisco Bureau

Sushi Taisho,
300 Carlsbad Village Drive,
Carlsbad, Calif.
(located in the Wherehouse shopping center) off highway 78.

3.5 stars

We stumbled onto this sushi treasure purely by accident. It's located in the back corner on the second floor of a small shopping center. We stood outside of Sushi Taisho for a couple of minutes trying to decide if the advertised $19.95 all-you-can-eat sushi was just another sushi buffet with little selection and brown colored nigiri, or if it was really as advertised. Feeling the hunger pangs, we decided to give it a try. Service was lousy for a restaurant that wasn't exactly brimming with people. When we stepped in, we had to wait two minutes before we were greeted.

An alarm began to ring in my head as I scanned for the buffet, but I couldn't find it. Before we sat down, my girlfriend inquired what all you can eat meant and the waitress said, "Just select the items on the menu. Take a seat at the sushi bar?"

We were puzzled. Did she mean, select the items on the menu and eat as much as you want at the sushi bar?

My girlfriend continued the attack.

"Is the uni included?" she asked, as we sat down at the sushi bar. I thought the answer would be a definite no and we would get up and walk out, but the waitress pointed to the menu and, sure enough, uni was there.

We scanned the menu and started salivating: hamachi, unagi, salmon skin, California roll, tuna, scallops, clam, gyoza, tempura, soft-shell crab, and chicken/beef teriyaki.

And so we ordered all that we thought we could eat: three orders of uni, three orders of hamachi, and an order each of unagi, California roll, tuna, scallops, clams, gyoza, ocean roll and soft-shell crab.

The chef served us the hamachi first. The fish looked fresh and very little rice was used in the preparation. I gobbled down a piece and was impressed. We decided to mark a couple more items down on our order and got an ocean roll and a snow crab roll. Next up was the gyoza, which was steamed and not very good. Then the sushi started, and we were in sushi heaven.

All the sushi were prepared nicely and were exquisite. The only bad choice was the white fish, which we added after we finished all the sushi. It was not bad, but the chili sauce used for sushi is not really to my liking.

The restaurant limits patrons to 90 minutes of eating and sitting time -- and we barely beat the clock. But an hour and a half is the perfect amount of time $19.95 for all you can eat made fresh at the sushi bar. I left a large tip even though the service was bad. My green tea ran out after the second plate of sushi came and was not refilled until we flagged down the waitress.

388 Eastridge Mall #A-21,
San Jose.
Other locations include Puente Hills, Woodland Hills, Studio City, Beverly Center, Cerritos, Orange, Glendale, Arcadia, Montclair, and San Diego

2.5 star rating.

Todai is quickly becoming the sushi chain in California and chances are you've either seen one or will see one soon.

I dined at the one located in San Jose (inside Eastridge mall) and was quite impressed by the atmosphere and the service, but the sushi is typical of buffet fare: decent if fresh, but not a lot to choose from.

Todai is billed as a seafood buffet, but the main draw is the sushi. There are two sections (three if you count dessert), one of which is salads/sushi/cold dishes and the other is hot seafood. I made a beeline to the sushi first, since I was craving for unagi. Unfortunately, there was no unagi. I did have the California rolls, which were good. I also tried the tempura roll, which was basically a salmon roll with Tempura batter. There was quite a selection of nigiri, but no hamachi, so I just went with the salmon and tuna. The fish was pretty fresh.

I went to the hot seafood line for my second round but wasn't very impressed with the choices. There was miso soup, which I expected since it was a Japanese restaurant. But I didn't expect to see egg flower soup. The miso soup was close to empty and the egg flower soup was still nearly full. I grabbed some vegetable tempura, which I am now convinced should be served straight from the deep fryer. Unless it's tempura udon, I like my tempura crispy, but this stuff was soggy.

I thought about grabbing some lobster, but passed since I did not feel like laboring for claw meat. Had it been lobster tail, it would be a much different story. I did grab what was billed as scallops. It had the scallop shell, but the filling was some strange concoction with no scallops and quite a bit of cheese and mayonnaise. I also had the crab bake, which was extremely greasy and not very tasty.

I decided to go for the dessert since I was starting to feel full and didn't want to take more chances. The dessert selection was quite interesting. There was fruit, Jell-O and some pastries. I had a little bit of gelatin and a cream puff. For some reason, Jell-O and cream puffs go well together. I was told that this Todai was not as good as the one in San Diego. But I don't think I'd want to shell out $12 to go to this restaurant again.