Joss Cafe & Sushi Bar – A Rave-view


(Photo courtesy of Joss Cafe and Sushi Bar Facebook Page)

Joss Cafe and Sushi Bar is a Japanese restaurant on Main St. Annapolis that my good friend, Byron, and I frequent for lunch everytime I’m in town for work.   Located at 195 Main St, it is right smack in the middle of that busy tourist street behind the governor’s and senate houses.  From the outside, the restaurant looks very low-key but Joss Cafe and Sushi Bar is a hidden treasure of Annapolis.

We are regular patrons of the place.  The regular waiters know our faces and we know, by heart, what we want to order from the menu.  There’s a certain authenticity in the place.  I haven’t been to Japan just yet, unfortunately.  Anything about Japan that I know of I see in photos and documentaries.  But the interior of Joss Cafe makes you feel like it’s a real Japanese hut. All the wood, the muted Japanese buntings by the sushi bar, the tatami-like mats on some of the walls, they transport me to Japan.  At least, my idea of what a Japan house might look like.

My favorite chirashi bowl, also called chirashizushi, which means “scattered”

Byron and I take turns treating each other out for lunch.  We catch up on the latest news about work, system projects, our lives in general.  We talk of just about every other thing we can squeeze talking about in an hour of lunch.  That’s while we watch the people pass by outside.  It’s a real treat for the both of us.

Our regular grub at Joss Cafe is quite consistent.  Byron would have his California roll and a side of brocolli and shrimp tempura that he orders a la carte. I would always order either tuna and salmon sashimi with white rice or their chirashi bowl.  They don’t have the chirashi bowl on the menu for awhile now. But whenever I do ask for it, the sushi chefs would gladly prepare it for me.  Aside from that I would also order their appetizer of shrimp and vegetable tempura.  I have to admit, apart from seeing my co-workers, going to Josh Cafe is the bigger highlight of my trip to Annapolis every month.  I get to eat fresh sashimi!

Their fresh sashimi is to die for!

There’s a reason why I get picky about where I get my sashimi from.  First – it’s raw fish so you have to be sure you’re eating grade A, fresh slices.  At Joss, the fish has no aftertaste, you can actually savor the taste of the meat.  Second, you have to be sure the sashimi is prepared clean.  Joss has always been rated one of Annapolis’ best restaurants for so many years running.  You know that accounts for something about the way they prepare their food, right?

Aside from their sashimi, I always look forward to having their tempura.  Sometimes, whenever I’m in a new Japanese restaurant, I hesitate ordering tempura unless I can see what they first look like.

The authentic shrimp tempura on my rice bowl

Why? One time, I had a chance to peek inside a restaurant depot here in Maryland. I discovered a gold mine! They had so many kitchen items that you won’t normally see in ordinary houseware stores.  And they have them priced well below what you’d find in Target or Walmart.  They also sell meat and fish slightly lower than supermarket prices.  I guess that’s because they’re for restaurant owners, they’re sold in bulks.  And then I saw that they were also selling shrimp tempura ready-made.  We bought a box and I was excited. Though luck, it stayed in the fridge almost for forever.

Those restaurant depot tempuras were disappointing, to say the least. There was more flour than shrimp, mainly. And they looked more like corn dogs rolled in breading.  The taste was too salty, too.

A taste of their appetizer tempura. If the dipping sauce it comes with isn’t like the bowl on the left, you’re not getting authentic tempura.

So since then, if the tempura I ordered looked more like small corn dogs, I know they got it from restaurant depot, But if the batter was airy with a light yellow color, then you know the tempura was house-made. And if they served you tentsuyu (tempura dipping sauce) and not the kind that looks like tonkatsu sauce, then you have a higher chance to bet that their tempura is authentic and they made it themselves.

I love the tempura at Joss Cafe and Sushi. Whether shrimp or veggie, their tempura is heavenly. It is just the right amount of crunchy and it isn’t oily. Plus, dipping it in their savory tentsuyu sauce is the punch that seals the deal. Their shrimps are fresh and sweet. The vegetables are cooked just right – they are never soggy.

There are other good Japanese restaurants out there.  I’ve actually been to some of the best, and also some of the bad ones.  But Joss Cafe will always be one of the places I will always choose when I’m around its area.

Till next time, my lovies!

The once named “godmother of the Philippine Blogosphere”, Gigi Manaloto-Refugia, known by her pen name “Ate Sienna” has been blogging since 2002 in her old pansitan.net community where she housed famous bloggers.  She now writes about being 50-something and shares her tips on fashion, makeup, skincare, travel, food and thrift-store diving.

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