Dinner With Dan: Sushiland

Daniel Davis

Another day, another Japanese restaurant surfaces on the Main Line. Sushiland, the cheap imitator of all local Japanese cuisines, aims to satisfy the most fickle and frugal of college students. Its shoddy exterior radiates the antithesis of “upscale,” while its array of inexpensive sushi hopes to attain the interest of a nearby child with a few dollars in his pocket.

Your typical crowd is comprised of an eclectic grouping of students and vivacious parents. The decibel level approaches that of a movie with surround sound, but loud noise is what attracts our attention, is it not?

Regardless, the “avant-garde” neon sign illuminates a bare sidewalk begging to be walked on, or at least begging for a glance.

There is minimal space for dining; however, Sushiland does manage to incorporate a sushi bar to appease the real fans of sushi and sashimi. You might find yourself clashing with a neighbor over territory like animals in the wild, but do not fret, the battle will be amongst a myriad of people. So, if you are in the mood for several social encounters, do not be afraid to attempt invading other “lands” or tables with your valuables, such as purses or your outstretched legs.

The menu is concocted of reasonably priced sushi, sashimi and nigiri, while managing to include most, if not all, varieties found on most Japanese menus. Of course, their specials always include the Villanova roll, in hopes that gullible and deep-pocketed students would adore the Villanova roll, because, hey, it is our college; how can’t it be scintillating?

Away from our blinding confidence, what else does Sushiland offer to the everyday student? The banal array of raw fish complements a miniscule selection of noodle bowls and other entrees. Unlike other Japanese establishments in the area, Sushiland’s focus seems to be on an eclectic gamut of sushi, sashimi and nigiri whereas the entrees are most definitely lacking. You will find chicken katsu, a fried-eating American’s dream, as well as the essential tempuras, but new, creative meals are non-existent here.

I decided to experiment and experience a collection of random sushis and nigiris, including my personal favorite, ika (squid). The presentation was anything and everything as far from “nice” and sensually pleasing as you could imagine. It appeared to me like my uneducated and clueless friends had gotten together, decided to prepare sushi, and slopped it on the nearest plate. The evidently created effortless and hastily prepared foods tasted nearly as ‘blah’ as they looked. Run of the mill, cheaply thrown together sushi. My favorite? Not so much.

Luckily their one unique addition to their compilation of sushi dishes kept me interested: nigiri. This tasty little dish is raw fish on top of rice, a nice little twist which adds more fish flavor as opposed to the balanced mix of a sushi roll.

Overall, their service was run of the mill, influencing your decision on each of your inquiries about sushi by saying, “Villanova roll? Villanova roll is good. You like Villanova roll lots. Try it.” Thanks. I needed your peer-pressuring ways to influence my confused and undecided self. Regardless, the overall pricing is pretty generous and the ambience is mediocre.

I would recommend giving Sushiland at least one opportunity to understand what you are missing out on with the other, upscale Japanese restaurants in the area. It is especially recommended for all parsimonious penny-pinchers in need of saving that extra buck for gas.