Being a sushi restaurant must be hard. I guess being any kind of building would be difficult. Huh. That’s stupid. Let’s try again.
Running a sushi restaurant must be hard. Yeah. That’s it. I think about sushi at least once a day and I’m asked online about which sushi restaurants I recommend pretty often, too. Which is crazy to me, because we’re in Oklahoma. When I was a kid, we had...one. Maybe two? And now there are so many sushi restaurants in the Oklahoma City metro area that we can divide them into a bunch of categories.
But if you’re running a sushi restaurant, you have to balance so many different factors. You need a good sushi chef, for one thing. Think of that one sushi place you went that isn’t there any more. Yeah. That chef wasn’t very good, right? You need a fresh supply of fish, and it’s not like there’s a big market where fishermen are bringing in the daily catch, so you’re at the mercy of your supplier.
How do you decorate? How do you set prices? How do you get people to think of your sushi as the good stuff?
Lately I’ve been pretty obsessed with Cafe de Taipei in Edmond because, for the life of me, I cannot figure this place out. Don’t get me wrong—I love Cafe de Taipei. If you’re craving sushi and you’re in Edmond, that’s going to be my top recommendation.
If you’re looking for the nicest sushi place in town, I’d probably send you to Sushi Neko or Yuzo Sushi Tapas. If you want the “most authentic,” whatever that means, I’d probably say Sushi Hayashi, Tokyo Japanese Restaurant, or Tsubaki Sushi. And if you’re looking for fast and easy-on-the-wallet, there’s a whole list of Utility Sushi for you to enjoy.
But for originality, it’s Cafe de Taipei. There are so many rolls on their menu I’ve never seen before, and combinations that aren’t the same repackaging of tuna, salmon, cucumber, roe, etc. They aren’t all winners—as if that’s possible—but the majority of them are crowd- and palate-pleasers.
I’ve not had the pleasure of dining in at Cafe de Taipei yet. I hate having to write about the pandemic every time, but someday we’ll be done with it (I hope and pray) and then anyone reading this will wonder why I only get takeout, so. Anyway. That’s a thing.
Luckily, Cafe de Taipei is pretty close to some nice parks and not terribly far from my house, so I have not yet been reduced to shame-eating three rolls in my car. Yet. But you know it’s coming one of these days.
As far as appetizers go, I’m almost always going to recommend gyoza (8 for $5.95) because I love gyoza. Filled with pork and mixed veg, these little buggers are fried to the netherrealm betwixt chewy and crunchy, making them both and neither. It’s like a puzzle my mouth is trying to figure out and I keep going back for more.
The salmon sashimi ($8.95 for six fat slices) is literally just raw salmon slices over shredded lettuce. If that doesn’t get your blood pumping, that’s okay. But if you love salmon, especially sans all the other sushi ephemera, this is a must. My girlfriend will eat all kinds of sushi, but if they could only serve salmon, she’d be fine with it.
Personally, I’m getting the yellowtail special ($12.95) for myself. It reminds me favorably of the hamachi ajillo at Yuzo. Both are yellowtail. Both come with cilantro and thinly sliced jalapeno in a special sauce. It’s light and spicy and tender and...guh. Toss on some crispy fried garlic like they do at Yuzo and I’ll be in heaven. Seriously, this one is too good to miss.
As an avowed lover of tuna, I think the Red Alert roll ($11.95) is wonderful, because it has fresh tuna both inside and on top, along with avocado, chopped jalapeno and a spicy mix of sauces. Or try the Jraddito ($12.95), which eschews the spice and adds in salmon, tempura shrimp, cucumber and cream cheese. Red Alert definitely punches you in the taste buds with spice, while the Jraddito soothes your mouth with lots of creamy fats.
One thing you’ll quickly notice at Cafe de Taipei is...they don’t mess around with a bunch of fish. Salmon, tuna, shrimp, crabstick, crab salad, eel, yellowtail, crawfish, smoked salmon—it’s a pretty tight list, but it’s a pretty tight shop. I think this is the amount and types of fish their customers are buying, so that’s what they’re stocking. Would I like to see what they can do with more fish? Absolutely. But if this is what they’ve got, I’m more than happy to keep eating it.
If you want to keep the price down a bit, head further back in the menu for stuff like the Spicy Smoked Salmon roll ($6.95). It’s fairly similar to what I always considered a Philadelphia roll—smoked salmon, cucumber, cream cheese, green onion inside—except the green onion takes the place of asparagus.
I loved a lot about the Chef-Maki roll ($11.95), but I’d probably opt out of the tempura bacon next time. Everything else—the crab salad and cucumber inside, the fresh salmon, tuna, avocado, green onion on top—was a delight. Tempura bacon is just...not for me. Not enough bacon taste, for one, and the texture is slightly off putting. But your mileage may vary.
Instead, I’ll opt for the Gold Fish roll ($11.95), which piles salmon, tuna, yellowtail, eel, and shrimp on top of a roll filled with crab salad, avocado, and cucumber. It’s a better choice for me than the Vampire roll ($11.95), which uses the same base roll, but tops it with torched salmon, torched garlic, and green onion. The torched garlic is a nice touch, but I don’t feel like the salmon gets much out of the bargain.
Another intensely salmon-centric option is the Sparkling roll ($10.95) which is filled with smoked salmon, cucumber, and cream cheese with pieces of fresh salmon, avocado, and green onion on top, drizzled with spicy sauce.
You just want rice, fish, and seaweed? Get a Fish roll ($3.95) with your choice of tuna, salmon, yellowtail, shrimp, or crabstick. Straightforward and delicious. And really easy on the wallet.
I’m not any kind of vegan, but I’ll still get the Super Mario Roll ($8.95) any day. The inside is a nice mix of cucumber, avocado, and cream cheese wrapped in rice, but the toppings blew my mind. Baked mushrooms, green onions, and sauce give this an umami lift with an unexpected sweet finish.
Finally, you should get the Tiger Milk with boba. It’s a black milk tea with brown sugar that is somehow extremely South Carolina and Japanese at the same time. My only problem with this is that it doesn’t come in Double Big Gulp sizes.
Cafe de Taipei knows what it is and they know their customers well. That’s led to a pretty focused, while still expansive, menu that covers just about every base without getting tedious. Just go for drinks and you’ll be happy. Grab a roll and some gyoza and you’ll be happy. Take an entire sushi feast to a nearby park and gorge yourself while kids on the rocket slide and loud, angry tennis players gawk at you and, yeah, you’ll be happy. That’s why I keep going back.