published Friday, March 30th, 2012

Above-average below-average price at Sekisui

Sekisui has great sushi at a good price, but you'll pay in time if you don't prepare for a wait.

Some of my sushi-loving friends and I swung by the Japanese restaurant's new location on the corner of Houston and East 11th streets (formerly Table 2). The space feels upscale but casual -- great for a work lunch. We went on a Friday during their weekly sushi buffet and left stuffed but a little late for our meetings.

THE MENU

With more than 100 rolls, Sekisui is sure to have something to please both the sushi pros and sushi newbies. My friends, who have more refined sushi palates than I do, said the rolls were above average. Throw them on an all-you-can-eat buffet for $12.95, and you've got a table of happy people.

The entree menu offers a number of noodle, teriyaki, fried rice and combination dishes, all priced between $7 and $15. The meals pack plenty of food onto an eye-pleasing plate.

THE ORDER

IF YOU GO

Where: Sekisui Japanese Restaurant, 1120 Houston St.

Phone: 267-4600.

Website: www.sekisuichattanooga.com.

Hours: 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday-Friday (lunch); 5-9:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 5-10:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 5-9 p.m. Sunday (dinner).

Price range: $7 (lunch vegetable meal)-$26 (dinner steak/shrimp meal).

As my friends gorged themselves on the buffet, I tried some less trendy Japanese fare off the menu. I ordered the Sekisui Lunch, which consists of a helping of chicken teriyaki, two large fried shrimp and a California or spicy tuna roll.

The fried shrimp were tasty, but the Southerner in me preferred to dip them in my friend's creamy spring roll sauce rather than the teriyaki-like sauce they came with.

The chicken teriyaki was disappointing. I had hoped the standard dish for the raw fish hater would be up to par with the rest of the restaurant, but it was largely flavorless. Filling up on everything else made it easy to leave a good bit behind.

I'd never call myself a sushi fan, but I'll enjoy the occasional roll. The California rolls were good but didn't change my mind on the seafood.

THE SERVICE

My group of six hit the restaurant at what appeared to be the height of the lunch rush, right around 12:30 p.m. We had to wait just long enough to wonder if we had been forgotten when waiting to get a seat, get our drinks, place our orders and get our food. In fact, the waiter said he hadn't realized we sat down when we finally gave him our drink orders.

Still, our server was quite friendly and able to intelligently answer my many questions about the menu. I'm sure on a less busy day the service would have been much better, but on a Friday I'd recommend going for the buffet to cut out long waits for the wait staff.

THE SPACE

Lovers of Table 2's layout will feel right at home in the new Sekisui. A few details were changed, but the restaurant kept the same intimate feeling as its predecessor, with smaller tables and booths set into the walls. It rained on the day we ate there, but the site's outdoor seating would have been a great option on a nicer day.

THE VERDICT

Sekisui has good food at a good price but can get busy. Make sure to grab your server's attention, or you could be waiting a while. Though the spot is not a new favorite of mine, I would recommend the restaurant to any sushi fans in the area.

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