Sushi on the Vineyard


In 1985, the year I graduated from high school, John Hughes released the iconic coming-of-age movie, “The Breakfast Club.” Back then, we all let out a collective “ewwww” when Molly Ringwald described her elaborately packaged lunch, “rice, raw fish, and seaweed.” Out of the question. Ally Sheedy’s Pixy Stix/Cap’n Crunch sandwich had more appeal.

Yet here we are, 25 years later, grabbing an unagi roll at the Stop and Shop. So how did this transformation take place? I think it went something like this. You start with the easy stuff: a California Roll at lunch, a cucumber roll on a date. Shrimp tempura — that’s not even raw, you rationalize. But soon you find yourself turning to tuna, eel, yellowtail, and salmon. And once you hit the hard stuff, sashimi and squid salad, there’s no turning back. By comparison to the world, sushi took its time getting to Martha’s Vineyard. The first sighting was at Jim’s Package Store where owners Mark and Mike Wallace started selling pre-made sushi in 2000. Two years later, they opened the Sand Bar and Grille on the harbor in Oak Bluffs where they began serving made-to-order sushi. Their chef, Chung Yu, is nothing short of an artist. His specialty rolls are a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach. Sadly, Mr. Yu returned to Mikado, his Japanese restaurant in Middletown, Conn., after Labor Day. Although this open-air restaurant and cozy back bar remain open for lunch and dinner Thursday through Sunday, Chef Yu and the sushi bar are on hold until next year. Enough with the teasing. This time of year the Gay Head cliffs are as beautiful as ever and way more romantic without the crowds and the blazing sun. But what people in Aquinnah are really raving about is Faith’s Seafood Shack and Sushi Bar. It’s all take-out, but the quality, variety, and freshness is what you might expect at a fine seafood restaurant. Owners James Shephard and Faith Vanderhoop clearly take pride in their work, and that of their sushi chef who hails from Tokyo. The authenticity of his dishes is apparent in such unusual offerings as ankimo (monkfish liver) sushi or sashimi with japanese seaweed and ponzu. The Shack is expected to stay open through most of October. When Rachael Ray is on the Vineyard, she likes to stop into the Seafood Shanty at 31 Dock Street in Edgartown. Not a shanty at all, this family friendly restaurant has two floors of dining, both with spectacular views of the Edgartown harbor. From the downstairs bar, you can watch sushi chef Peter Yap perfect your favorite roll. Or take advantage of the ample outdoor seating on the upper deck. The Shanty will be open through most of October with live acoustic guitar from 3 to 6 pm on Saturdays, and DJ dance parties beginning at 10 pm on Friday and Saturday nights. Locals wish The Lookout Tavern would stay open all year. We never get tired of gazing out at the Nantucket Sound from the Lookout’s perch, across from the Oak Bluffs ferry terminal. The much-coveted porch seating is limited, but worth a short wait for smaller parties. Larger groups are more comfortable inside where the beamed, vaulted ceiling gives the place a boathouse feel. The mood is lively, the servers are attentive, and the rum punch is potent. But the best thing about the Lookout is Steve Loo. Chef Loo owned a thriving Asian restaurant in Maryland before the Beltway Sniper paralyzed the area with fear in 2002, forcing him to sell his business and relocate. Although Mr. Loo creates new specials all the time, his menu is anchored with signature rolls he’s been making for 20 years. Steve’s Special Roll has it all: spicy tuna, tempura crunch, avocado, salmon, tuna, albacore, yellowtail, and eel. Halloween is the last chance to vie for a view at the Lookout, but the good news is that Mr. Loo is here all year long. Season’s Eatery and Pub at 19 Circuit Avenue in Oak Bluffs has long been known as a family friendly sports bar and restaurant serving reliable, moderately priced American fare. But the addition of Mr. Loo’s sushi bar has made this place a no-brainer for Sunday football. Take-out sushi is available year-round right from the source. The Net Result Fish Market at 79 Beach Road in Vineyard Haven has been serving sushi to-go since 2004 and the response has been fantastic. In the summer, the picnic tables beside the market are packed and sometimes it’s hard to even get in the door. The Larsen family has owned and run the fish market for 25 years and it just keeps getting better. Sushi can be made to order, or if you don’t want to wait, they always have some pre-made rolls that you can grab and go.