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The fish is fresh and fun is high at Sushi Cuisine

Sushi Cuisine restaurant in Turlock. (Bart Ah You / The Modesto Bee)
Sushi Cuisine restaurant in Turlock. (Bart Ah You / The Modesto Bee)

Don't be scared of sushi. It's delicious and the gang at Sushi Cuisine on Monte Vista Avenue in Turlock will help ease the sashimi neophyte into seafood Zen.

Hidden behind Safeway in Monte Vista Crossings, the 5-year-old shop serves up the freshest fish in town. Sushi Chef Kevin Giang, whose family owns the restaurant, pointed to a row of recently diced nigiri, finely cut blocks of raw fish on delicate beds of white rice: "Salmon, yellow fin, albacore, yellow tail and a fresh-water clam. Fresh. It has to be fresh. Very, Very, fresh."

Around lunchtime any day of the week, the restaurant is packed. The lunch boxes -- compartmentalized wood trays with an Asian flair, loaded with salad, miso soup and entrees -- are very popular. The $9.50 No. 10 is good for a beginner. Soup and salad, tempura shrimp and deep-fried vegetables are served with beef teriyaki and two salmon nigiri. The $10.50 deluxe sushi combo -- seven pieces of nigiri with a California roll -- is a good choice for the intermediate sushi eater.

For the hard-core, just pull up a stool and tell Giang you're up for whatever he'll serve. Three food toughs bellied-up recently and were served raw oysters in a mysterious soy-based sauce. Unlike any oyster any of them had ever eaten, the taste was fierce -- straight ocean floor. The aftertaste lingered for an hour.

"Very strong," Giang said through a big grin.

"I love the atmosphere here," said 18-year-old Mike Heinemann. "It's fun to joke, eat, make sushi. It's a lot of fun."

Not for the faint of heart, there's sea urchin, too, in a pinkish puree served over rice held together with a seaweed wrapper. The taste is creamy, sweet, almost a desert.

Fresh fish is delivered twice a week from San Francisco, and there's a good-time vibe, whether on a quick lunch break or a Friday night. Sushi Cuisine is as fun as the wasabi is hot. Bring a friend, sit at the bar and have some fun with the high-kicking culinary karate.

-- Michael Shea