I had intended to have my usual sashimi box for lunch and should have been alerted by the menu. Zhang’s is located in the Old Saybrook train station plaza (it’s too small to be a mall). Online it resembled Sushi House in Wallingford, which also goes by the name Hong Kong Sushi and Chinese Restaurant. That place serves shockingly fresh and generous portions of sashimi. Hoping for the same I ventured to Zhang’s after getting stuck in some of the most amazing shoreline traffic jams I’ve ever encountered in the middle of a weekday before July 4 that had nothing to do with an accident or construction.
It was refreshing to see a commuter train at the station when I pulled into the most confusing parking lot that doesn’t require taking a ticket to a kiosk miles away from the car. “Metro North customers only.” “Amtrak customers park on the grass.” I made that one up because of all the cars lined up on the lawn by the cemetery. “Park in the green spaces for the restaurants.” I dutifully parked and wondered afterward if Zhang’s was included. As I stumbled past a coffee place, I realized there was a whole other side to the lot that was practically empty.
Once inside I was confronted by heavy Chinese décor and only one patron that I could see. As I was beginning on my soup (with a metal spoon, almost unheard of) two more patrons departed, looking as surprised to see me as I was to see them appearing from the depths of the place.
Also upon entry, the “shadar” went off – that’s my warning system for “don’t eat the raw fish in this place.” There was an odd smell that I associate with wet carpet dried with some “frigi-fresh” something that doesn’t get rid of the mold.
My stomach dictated that I stay and too late discovered there was no sashimi box despite the ad. So I ordered the two vegetarian rolls and soup. The miso was actually quite good — a breath of umami with a modest amount of tofu and a generous serving of seaweed and just a bite of scallion.
The avocado roll had the right balance of creamy and chewy seaweed. Even though it’s not traditional for vegetables, I did the wasabi and soy thing. The maki had a generous portion of oshinko, which rarely appears on my sashimi lunches. The ginger was not the hot pink processed version.
Aside for the parking lot, the location offers serial, “What was that?” experiences. A muffled sound made me think the air conditioning had kicked in, but it was only about 67 outside, and there was no adjustment in humidity or temp. Then the air pressure changed in the way that it does on a jet climbing to 38,000 feet. After the third “whoosh, click” I figured out that it was the Acela or just plain old Amtrak keeping to the schedule. Lots of trains pass on the way from New York to Boston. Not many stop. And the through trains don’t blow a lonesome whistle.
With hunger satisfied, I came home to look at my review of the Zhang’s in Madison. It was a D+. This one gets no grade, and I won’t return.