If you’re anything like us, you’ve seen your fair share of sushi restaurants lacking in creativity. As frequent sushi fans, we’re starving for something besides the oh-so-basic California roll or Shrimp Tempura. Well the secret is out, owner and Chef Alex McCoy has been shattering those boundaries for since 2005. Challenging the limits of traditional sushi in Philadelphia at his restaurant, Umai Umai. Just take a glance at the menu and its plain to see his imaginative sushi creations have a distinct style, carefully balancing tradition and ingenuity. We love every specialty roll and even more since they represent his unique personality and experiences.
You’ll find this gem of a sushi restaurant right off 22nd Street in the cozy Fairmount neighborhood. With only 38 seats, dinner at Umai Umai provides an intimate culinary experience. Using international family history, travels, and work experience under several world-renowned Japanese sushi masters, including Morimoto and Teikoku, Chef Alex has crafted a winning menu for his restaurant while continuing to push the envelope with new experiments. Among this many accolades, in 2006 James Beard awarded him for his tuna bruschetta.
In addition to all the sushi being aesthetically beautiful, Umai Umai’s ingredients are top-notch. Members of our party started the night with Oyster Shooters. Slurping away at raw quail egg bombers on top of a shot glass filled with oyster and sea urchin set in citrus-soy with salmon roe. We also enjoy snacking on small plates such as the Crispy Brussel Sprouts with red onion, carrot, purple cabbage, scallions, and crispy shallots tossed in a sweet chili-tamarind dressing, Tuna Tartare, or Crispy Rice sampler with spicy tuna/avocado, smoked salmon/cream cheese, yellowtail/jalapeno/chili-soy, crab salad/marinated salmon roe, and unagi/macadamia bits/sweet soy.
You’ll stop in your tracks when ordering the Traffic Light roll. Topped with red, yellow, and green roe- the colors alone make this roll unlike any you’re had before. Filled with crispy soft shell crab, avocado, red, yuzu, wasabi tobiko, and spicy mayo. Make sure to devour this roll slowly as not to miss the pop of the row, crunchy fried crab, and creamy avocado.
Another unique favorite of ours is the Spartan roll. Filled with marinated tenderloin, cucumber, shrimp tempura, mozzarella cheese, and paprika aioli, we dare you to find another sushi roll that compares. The Ping Pong roll brings to mind bright sunshine topped with pineapple salsa over a slived roll of crispy spicy tuna, inari, chives, and spicy mayo. If you like a little crunch in your sushi then be sure to try the flash-fried Pingu roll, which layers spicy-creamy crab salad on top and inside the crunchy roll.
To many it may seem like we’ve covered the whole menu, but we promise there is so much more for you to try at Umai Umai. A vast variety of fresh sashimi and full size entrees like Sesame Crusted Tuna, Pad Thai, Seafood Paella, Chicken Teriyaki, and more also grace the menu. Open for dinner Monday – Thursday from 5:00 pm to 9:30 pm and Friday – Saturday from 5:00 pm to 10:30 pm. Reservations are not required, but always recommended. And don’t forget they’re byob!
Photo credit: Headshot of Chef Alex McCoy from Umai Umai’s website.