Takeout dining review: Jonys Sushi serves up big flavors from tiny space
The prerecorded voice that put me on hold when I recently phoned Jonys Sushi clued me in to a few things: Jonys, which eschews an apostrophe, is pronounced “Johnny’s,” and the eatery refers to itself as “the place for carry-out sushi."
That last bit of information is an attractive invitation for multiple reasons. Sushi, which isn’t ideally consumed piping hot, travels well. And since the coronavirus outbreak hit, getting good carry-out has become especially appealing — it's nourishing entertainment that doesn’t require spending an extended time in a confined space with a group of people, or yet again having to labor in my freaking kitchen. (Alas, the new normal.)
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A little background: Jonys began as a pop-up operation for snazzy South Village Grille in German Village, a business with which Jonys shares ownership (other siblings include: the Local Cantina chain, SIP Local and Old Skool). Several months after opening as a takeout-specific restaurant neighboring South Village Grille in September, Jonys began offering dine-in meals in its stylish but tiny space. Then came the coronavirus pandemic, and Jonys reverted back to takeout-only service, which it performs quite well.
A few traditional Japanese-style options dot the sizable menu. Among these, the passable Shrimp Nigiri ($4 for two pieces) fell far short of the rich, silky and fresher-tasting Hamachi Nigiri ($6 for two pieces), which was the best stripped-down item I tried.
Like many of its landlocked competitors catering to American palates, Jonys instead showcases ingredient-happy preparations. One of the best of these, and perhaps the best deal on the menu, is the big, healthful and refreshing Poke Bowl ($15).
The Hawaiian-derived bowl features hefty lumps of pleasant raw tuna, salmon, escolar, fish roe, disks of English cucumber, plus shredded carrots and daikon liberally tossed in a sauce with citrus and soy notes.This is presented on a bed of rice (the $2 brown rice upcharge is worth it in this case), then capped with a seaweed salad and fanned-out avocado slices. Yeah, that’s a lot, but if you aren’t aesthetically opposed to over-the-top sushi-style dishes, this is a winning formula.
The To Wong Foo Roll ($16) has so many bells and whistles it evokes a traffic jam — but one of which you’d enjoy being a part. This huge, skillfully deep-fried roll with a movie-title name (hinting at the restaurant’s pop-cultural affinities) is made with spicy tuna, cream cheese, jalapeno, cucumber, fiery kimchi sauce, wasabi aioli, sweet eel sauce, cilantro and scallions.
The almost-as-busy SVG Roll ($18; named for South Village Grille) stars good shrimp tempura but hits similar notes and is likewise fun to eat. The cylindrical segments of this rice-on-the-outside creation with cream cheese, sesame seeds, avocado and wasabi tobiko are partially sheathed in sweetened eel strips.
For something equally in the restaurant’s wheelhouse but a little less flashy, the recommended Spicy Tuna Roll ($10) is one of Jonys’ better bargains. Kimchi sauce, jalapeno and above-average spicy tuna — minced fish bound in spicy mayo — bring an enjoyable sting to this flavorful inside-out maki.
Nothing I sampled was an outright stinker, and most of Jonys’ so-so items had good points. For example, the perfectly fine pork-and-chicken Potstickers were nicely priced ($7) and crisper than what you usually get; while somewhat routine, the Spring Rolls are inexpensive ($3 for two); the tongue-singeing, aggressively acidic and cucumber-heavy Spicy Tako Salad ($12) had firm-yet-tender octopus in it; and, while leaning on its side of zippy ponzu sauce for flavor, the crudite-like Veggie Naruto Roll ($15; “naruto” means rice-free and wrapped in thinly sliced cucumber) showed off sculptor-like skills.
Living up to that aforementioned prerecorded voice’s proclamation of being “the place for carryout sushi,” Jonys offers online ordering and payment, plus contact-free tables for its carefully packaged, quickly assembled and well-prepared takeout fare.