It’s the perfect sushi bar, tucked away in a tiny, dimly lit corner, the walls cluttered with posters and drawings. The menu, a one page printout, overflows with kanji. Cardinal rules of American dining have been thrown in the culture trash can like so many copies of Jim Carrey’s The Cable Guy. You seat yourself and bring your own order up the chef, and the cheap, somewhat shitty tea is provided free of charge, as it always should’ve been.
If I was rating Noble Fish in Clawson on mise-en-scene alone, it would get an instant 5 stars. I feel cool just saying I ate there. Somehow, the proprietors manage to recreate the cramped, authentic feel of a Tokyo hole in the wall in a relatively nondescript Metro Detroit neighborhood. Ignore the white dude with tattoos prepping the sashimi and you’re in Japan.
But there’s more to a book than its cover. You can’t, after all, judge sushi by seaweed alone. Noble Fish’s rep is that it serves up better fish because it’s attached to the back of an ethnic market that doubles as a food distributor. You’re getting the stuff the restaurants order fresh off the truck, for a fair price. How could you go wrong?
Because of the fresh factor, Noble Fish doesn’t have to rely on as many gimmicks with its sushi. Sauces are used sparingly. Even the cream cheese and avocado are handled with a light touch. Mostly, it’s about the generous chunks of fish, light and clean tasting, ocean foam at your feet.
And, of course, there’s the vinegar rice, puffy, white, and delicious.
Expect to be challenged, too. Try as you might, there’s no quick way around a heaping spoonful of sea urchin gonads wrapped in seaweed. It’s slimy and creamy, with a hint of nuts, profound and stolid, a titan of underwater dichotomies. Salmon roe (AKA caviar) is equally difficult, fishy and salty with a squishy texture, well-formed balls of goo as red as a baboon’s ass.
Of course, you can stay away from the sexy bits. Fatty tuna, sweet shrimp, and the decadent Philadelphia roll are nice crowd pleasers. Served up as rolls or nigiri-style – just the fish pressed against a ball of rice – it’s a pure, beautiful, and simple experience. Sitting at the bar and watching the sushi chefs make surgical incisions into colorful cuts of fish and then arrange the resulting masterpieces into pretty patterns on flat plates is art in and of itself.
So is Noble Fish really the best in Metro Detroit? Probably. Still, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I like the heavily Americanized crap a little better. Sushi tempura, smothered in spicy mayonnaise? It ain’t kosher, but it sure hits the sweet spot.
What can I say? I’m an uncultured American glutton. I’m the reigning champion of working class slop. I eat warmed-over coneys and like it.
But even a man as gastronomically disabled can appreciate Noble Fish.