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DINING: Flavor missing from mall sushi

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Dining - A&E

Last December, I dedicated a column to the substantial upgrading of the Fashion Mall food court. What used to be a string of forgettable lunch-slingers on the claustrophobic bridge between the two retail halves had been transformed into a ground-level, high-ceilinged hang-out space.
 

ae-dining-15col.jpg Naked Tchopstix spin-off Ban brings hand-rolled sushi to the Fashion Mall. (IBJ Photo/ Aaron P. Bernstein)

At that time, though, all of the new food purveyors weren’t yet in place. So, kicking off this month of mall restaurant reviews, I thought I’d return to the Fashion Mall to catch up with one eatery that wasn’t there when we last reviewed.

At Ban (8702 Keystone Crossing, 218-4415), a counter-service spin-off of Naked Tchopstix, the emphasis is on fresh sushi. There’s no glass showcase from which to do a grab-and-go. Instead, you order from an extensive menu of options and wait for the chef behind the counter to craft your roll. For those without the patience, there’s also a by-the-pound buffet ($9.99/lb.) of standard Chinese restaurant offerings (General Tso’s Chicken, Egg Drop Soup, et al.) which, alas, proved no better than an average Chinese mega-buffet.

For all the effort put into the sushi—and recalling satisfying meals I’ve had both at the Naked Tchopstix sit-down joints and the airport food court location—I was surprised at the relative blandness of our lunch.

In addition to the buffet plate, we sampled three made-on-the-spot rolls, which we thought would represent a range of flavors and textures: The Mafia Roll ($13.99), with salmon, hamachi, green onion, tuna and three sauces; the Orange Sunshine Roll ($14.99), with orange, salmon, shrimp tempura and (allegedly) spicy mayo; and the Illinois Roll ($8.99), with shrimp, avocado and cucumber. (Side note: While our neighbor state to the west has its signature roll, we have yet to see an Indiana version. Come on, people.)

All three selections were served unappetizingly warm. Yes, I know, there’s debate in the sushi world over warm vs. cold rice, but I’m of the opinion that sushi is like revenge—a dish best served cold. I know purists say ice-cold fish—like ice-cold beer—doesn’t offer as much flavor as room temperature. Which might be true.

But roll that phrase around in your mind for a while: Room-temperature sushi.

More of an issue was the overall blandness of the dishes—especially when we specifically asked the very pleasant counter attendant for recommendations, including spicy choices. With such a lack of flavor, the wasabi and the pickled ginger served with the rolls seemed essentials rather than optional accents.•

—Lou Harry

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First in a month-long series (with time out for a State Fair trek, of course) of new-mall-restaurant reviews.

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  • Cut some slack
    First, Lou, you just haven't been to all the good sushi places in town if you haven't seen the Hoosier Roll on Ocean World's menu. Second, I love having this option at the Fashion Mall. Several times I have eaten one of my favorites, either the Corona Roll or Crunch Munch, while out shopping. The rolls here have always met my expectations and Naked Tchopstix remains to be one of my favorite sushi spots, if I am in the mood to pay their prices. I love having this option over typical food court fare.
  • Not impressed
    I am not impressed with their food at all......very different than their restaurants and I was so excited about it. I also am not impressed with the overall choices offered there. There is still one empty spot......maybe that will bring along something better!
  • Awful Spot
    I still can't believe what a terrible experience this place was for me. This article is being very kind. Can't believe Simons are tolerating keeping this place in such an upscale mall. Also hard to believe how few food court options there are.

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