Craving a taste of Japan but don’t want to hop a flight? Take a trip to Ai Sushi, an authentic Japanese gem in the heart of New Jersey. Originally known as Shumi in 1986, the Somerville spot has a new name under new ownership. Joy Noobanjong had been managing the restaurant for the past 10 years under the previous owner until he retired and sold it to her in May.
“It’s like the American Dream,” said a restaurant representative. “[Joy] worked so hard for so long and finally took over.”
Regulars will be happy to find that their beloved eatery has changed nothing but its name. The delicious food remains, as do the employees, including the sushi chef who has been there for over five years and brings 40 years of cooking experience.
This Restaurant is On a Roll
As one of the few New Jersey restaurants that specialize in sushi, Ai’s chefs work hard to uphold the superior standards they are famous for.
The delicate flavor of fresh fish is the star of each plate—it is never overpowered by sauce or other accompaniments.
“You can taste each fish individually.”
While many regulars come for the sushi, another popular order is Omakase, which means you let the chef decide your meal. It includes 10 pieces of nagiri and a hand roll crafted from the finest seasonal seafood available.
“Our Omakase is second to none. Once you try it you’ll be hooked,” he raved.
Monk Fish Liver Sunomono with seaweed and cucumber in ponzu sauce will also delight, as will the o-toro (tuna belly), a piece which is considered the “cream of the crop.”
Tempt Your Taste Buds
However excellent the quality, the representative understands some diners may hesitate to sample sushi since he used to not care for it either. After several bad meals in the past, he had just about given up.
But everything changed when he visited Shumi for the first time with a group of friends years ago. The fish was perfectly fresh, unlike any he had eaten before.
Now he has joined the Ai’s team and has the privilege of introducing others to sushi and experiencing their joyful jaw-dropping reactions.
“My friends’ eyes open and they are like OMG.”
If you have never tried sushi before, start with a cooked dish like eel, served with Ai’s special house-made sauce. An o-toro salad is another friendly choice, featuring chunks of grilled fish alongside fresh lettuce and tomatoes.
The ramen is sure to please—dedicated fans eat it twice per week! Or, forgo the seafood altogether and order a current favorite, Beef Shogayaki with sweet ginger sauce, noodles and vegetables.
The legacy of Shumi will not be forgotten as it takes on new life as Ai Sushi and continues to serve up some of the tastiest Japanese food in town. One bite and you may already be desiring more.
“It opens your world to this entire world of cuisine.”
30 S. Doughty Ave #4
Somerville, NJ, 08876
Tuesday-Thursday: 11:30am-2:30pm (lunch), 5:00pm-9:00pm (dinner)
Friday-Saturday: 11:30am-2:30pm (lunch), 5:00pm-10:00pm (dinner)
Sunday: 5:00pm-9:00pm (dinner)