Three decades after Shigeru and Chizuko Fukuyoshi opened their restaurant in a boxy little building just past the PATCO overpass on Route 130, Sagami draws a crowd for its straightforward Japanese food, warm service, and simple decor.
But it wasn’t always that way. Back in 1974, Sagami was one of the first restaurants offering sushi in the Philadelphia area. When some customers saw raw fish on the menu, they walked out. Nowadays, Sagami sells more raw fish than cooked food and holds its own amid dozens of Japanese restaurants that have opened in the region, some with trendy food and décor.
The cozy restaurant seats 45 in the main dining room; the second dining room seats 30 in light-wood décor with pretty hanging paper lanterns.
Sagami built its reputation on first-quality fish, and it has stayed true to its mission. The California maki is still made with king crab, and all the fish is fresh and clean. The sushi—fresh, pristine, and clear in taste—is also a treat for the eyes. The dinner sushi is a pleasing combination of tuna maki and eight expertly cut pieces of fish including bigeye, yellowtail, shrimp, flounder, salmon, and octopus. Even the octopus is tender and sublime, perhaps because it is sliced paper-thin.
The fried oysters are prepared simply: After they are cleaned, they are dipped in egg, battered in panko, and then deep-fried. The result is light, crispy, and melt-in-your-mouth delicious. The beef scallion rolls—thin slices of beef stir-fried with teriyaki and wrapped around mild green scallion—were tougher than usual on a recent visit. The seaweed salad is a refreshing starter, made with crunchy strands of white, green, and red seaweed, with a dashi-based soy-vinaigrette dipping sauce.
There are plenty of options for those not interested in sampling raw fish. One is the shrimp and vegetable tempura. Light and crispy, it is one of the nicest renditions you will find: first-quality shrimp, green beans, sweet potato, and carrots dipped in a batter of egg whites and flour, then quickly deep fried and served with a dashi-soy dipping sauce. The teriyaki-chicken shish kebab, made with skewered chicken thighs, onions, peppers, and mushrooms, is also recommended, along with the teriyaki beef, made of broiled New York strip, dressed with teriyaki and a sprinkle of sesame seeds.
Desserts are not a specialty—just fresh pineapple, sherbet, or ice cream. But if you must, the green tea ice cream is a comforting conclusion.
Reviewed in: November 2006