If you hear the word sushi and automatically think, “um, not for me,” Fort Worth’s seemingly limitless array of sushi restaurants is challenging you to think again. Most now cater to nonsushi eaters, with teriyaki and tempura, or udon instead of unagi.
And Ume Sushi & Korean BBQ takes that notion to another level by offering all of those things, plus a variety of authentic Korean dishes.
It was owner Min Han’s idea to include menu items such as Korean BBQ and bulgogi, to go along with a sushi bar and full menu of raw and cooked-fish delights at his new, sparsely furnished Cityview establishment. (Fittingly, it was formerly a Korean barbecue restaurant.)
The dining room is now less adorned — Han has done away with the booths and other convivial touches of the old space — and has added Japanese screens between four-top tables to break up and modernize the open room.
One look at the appetizers, and we were down with any and all of the changes. A nice mix of fried and lighter dishes is offered, from crispy Brussels sprouts ($4.95) to seaweed salad ($3.95). We were hoping to try the KFC (Korean Fried Chicken, $6.95), but it was sold out the night we visited.
Instead, we chose the Succulent Pork Ribs ($7.95), presumably so anointed because of their 24-hour soy sauce marinade. They come three to an order and are crispy-skinned, bone-in and glistening with a sticky-sweet chili sauce. These seem a great Asian alternative to pedestrian spare ribs that often give your jaw more of a workout than your tastebuds. Ume’s are satisfyingly meaty, and with an uneven number to an order, you may end up in a skirmish with your dining partner (unless you are a party of three) for the third. Yes, these “succulent” ribs live up to their name.
The Crispy Yam appetizer ($4.95) is a pile of flash-fried shoestring potatoes with chile sauce. A small handful dipped in the sweet sauce is a palate-primer, offering sweet and slightly spicy notes. Crispy, addictive and a generous order, we’ll be ordering these next time.
The Korean dishes are spot-on, too, especially the Korean BBQ ($14.95), which has a dozen short ribs, featuring a near-perfect meat-to-fat ratio. Also marinated in soy sauce, they were smoky and a pleasing, almost lighter choice (when paired with sticky white rice) than the spicy beef bulgogi ($13.95), a complex dish of buttery-smooth beef married with shredded carrots, green bell pepper and onions. The near-stew had enough juice to soak the accompanying rice through and through. Topped with an order of mixed vegetables and a few spoonfuls of kimchi, the textures and fragrant flavors really came together.
Like many of its sushi-bar brethren, the lunch menu at Ume is alluring and a good value. Most sushi combination plates hover in the $10 range, and the requisite teriyaki bowls are also on hand for the less adventurous. The sushi chefs will also turn any specialty sushi roll into a seaweed-wrapped hand roll at your request; paired with a bowl of miso soup, it makes for a light yet satisfying lunch.
Ume is well worth a visit. As for the food quandary it presents: sushi or Korean? Your best bet may be a little of both. Or a lot. With those partitions between the tables, no one will be the wiser.