Dining Out: Novu Sushi at Junction City features modern design, traditional and experimental rolls

Novu Sushi being reviewed on the latest Dining Out series by the Journal Star!

By Chris Kaergard
Journal Star political reporter

“PEORIA — There’s nothing unlucky about the long-awaited restaurant at 5901 N. Prospect Road, Suite 13.

Novu Sushi, the latest restaurant addition at Junction City, is in fact a welcome addition after a long wait to see the space filled.

 It’s actually the second sushi place planned for the location; the first never materialized.

Perhaps that’s for the best, given what we got instead: a thoroughly modern and sleek design inside — furniture in bright white and black hues, music a few steps away from belonging in a dance club, and the overall feel of stepping into a place designed to feel trendy.

Clearly that trendiness has translated into popular appeal. Driving by multiple times in the past few weeks since the late-March opening, the small space has been packed to the brim. It’s a safe bet that with the nicer weather that popularity will soon expand to the limited outdoor seating area as well.

On a recent visit for a late lunch, things had cleared out a bit, making seating quicker.

For those who don’t care for sushi, the menu offers some limited choices outside the realm of fish-and-rice combinations, steak and chicken breast presented with an Asian flair. But sushi predominates, else why come to such an establishment — particularly one that boasts a master sushi chef hailing from Tokyo.

A steaming bowl of miso soup ($2) was reliable and satisfying.

The meal itself started with an order of beef gyoza ($6), with the pan-fried dumplings of ground beef and vegetables brought out alongside a sweet-and-spicy chili dipping sauce.

That was just enough to keep the chopsticks occupied — brilliant, silvery pieces that stand out against the tables — while we waited for our rolls to arrive. Choices there range from the typical and traditional to the elaborate and experimental.

From the former category, the salmon and avocado roll ($5) was smooth and satisfying, with a thick cut of the fish rolled in a thin layer of rice, making it clear which taste the diner should appreciate. Among the more complex rolls, the sunshine roll ($12) boasts a combination of seared tuna — still lightly pink at the center — rolled with mint and avocado in soy paper. It’s topped with slices of mango, sweet unagi sauce and sesame seeds.

Likewise, the yokohama mama roll ($16) tops a roll of tempura crab stick, cucumber and pickled Japanese oshinko radish with slices of tuna and Hawaiian red snapper, red fish roe and a tiny dollop of wasabi aioli with just a hint of bite. The crunch of the veggies, mixed with the richness of the tempura and the savory fish all join together harmoniously on the palate.

There’s a full bar, with plenty of creative cocktails, Japanese sake and other wine, though we were satisfied at midday with glasses of cool water with slices of cucumber.

Novu also offers carryout — though wisely not during peak dinner hours, suspending such service on Friday and Saturday evenings. That, too, is efficient. But it’s still worth the wait even if you end up there with a crowd.”

Chris Kaergard can be reached at ckaergard@pjstar.com or 686-3255. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisKaergard

Quick Guide

Novu Sushi

5901 N. Prospect Road, Suite 13, Peoria

(309) 839-8433

www.novusushi.com

Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday; closed Sundays.

Ratings: **** is highest

Food: ***1/2

Atmosphere: ***1/2

Service: ***

Prices: Appetizers, $4 to $5; soups and salads, $2 to $13; sashimi or nigiri, $2 to $3.50 a piece; rolls, $4 to $16; non-sushi entrees, $16 to $46; desserts, $4 to $6.

Miscellaneous: Credit cards accepted; carryout available; full bar.