Ithaca sushi: one of the most heavily debated topics among students on Cornell’s campus. While some Cornellians swear by That’s How I Roll, others contend that Plum Tree is the best, and some refuse to even step into a sushi restaurant in this town at all. But alas, I believe that I have found the winner: Mitsuba. Nestled on a commercial strip near Ithaca Mall, Mitsuba offers the great flavor and affordable prices every college student yearns for when it comes to sharing a meal with friends.
Housed in a lofty space with large tables and an open sushi bar, Mitsuba has a casual ambiance that welcomes you the moment you step through the door. With only some paintings and bamboo plants for decor, Mitsuba’s overall aesthetic leaves much to be desired, but the extensive selection of Japanese fare on its menu more than makes up for it. I won’t waste too many words on the sparse decor when there is so much to be said for the quality and taste of the food.
As my friends and I settled into our seats, the waiter came over and informed us that there was a free salad bar. That’s right — it was free. More importantly, the salad bar offered a standard assortment of greens and toppings garnished with a mouthwatering ginger dressing that brought me back to hibachi birthday dinners at Sumo freshman year. I opted to assemble a simple salad of iceberg lettuce, sliced cucumber and ginger dressing, but there are undoubtedly enough toppings to make something more decadent if that’s what you prefer.
We began to peruse the menu, which includes over 30 signature rolls, when the waiter came over with a plate of complimentary sushi rolls. That’s right — they were free. Although we weren’t exactly sure what type of roll we had been given, we happily tucked into our food and quickly discovered it was a white fish “Volcano roll.” Lightly fried, the roll’s tempura exterior offered the perfect crunch as you bit in to reveal a soft mix of rice and white fish. The roll was complete with the unidentifiable but exquisite “special sauce,” a thick, orange concoction that was simultaneously sweet and tangy. By this point in the meal, my friends and I were raving about this restaurant; from the free salad to the incredible complimentary appetizer, our expectations had been exceeded beyond belief, and we hadn’t even eaten our entrées yet.
For my main course, I ordered the yakisoba, a stir-fry noodle dish fused with chicken and vegetables. At $9.95, this dish offers some serious bang for your buck, especially considering the generous portion size. While the presentation was not exactly beautiful, the taste was exquisite and authentic. Each bite was more delicious than the last, with the ideal ratio of noodle to chicken to vegetable. The velvety consistency of the noodles complemented the chicken’s crispy texture and briny taste. The refreshing mélange of carrots, mushrooms and onions was the perfect addition to the yakisoba. As a whole, the dish had a rich umami flavor, and I detected the slightest hint of sweetness in the stir-fry oil.
My friends, who ordered a diverse selection of dishes from the expansive menu, were equally pleased with their meals. Alexandra Mantz ’21 went for a spicy tuna naruto roll and declared it “simply delectable.” She also noted that she enjoyed her dining experience because the Mitsuba staff is “accommodating, hospitable and quick.” Overall, if you’re a college student with a penchant for freebies and a hankering for flavorful yet inexpensive Japanese cuisine, Mitsuba is the place for you.
Serves: wide range of authentic Japanese cuisine
Vibe: super casual spot to grab a bite with friends