On a Friday evening at 8 p.m. inside Cary’s Oiso restaurant, there are two other seated tables. Granted it is late for suburbanites, but the emptiness is an auspicious sign for the sushi and Korean eatery located inside a strip mall off NW Maynard Road.
Still, my husband and I are greeted enthusiastically by the host and server, pulling double duty, and study the menu, split into sushi and Korean entrées (bibimbap, dolsot, Korean barbecue), as we take refuge in the front booth. We have to specifically request the nigiri menu and order uni, unagi and hamachi.
By my husband’s account, the uni is creamy and custardy, with a slight kiss of brine. It’s good, but not the best that he’s sampled in the area–that honor goes to Durham’s M Sushi. The unagi is on par with other sushi joints in the area, nicely grilled and mopped with a douse of sweet soy sauce. The buttery hamachi is draped nicely over the cushion of tightly-packed vinegared sushi rice.
We order two specialty rolls, though in the end, we receive three (more on that later). Our eyes gravitate towards the Hamachi Mania roll, one that isn’t normally found on other area sushi menus. Indeed, the deep-fried yellowtail, tucked with cucumber and avocado, and cloaked in yet more yellowtail and then smothered liberally aji amarillo sauce is a very unique roll. Unique, in this case, doesn’t mean particularly good. The deep-fried yellowtail does trample over the delicate fattiness of the fish, and then itself is largely overshadowed by the addition of the canary-colored Peruvian sauce. The yellow motif of this roll is not lost on us, but the flavors just don’t coalesce for our palates.
Oddly enough, a roll called Mango Fantasy comes to our table and we are puzzled. We did not order this roll, and as it turns out, the server made a mistake. Shrimp tempura and spicy crab combine with curtains of mango slices in this roll and it’s an odd combination. The sour-sweet combination may work well for others, but it doesn’t do much for us. We leave a few untouched on the white platter.
The Spicy Sashimi finally arrives, a California roll, frosted with a heaping mound of sashimi and diced avocado on top. It’s soddened in a fiery hot sauce, which again, seems to overpower the fish. Ordering specialty rolls inherently comes with this risk–where the sauces, spicy mayo, eel and otherwise, are often used without restraint at the unfortunate cost of the fish. Admittedly, we, as the ones who order the specialty rolls, are ultimately to blame.
Most specialty rolls at Oiso fall between the $10-$12 range. We finish at Oiso at $35, not overly expensive for three orders of nigiri and two specialty rolls (Mango Fantasy was comped). The service is pleasant and eager, though slow. We paid with cash to expedite the billing process that night since the system was down to “ISP” issues according to the server.
Undoubtedly, Oiso was having an off night the night that we paid a visit, but unfortunately we don’t live nearby and would unlikely pay a second trip, even to try to the untapped Korean side of the menu. Could this be where Oiso really excels? Perhaps, but we will never know.
OISO | 1305 NW Maynard Road Cary NC 27513 | 919.655.5133