As a genre that questions the very notion of taste, contemporary art can be overwhelming. So at MOCAD’s Café 78, a food as simple as sushi is most welcome.
Launched as a pop-up in August 2015, Super Happy Sushi offers a fresh, quick bite for museum-goers and hungry Midtown visitors alike. The place is owned and operated by the Detroit Optimist Society — the restaurant group behind Detroit hot spots such as Wright & Co., Sugar House, and the Peterboro.
Co-owners Dave Kwiatkowski and Marc Djozlija recruited former Townhouse sushi chef Rob Lee for the project, who has filled out the food menu with typical sushi-joint staples like edamame, miso soup, tuna sashimi, and the familiar California roll.
To be sure, MOCAD’s humble corner café and bar isn’t reaching to Jiro Dreams of Sushi heights, but there is an emphasis on covering the basics, and it shows. The nigiri is melt-in-your-mouth fresh, the rice is subtly seasoned, and the presentation is casual and unassuming. That said, the small menu is not without a few creative, pleasant surprises.
Alongside satisfying traditional rolls (salmon, eel, and avocado, etc.) the menu also offers a flavorful yellowtail sashimi with honeydew, sea salt, serrano pepper, cilantro, and ponzu. There’s also the “All That and a Bag of Chips” Roll, featuring avocado, yamagobo, masago, mango, chili, and a sprinkling of Better Made Potato chips — an entertaining item that fits right in with the dining concept’s tagline: “Sushi doesn’t have to be serious.”
The food-as-fun philosophy extends to the restaurant’s drink menu, which includes “contemporary cocktails” like the Shiso Fancy Drink — a refreshing gin and ginger concoction garnished with shiso leaf — and the Hidden Fortress, a sweet, Arrack-based drink with hibiscus honey syrup.
As with the sushi menu, a respect for simplicity still shines through with classic cocktails including a Manhattan, Sidecar, and Moscow Mule. Beer, cider, wine, and sake round out the beverage selections, providing pleasant accompaniment for those post-MOCAD critiques. (Visitors should know, however, that Super Happy Sushi often remains open after the museum has closed.)
On weekends, museum visitors can also tour an imaginative sushi-inspired brunch menu featuring items like the “Waffle!” with grilled eel, the Minoru Fried Rice with bacon, and the Benedict Nigiri with tamago, crab, and hollandaise.
Regardless of mealtime, this latest installation from the Detroit Optimist Society proves to be as delightful and satisfying as its super fun name.