Ambiance At Amici
Though I love the food at Amici, and I'd rank it my #1 choice to eat sushi in San Joaquin county (so far), their ambiance could use some work. The restaurant is kind of an awkward triangle or half-moon shape, and the tables are situated weirdly. You're either sitting next to a window at a 2-person table, or in the middle, squished together, uncomfortably close with other people. I suppose you could chalk it up to being like one of those hipster joints in LA or San Francisco that are situated in weird locations due to expensive rent.
The lighting here is also really bright, and everything is white. It's like walking into a hospital room! For a cozier atmosphere, try Matsu Sushi in Manteca.
Wow, I'm really starting off this review in a bad way, but there's a reason that I go to Amici so much – the food is awesome!
Arriving & Ordering At Amici
Amici is right near Highway 5, off the Louise exit. Though the parking lot is tiny, you can usually find a spot unless you go at peak dinner time. There's a couple restaurants here, so last time we went we had to drive a few circles before landing a spot.
However, this unexpected gem located in Lathrop is worth it, as you'll see below.
If you do go, check out the bar in back. It's a club/bar atmosphere, and they do have a selection of craft beer and unique spirits. I haven't been on a Friday/Saturday night, so I don't know if it gets busy or not. I suspect that the owner is an entrepreneur-type, because you don't often see a bar/sushi place mix like this. I wonder why they decided to not have a full sushi place…
I can't speak Japanese, so I didn't know what exactly “Sashimi Moriawase” meant. That's how they label their chef's choice sashimi plates here. A quick search in Google shows that it just means “mixed platter”. They have an excellent presentation here, serving the fish over ice, with a nice decoration in the center of the plate. It certainly makes a great impression! Some even come with fried fish heads or whole fish bones for an even more impressive look.
Aside from the presentation, I always love the flavor of the fish they serve here. Plus, they always have thick, meaty chunks that fill you up. The shaved ice keep the fish cool, plus, you have an assortment of small greens to graze on as you sort through which slice to try next. Amici is where I tried butterfish for the first time, and have loved it ever since!
Notice that green stuff in the soup spoon? I'm not sure exactly what it is, but it's some kind of wasabi topping – maybe fermented wasabi or pickled wasabi, I'm not sure. but It's got a much stronger flavor, with less “heat” (the heat that makes your eyes water and nose run). I prefer it to the regular wasabi, and I'm a big wasabi fan! It's worth coming to Amici just to try this topping/garnish.
Amici is always on point with their nigiri as well. This evening, I think I branched out too far, and wasn't happy with my selections, but in the past I've enjoyed my picks. I wasn't too happy with mackerel (bottom right). It tasted too fishy, like canned tuna or sardines. I ordered it before at a Matsuyama and thought the same, but forgot! A couple of the nigiris had too much seaweed paper as well this time, so I'll give 7/10 stars for the nigiri rolls this evening, but usually they are better.
The have some great beer too! The have bottled Coedo and Echigo beer, which is a huge step towards variety in a world which usually only serves Sapporo, Asahi, and maybe Kirin. They even have some dark Japanese beers, so you don't have to stick with the light rice lager! I'm a beer guy, so I like trying different beers from around the world, and the beer selection here is definitely one reason that I come back.
Unfortunately, they don't have fried rice here, which is a real disappointment to my girlfriend. Instead, she got a beef teriyaki plate with white rice, an order of potstickers, and the shrimp tempura. The shrimp tempura was thin and crispy, and the potstickers were pan fried. Passing score, but not her favorite.
One last, small detail – I really enjoyed the miso soup here. It was flavorful, with both seaweed and tofu. A small thing to most people, but just one more reason I like coming back here.
How Was The Service?
Everyone is always friendly here at Amici. I've talked to the sushi chef a couple times, and one of the older waitresses (owner maybe?) has talked to me about Japanese beer in the past. They seem to have a real passion for the food they serve!
Expect to wait a while if you order the sashimi, since it can take some time to construct the whole presentation. My girlfriend usually finishers her appetizers before I get my plate of food. I don't mind though – it just means I can have a couple pre-dinner beers and build up an appetite for my meal.
The only rub about this place is that it's a little pricey. I can usually escape sushi night with a bill between $50-$80, including tip for me and my girlfriend. (I order a lot of sushi and beer, which is why the price is up there). However, the bill for this trip was $85, plus a $15 tip, so it was $100 total for sushi night. The real cost was the $30 for the sashimi plate and $8 per beer (x2), so I consumed about $50 worth of food pretty quickly.
Amici is my favorite place to get sushi at the moment. It's pricey, but worth it for me. As a couple, the gf and I do like to shop around to a place we can agree on, namely because they don't serve fried rice here.