July 20, 2012
Are You Meshugienced?
Rising from the grave of Kosher Subway, Meshuga 4 Sushi attempts to fit into the kosher food chain as a casual but clean sushi joint with a deep lineup of tempura and hand rolls. The setup appears to be mostly held over from the old tenants, but that’s pretty much all for resemblances between the two.
Meshuga opened on Pico Boulevard in April hoping to carve out a niche in a Murderer’s Row of kosher establishments that runs between Livonia and Crest. The deck is stacked against them, though. Meshuga faces competition not only from their neighbors, but from nearby non-kosher sushi places like Minori and Crazy Fish as well.
It’s a fact that all kosher dairy restaurants have to realize – Jews who “eat dairy out” (in other words, will eat Spicy Tuna at a bar that serves authentic California rolls) make up a crucial chunk of a successful customer base in this neighborhood. And inherent difficulties in favorably differentiating from non-kosher have rendered an indomitable market for Sushiko and Kosher Subway and even Café Blue back in the day.
Fortunately Meshuga’s food tastes fantastic. Really! And comes fast, and someone else had to tell me what to order, because everything on the menu looked so good. His selections: the Crunchy Munchy Roll and the Cannonball.
I watched one chef prepare the Cannonball – a tempura pipeline carrying salmon and avocado, wielding a spicy house sauce and showered with a sweet potato crunch tinsel – while another crafted the Crunchy Munchy (kani, cucumber, and avocado topped with crunch flakes and faux masago), all behind the same glass display cases that contained baggies of deli meat only a few years ago.
Took the sushi to the beach already salivating but still wondering, how is this restaurant, in this cursed lot, gonna stay in business long enough for me to try all the rolls?
Well, brand image concerns aside (and already covered in the Got Kosher? review), Meshuga could partner with a glatt market and sell pre-packaged sushi there - in other words, find a large-scale buyer. Then intensify its outreach through social media platforms. Eventually it might sell its sauce at Livonia Glatt. Host special “sushi hour.” Sell alcoholic beverages (whoops, taboo. Seriously, though).
And would it really kill to change the name to something less corny? It’s times like this when I really miss Japanika.
Back to the important question, how to keep non-kosher sushi out of mind for the fine-either-way customer: start by featuring a few signature rolls that can’t be found down the street – rolls you would swear by. I think I’m getting there with the Cannonball, but it’s up to you to find yours.
While you still can!