It seems that new restaurants are arriving in our area at a rapid pace. Nova Asian Cafe and Sushi Bar opened last Saturday in South River Colony Marketplace (next to Kmart). Chipotle is slated for a March 29 opening at Lee Airpark Shopping Center. Four others: Panera, Sonic, Bill Batemans and Stan and Joes, are hot on their heels with premieres before summer.
Susan Chen and Paul Lee (Li Pol) have wanted to open a restaurant for about 10 years. They are a married couple that has gone into business together for the first time to open Nova.
Li was a hibachi chef in Annapolis, but he had ideas all of his own. Chen said that they knew a lot of customers would come into Annapolis from south county, and so they started to look for a space in the Edgewater area to open their first restaurant.
They found a space in South River Colony Marketplace shopping center.
"It was a carpet store before," Chen said. "The build out took four months."
There are no signs of the old carpet store. There is a kitchen in back, plus a sushi bar and reception area in the front. The side walls are lined with booths. The colors are earthy and the clean lines of the artwork on the walls are inspired by Asian themes.
Chen said that their specialty is the sushi.
"It is different. All of the specials are homemade. Every single roll comes with a special sauce that complements the roll," Chen said.
For example, their Chesapeake Bay roll is rice paper, steamed lobster, surimi, and Japanese pickle, served with a ginseng honey. Another favorite is the Samba Cracker, with spicy tuna and seaweed, surimi and served with a rice cracker and guacamole.
They have applied for, but do not yet have, their liquor license. The service is sit-down or carry-out.
Our dining experience at Nova
We checked it out on a recent weeknight to taste the food and get a feeling for the atmosphere. Upon entering, we were greeted and allowed to sit wherever we wanted.
There is plenty to choose from on the menu. The sushi and sashimi rolls take up three pages of their five-page menu. The service was quick and attentive, but not obtrusive. We were given plenty of time to look over the menu, and our server was nearby and knowledgeable when we had questions.
We ordered a large tray of sushi, two appetizers and one item off the entree menu, which included teriyaki, tempura, Thai noodles and curries.
The appetizers arrived quickly. The teriyaki beef rolls were delicious, with tender strips of beef rolled around spring onions and cream cheese. They were a little larger than bite size, but with a little maneuvering with the chopsticks, we managed to get them into our mouths. Delicious. They were cooked to perfection, and there was a nice balance to the generous amount of sauce on the plate. There were six to an order—a hearty appetizer portion.
The chicken skewer appetizers didn't have that much going for them. There were two to a plate. Maybe a dipping sauce would have been a good accompaniment. They weren't bad, just bland.
The miso soup was good, with little bits of tofu and green onion in a rich, flavorful broth.
The sushi arrived at our table and was spectacular. It was arranged beautifully on a large, white ceramic tray. We got a mix of 17 different pieces of sushi and sashimi. The fish, which included tuna, whitefish and salmon was very fresh, cut perfectly, and melted with each bite.
In fact the sushi was so fresh that we carried out what we couldn't finish for dinner. Sushi leftovers don't always fare well, but for lunch the next day, the pieces were still light and tasty.
The entree we ordered, the chicken curry pot, was good, but not at all spicy. If you were dining with a person who doesn't like sushi or food that is too hot, it would be the perfect thing to order. It was full of vegetables, like peppers and peapods and bamboo shoots and it came with a generous portion of rice.
When it was time for us to go, our food was whisked away and quickly wrapped for carryout—one bag for each person so that lunch was ready to go for work the next day. The check was promptly presented.
The meal was $48 for two people, including a pot of jasmine tea. Most of the sushi and sashimi are two to three pieces for $5-$6. Most of the entrees cost in the $8 to $15 range.
We'll be back for sure. Most likely sticking to the sushi menu, which was outstanding. With quick and pleasant service, it is definitely another good place to go that is nearby.