Kuma Ani – AYCE

20151005_193834[1]AYCE (All You Can Eat) is an interesting concept. Pay one price, eat as much as you want. We’ve got a few sushi restaurants in the area with caveats that you eat what you don’t pay for, which is nice from a waste mitigation perspective. One of my friends has a theory that you should check out AYCE restaurants in the Albany area when they open and are serving the best/highest quality fish until they realize that people in the Capitol Region will settle for less. Which is kind of disheartening, but an interesting theory that isn’t exactly outlandish.

I recently went to Kuma Ani with 3 other people, and we went for the $20.99 all you can eat dinner option. They’re still fairly new and haven’t been open a year yet. LorreBob over at Albany Dish has a review of their AYCE and non-all you can eat options, and Susie Davidson Powell has a great write-up over at the Times Union of their meal options, too. The AYCE menu is a little smaller than other places in the area (no sashimi), but it’s also a few bucks cheaper than other places, too.

We arrived to a restaurant at about 20-30% capacity. A few tables, but overall fairly quiet on a weeknight. It took us about 2 hours to get two orders, with priority given to non-AYCE dinner options. We waited about 30 minutes from when we placed our 2nd order to when we received it.

We got a little bit of everything for nigiri – roe in the background, octopus, mackerel, eel, white tuna, yellowtail, salmon, and tuna. Nice presentation, but the salmon, mackerel, and probably the tuna should not have been served – They tasted fine initially but finished with a very funky flavor at the end, especially the mackerel, which had a strong note of ammonia in its finish. Not at all like a pungently briny mackerel should be. This was unpleasantly disappointing. The eel was good, but it’s cooked fish. White tuna was also fine.

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Most of the specialty rolls were very rich affairs with kani/imitation crab salads, fried, and heavy on mayonnaise or rich eel sauces. We got every specialty roll we ordered, but a few of the normal maki rolls were skipped with each order.

The cooked/non-sushi appetizer options are small portions, except for the imitation crab salad, which is comically large when compared to every other portion size. It’s like a meal-sized salad of fake crab salad! I don’t like imitation crab so this dish didn’t really work for me, but the others in our party enjoyed it. One dish was the grilled squid, which were small pieces of squid with a heavy coating of old pepper – pass on that one. Also pass on the sashimi salad, which are end pieces of fish and not very pleasant tasting.

Overall it seems like Kuma Ani is ready to give you a challenge for your AYCE experience. Overall I found the experience a bit drawn out (who wants to have a 2.5 hour dinner on a weeknight?), and the food was really hit-or-miss, with more misses than hits to go back for AYCE. The regular dinner menu gets great reviews, so if I go back it’ll be to order off of the regular menu.

5 comments
  1. The AYCE at Kuma Ani is actually quite good, I’ve found. You’re better off asking for whatever’s new and/or good in the chefs’ larder that night, but if you’re there for a ton of great food, you’re okay. It’s really good for what it is. I’d even say the quality of the seafood is up there with what I’ve experienced in NYC or San Francisco. Probably getting it from Fin or from another equally great source, though I’ve never asked.

    • Very interesting! I definitely had a very different quality experience than you did. I’m curious about your dining methodology: Did you sit at the sushi bar for AYCE to make these requests? Dine solo?

      • Just dine solo, and ask for whatever they think is best that day. Works pretty well. 🙂

  2. And I’d add that the AYCE is of course different from sitting there and letting the chefs guide you. I had the AYCE the first time I visited, but asked them to just give me what was good that day from then on.

  3. In spite of your positivism, this sounds pretty yucky. I need my saba in large quantities and if i’s laced with ammonia I’m likely to be sick the next day. “Ask the kitchen what’s best that day” sounds like code for “I’m on to you, please serve me only what’s not rotten.” Pass.

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