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Cheap eats

Sushi, with fun surprises

(Tom Herde for The Boston Globe)
November 11, 2009

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The Ginger Exchange, the newest sushi restaurant in Inman Square, has plenty of unagi, anago, and uni - but also ribs, wings, and potatoes. What self-respecting sushi restaurant asks if you’d like fries with that?

A very good one, it turns out. The sushi is excellent and the Extreme Ribs ($2.99 per rib) aren’t bad, either. You could eat nothing but elaborate sushi at the Ginger Exchange, which opened last month, and you wouldn’t go wrong. Or you could suspend your ideas of what a Japanese restaurant should be and try some of the unexpected dishes on the menu, though this is a riskier path.

The owners of Ginger Exchange have dreamed up a fun place to spend an evening, with a playful menu and a modern dining room filled with polished wood, backless leather bar seats, and a long sushi counter. We can’t resist trying a roll called O.M.G. ($16.95): hokigai (surf clam), cucumber, and tobiko wrapped inside a roll topped with tuna and a drizzle of horseradish and wasabi sauce. We like one of the complicated Pyro rolls: seared white tuna with eel sauce and crunchy tuna flakes on the outside; avocado, cucumber, and yamagobe (pickled burdock) inside ($15.95). Eastern Keys ($14.95, below), avocado, cucumber, and tempura flakes topped with salmon, mango sauce, and tobiko with key lime are light and sweet, almost dessert sushi. Sweet potato maki ($4.75) are especially good, simple but smooth and crunchy with tempura batter. Pad Thai ($13.99), though, relies on more of a single note of spice, rather than the balance of sweet, sour, and salty that makes the dish so enticing.

We don’t expect to find budget sushi, but prices on other offerings are high. Miso eggplant is quite good, but $14.99 for two small slices of eggplant, a little bok choy, and a half-moon of rice seems excessive. Wine starts at $7 a glass - and an unusually small glass - and goes up to $13. (The restaurant also has an impressive selection of sake.) Although our waiters and waitresses are helpful - in one case, the waitress going out of her way to make sure the vegetarian at our table was happy - there are small glitches that distract us from our meals. On both visits, we have an oddly difficult time getting enough silverware and napkins, especially when our table of seven decides to split two desserts.

Cheesecake rolls ($5.95) are addictive, a warm, mushy blend of sweet cream cheese and bananas, wrapped in crispy pastry and drizzled with ginger-caramel sauce and honey. It isn’t a dessert you’d expect to find at a Japanese restaurant. But the rolls are so good, we order them twice.

KATHLEEN BURGE

THE GINGER EXCHANGE 1287 Cambridge St., Cambridge, 617-250-8618, www.thegingerexchange.com. All major credit cards accepted. Wheelchair accessible.

Prices Sushi $3.95-$45, entrees $13.99-$19.97.

Hours Mon-Tue 11 a.m.-3 p.m., 5 p.m.-midnight; Wed-Fri 11 a.m.-3 p.m., 5 p.m.-1 a.m.; Sat 11 a.m.-1 a.m., Sun 11 a.m.-10 p.m.

Liquor Full bar.

May we suggest O.M.G., pyro rolls, Eastern Keys, cheesecake rolls.

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