Oct 17, 2009

Jun's: Strip Mall Sushi Gem

My client at work is a big commercial real estate company who owns malls, outlets and - e-hem - strip malls, whose appeal they've attempted to heighten by renaming as community lifestyle centers. These infamous manifestation of American convenience culture, despite what clever real estate marketing departments may have you believe, are not great locations for all types of businesses.

In particular, the strip mall and restaurant industries have had a rather tumultuous relationship over the years. The miscellaneous, random blend of businesses sharing thin, cheaply built walls and vanilla store-fronts with mandatory matching back lit signage seem okay for the likes of Subway, TCBY, radio shacks and liquor stores; but most restaurants rely on atmosphere to sustain enough business to keep the lights on. That's where the strip mall usually fails.

There are hidden gems, though. Like courageous plants thriving in hostile environments, restaurants here or there make surprisingly successful homes in strip malls by virtue of their solid, dependable food. Jun's, a sushi restaurant in the Prairie Village strip mall slightly south of 76th and State Line has been on my short list of SMG's (Strip Mall Gems) for years now.

Jun's doesn't try to be something it's not. Blaring pop music? No. Pizza and pasta on the menu for mass appeal? Please. Modern light fixtures resembling jellyfish afloat in the ocean? What do you think? A stinky bar filled with salivating, gold-digging cougars looking for a guy in a $100 shirt? You get the point.

Jun's has a small bar, a narrow but fun sushi bar, traditional, quiet dining room and separate tatami dining area. Straightforward. (It's not completely without character, however: guests will be impressed by the full samurai suit displayed in a glass case up front along with photos of employees with the likes of Bo Jackson and a female American Gladiator.)

My most recent outing at Jun's happened to coincide with my birthday and I was lucky to be accompanied by four friends and my wife, so to the tatami room we were whisked and seated at a comfortable stretch of two conjoined tables (necessary to accommodate the overladen sushi "tanker" that cruised into our midst after ordering enough sushi rolls to feed twelve people of normal eating habits).

I could write a thousand words describing each of the item we ordered, but why bother? What you need to know about all the rolls and sashimi are that they are beautifully made and fresh. Immensely satisfying. Choices are plentiful and I'll note, in particular, my favorite roll from this particular order: the Tiger Eye which comes filled with cream cheese and salmon, contrasted with fresh jalapeno and bright orange roe.

Jun's also boasts a better-than-average assortment of alcoholic beverages: inexpensive hot and cold sakes (I had a bottle of Diamond for $13), Asian beer, wines and even interesting cocktails like a potent sake margarita can help transform a normal dinner out into a party.

I'd also like to make an uncharacteristic comment on the service at Jun's because it's remarkably... perfect. A family owned business, the staff seems to genuinely care that they do everything in their power to make you want to return. They're kind, attentive but unobtrusive... exactly what I'm looking for in restaurant service. I always leave Jun's knowing I can expect the same great experience next time around.

I must admit, they put a huge smile on my 28 year old face when they dimmed the lights in our dining room and came in with a plate of green tea ice cream and red bean mochi segments lit by a single candle, singing me happy birthday. At most other restaurants I'd have hated the cliche. But there was something infinitely more genuine and enjoyable about the way they carried out this ritual than when it's begrudgingly done at your typical TGMcFunsters.

Anything Jun's may lack in atmosphere or ambience they more than  compensate for with their good food  and service. They solidified their role as captain of my Strip Mall Gems team on this occasion and ensured this all-too-rare outing with five of my favorite people on earth fulfilled its true potential.

Rating: two napkins

Jun's Japanese on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

abruce said...

Strip mall gem rarity = Very very true. Jun's does serve some delicious sushi, which I wasn't sure would even exist in the midwest. I love the picture of the lovely flower struggling to grow through concrete. Great post!!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...