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Sky Modern hits all the right notes — and price point 

It's a sushi go-to.

click to enlarge MODERN ART: The Spicy Spider Roll piles fried soft-shell crab and fish roe atop a ring of sushi.
  • MODERN ART: The Spicy Spider Roll piles fried soft-shell crab and fish roe atop a ring of sushi.

Little Rock, at least for the moment, is swimming in a sea of solid, no-frills sushi restaurants. Sky Modern Japanese, located in the Pleasant Ridge Town Center, deserves to be mentioned alongside some of our other favorites like Kiyen's or Hanaroo. You don't get that intimate, chic, white-table-cloth vibe of Kemuri, but you do get consistency and quality, not to mention a lower price point.

The inside of the restaurant is modern and clean, with high ceilings and glossy concrete floors. The music is turned very low. A few booths dot the walls, but there's little else in the way of privacy. We opted for the patio, a great choice on a hospitable evening. It's spacious and clean. String lights give a warm glow. Muzak pumped in from the shopping plaza provides a bland soundtrack, but it's also scientifically engineered to be ignored.

You can do a lot worse than the Sky Peartini ($9), a mix of ginger liqueur, pear vodka and lime juice. It comes in an electric blue glass and zaps the palate with a warming fruity buzz. It was a nice pairing for the Seared Albacore Roll ($12). A roll of bright red spicy tuna, scallion, cilantro and avocado is topped with thin slices of seared and sesame-speckled albacore tuna. The overall effect is fresh and light. Sliced scallions add texture and a visual pop.

The Japanese eggplant is another great starter ($7.59). Sliced eggplant is sauteed with a honey sesame miso glaze and topped with a smattering of flash-fried microgreens. The eggplant was cooked until soft, the glaze was pasty, sticky and gave the dish a warm, honey-colored glow. It's a good mix of sweet and salty. Microgreens added a nice contrasting texture and had that satisfying "fried" flavor we all love.

A note about ordering sushi. In general this exercise has the potential to make us feel harried and nervous. There are always plenty (or too many) options, each with its own tiny description and occasional unknown ingredient. At Sky, the process is made easier. For one, they have a very manageable number of special rolls, 25 to be exact. Second, each is described by what's on the inside, and what's on the outside. It's very simple and direct, which we like.

Take the Spicy Spider Roll ($14). It's described on the menu as "Inside: tempura soft-shell crab, green onion, masago, spicy mayo and cucumber. Outside: tobiko and soft shell crab mix on top." And that's exactly what you get. Visually, it's different. It's not presented in your typical roll. Instead, you get a bed of sliced sushi topped with chopped-up bits of soft shell crab and a dark dash of tobiko roe. This one is decidedly heavy, owing to the large dose of fried crab, but it's tasty and one we would order again.

click to enlarge DELICIOUS BUT HARD TO EAT: The Firecracker Roll.
  • DELICIOUS BUT HARD TO EAT: The Firecracker Roll.

If sushi isn't your thing, try a hibachi dinner. We opted for chicken ($15.99). You can choose between soup or salad as a starter, and we recommend the ginger dressing if you order the salad. The tender white meat chicken was served with hibachi vegetables, three grilled shrimp, rice (we upgraded from steamed to fried for $3.29), and two dipping sauces.

In our experience, hibachi dinners are laden with soy sauce and oil. That's not the case at Sky. In fact, all the components of the hibachi dinner were flavorful but not overly seasoned, including the sauteed vegetables — zucchini, carrots, onions and mushrooms. The ginger- and mustard-based dipping sauces are not an afterthought but lend flashes of flavor to the simply seasoned chicken.

With its friendly service, a creative and user-friendly sushi menu, and generous portions, Sky has the potential to become your new go-to place for sushi.

Sky Modern Japanese
11525 Cantrell Road
224-4300
Skylittlerock.com

QUICK BITE

The Firecracker Roll ($12.50) is great, though a bit difficult to eat. It's filled with spicy crab and avocado and topped with a cracker-sized piece of fried wonton, a slice of fresh tuna, mango salsa and a drizzle of hot sauce. Everything tastes spot on; it's just a little more than a mouthful. It's almost two dishes: the roll itself and the ceviche-like topping.

HOURS

11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, to 9:30 p.m. Friday; 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Saturday, to 9 p.m. Sunday.

OTHER INFO

Full bar, CC accepted.
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