POLL RESULTS - M-Empire reigns over sushi, too

Posted by The LunchMen Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Your average Columbian would likely agree with us if we claimed that Michelle Wang's "M" restaurants have the overall best Chinese food in town. I say average Columbia, because there are always outliers (like Hot Pockets), who will take issue with any sweeping claim that we might make. However, the best sushi?!? I was a little skeptical that Columbia would agree with this humble blogger that Miyo's/M-Vista/M-Cafe also has the best sushi in town. In reality, I believe it is the sushi rolls that garnered the "M" restaurants nearly 30% of your votes, placing the "M" restaurants #1 in our sushi poll.

Notably, for the first time ever, we had a three-way tie at second, between Camon, Saki, and Tsunami, obtaining 10 votes and 18% of the support apiece. I agree that Camon and Saki are right at the top. In fact, if I am craving sashimi or nigiri instead of sushi rolls, I prefer Saki over the "M" restaurants. Maybe it is simply psychological, but Saki's sashimi seems the freshest to me. Sakitumi came in a distant third, obtaining only 6 votes; Sushi Yoshi, often heavily criticized by the Lunchmen landed 3 votes, and Fujiya only obtained 1 vote (ouch).

Michelle, please keep up the delicious work!


  1. Anonymous Says:
  2. Hi, I came across your blog looking for a good place to downtown get sushi for lunch and couldn't help but stop and comment. While the M empire restaurants are known to have pretty good food the never ending stories about the owners attitude and lousy customer service cause me to take pause before giving her my business. Any other suggested spots? Thanks!

  3. The LunchMen Says:
  4. Sushi for lunch? What kind of L.A. bulls*** is this? Just kidding - kudos for skipping the fries this week. I think the Mpire might be the only sushi game downtown for lunch - but a mere seven miles from downtown (six of it interstate) lies Inakaya. The "Jewel of St. Andrews" is my favorite sushi place in Columbia, and I understand it is open for lunch. Try it out and let us know how it goes... the Lunchmen won't be far behind you.

    - the Publican

  5. The LunchMen Says:
  6. I was just reminded that Takosushi also does sushi downtown, but I still have mixed feelings about including a concept restaurant in the sushi conversation.

    Also, as long as I'm engaging on this topic, lets get a few things straight. Mpire is not the best sushi in town. I don't care what all 7 of our readers say.

    Camon's atmosphere makes me uncomfortable, and both of my trips there were marred by subpar and slow service.

    Tsunami can barely be called a sushi restaurant. It is more like a club with a sushi theme. The same goes for SakiTumi. Both places will pour sake down your throat all night and not bat an eye when you beat on the table and chant - so they just don't suit me that well.

    The sushi at Saki beats both Tsunami and SakiTumi, and as an added bonus, you feel like you're eating in a double-wide. (That is a positive where I come from...)

    As for Sushi Yoshi and Fujiya, the sushi suits me fine. The real draw for me at both: I feel exceedingly welcome at neighborhood restaurants like these.

    For a grand sushi experience, though, nothing in Columbia beats Inakaya. I've always visited the St. Andrews location, but I've just been told that O'Neil Court's atmosphere is far superior to that of the Jewel of St. Andrews. Looks like I'll be heading down Two Notch for dinner next week.

    Finally, any readers got a take on Sakura off of Forest Drive? I've yet to eat there, but I hear good things. I've also never had the sushi at Hero. Good? Bad? Stick with the Korean?

    - The Publican

  7. Anonymous Says:
  8. I have to disagree with the anonymous post above. Michelle has never been anything but gracious and polite when I have dined at Mpire. My experience at any and all of her restaurants has been delightful.

    However, SakiTumi is another story...I went to the restaurant with a group of girls for a birthday celebration. I will say that dining with females is a bit taxing for the service industry because we always have to split checks in the most inconvenient ways. We can never just throw a few cards on the table and be done with it, even though it always come out equal in the end. Anyway, I digress.

    Long story short, wine and apps were half off and when we got the bill everyone was charged full price. The waitress couldn't figure it out on her own (math was not her strength) so she sent the manager who proceeded to tell us that his computer wouldn't split the checks when the meal is half off.

    Clearly this was unacceptable and we gently communicated our disatisfaction with the poor customer service from our waitress and from managements inability to remedy the situation. He became verbally abusive and told us "our parents should be ashamed of us."

    So, not only is the cuisine at SakiTumi practically unedible, the service is atrocious as well. It is restaurants like this that give Columbia dining, as a whole, poor reviews.

    Love the blog - Lunchmen keep up the good work!

  9. Tank Says:
  10. I agree with our anonymous poster. I have only had two interactions with Michelle, but both were very pleasant, and I found her to be a good hostess. I've heard the same rumor, but I have never experienced it. However, if you are looking for really good sushi in a more charming, family-ran atmosphere, I would go to Saki.

    Also, I have been subject to some poor customer service at SakiTumi (sushi aside, I won't go back because of my bad experience).

    Finally, I would like to say something in response to The Publican's question about Sakura. I went their after being told it is the oldest sushi restaurant in Columbia and the most remarkable. I found that the sushi was good, but not spectacular. Sakura was just adequate for me. I would not drive out of my way to go there, but if you are near Trenholm Plaza, it is not a bad sushi call.

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Rabbit, Tank, and The Publican are three dudes just trying to get through the work week here in Columbia. Rabbit is a Columbia native, Tank is from Charleston, and The Publican hails from Greenville. Rabbit's favorite lunch spot is the No Name Deli on Elmwood, where you may find him putting down a grilled chicken salad and a side of vinegar pasta. The Publican usually wants to find food to cure his all-too-common hangovers. Tank claims no favorite lunch spot - he lives for the thrill of the hunt.