It was several years ago when my friend Bobby Woody first introduced me to sushi in a bar somewhere near Stone Mountain, Georgia. His endorsement of fresh raw fish and spicy wasabi just didn’t excite me that much at the time.

At lot has changed since then and I still miss my friend. He was always on the forefront of anything new and that’s one of the things I appreciated about him the most and things have changed for me too – especially with sushi.

Earlier in the year, we ventured to Edo’s in Kingsport and dabbled with a little tuna and that lead to salmon. From there, we’ve been trying sushi all over town and although I’m not a complete expert about the culinary varieties of sushi and sashimi, we’re making still making our rounds.

Last Friday, we celebrated Dan’s last day of 47 with a toast of single malt scotch and a decision to try out Sushi Blues in Johnson City. This was one of the first sushi bars in the Tri-Cities located in the little strip mall near the movie theatres. Plenty of folks have mentioned the place over the years and we were excited about a new adventure for our taste buds and wrapped up our visit with a couple of glasses of red to toast a friend’s birthday.

Overall, I can’t say that the trip was all that bad – but it didn’t excite me enough to go back anytime soon.

The restaurant has a minimalist contemporary flair with brushed aluminum and a small bar out front and their sushi chef’s are in the back in an area easily seen from the dining room.

The sushi was freshly prepared and they offer a distinct variety of their own creations that were interesting and memorable. My friends ordered a couple of designer drinks – a chocolate martini and a creation called “Wedding Cake.” Both were a bit unusual and pricy at $7.50, but lived up to their sweet expectations.

Dan’s always the one to quiz the wait staff with… “What’s your favorite things?” Not a bad idea either and the sushi chefs recommend a Sashimi Sampler (tuna, salmon and octopus), and a couple of other unique sushi rolls – one which included a tasty jalapeno sauce.

The sushi wasn’t bad and we had no problem eating most every bit of the food between the three of us. The rice was a bit dry and fell apart quickly in the soy sauce and the wasabi was a bit dull and pastiche.

One of my pet-peeves at any restaurant is how they serve their wine. I must seem awfully nit-picky to the waitress as she brought us several spotty plates, but their petite wine glasses are hardly the goblets that I enjoy otherwise and certainly prevented me from ordering another.

Another unusual element to the restaurant was the choice of the 80’s hair-metal soundtrack that pumped on their speakers while we ate. The Ronnie James Dio, AC/DC and Poison just seemed a bit out of place for fine dining – although it was a treat to hear our friend Tom Bettini’s band Jackyl with ‘Down on Me’ as we completed our meal with a fried cheesecake with vanilla ice cream.

Sushi Blues is a good sushi restaurant, but it’s a bit pricey. Three drinks and three sushi samplers totaled almost $90. Our dessert was $7.95 for a few flanks of cheesecake and ice cream. Our check indicated that we had soup which was never brought to our table and overall, it left us a bit reluctant for another visit.

The staff were pleasant, mostly Johnson City college students who were helpful finding Danny a cigarette to smoke outside, but overall I wouldn’t say that Sushi Blues has the best in the Tri-Cities. For me, it’s still a toss-up between Edos and Stir Frye Cafe.

After we finished at Sushi Blues, we walked down the strip to Cafe Lola – the only wine bar I know of in Johnson City. Besides, after that stubby little glass at Sushi Blues, I was ready for a ruby red goblet.

Cafe Lola is a nice place to have a glass of wine. I had visited the bistro a few months back with Matthew and Crystal and enjoyed our time together there sampling new wines. It’s a bit small and although I hear their food is very tasty, we arrived a little late for tapas (their nighttime offering of finger food) which consisted of a few cheeses, crackers and a raisin/cranberry medley that was pretty tasty.

I enjoy the idea of an European Wine bistro and although the service and the ambiance of Cafe Lola is both pleasant and relaxing, I wish there were more varietie of wine on their lists. I’m a bit reluctant to order popular varieties seen in the shelves at the local package store which sell for a third of the price like ‘Seven Deadly Zens,’ ‘Trapiche’ and ‘Concho Del Toro.’ The waitress did introduce me to a small list of wines from the South of France which were interesting, but the variety is a bit conservative.

Prices for wines run anywhere from 5 to $15 per glass and most bottles average out at restaurant prices of $30 to $50.

Cafe Lola is still a good night-cap for a night on the town and even though I wasn’t completely impressed with the sushi earlier in the evening, these two restaurants are distinctive local eateries that are fresh break from the chains and fast food restaurants in the Tri-Cities.