Americans corrupted sushi. The Japanese morsels of rice, vegetables and fish transformed stateside into state-fair spectacles—overstuffed tubes of rice-wrapped tempura drenched in heavy teriyaki-mayo. The rainbow flavor-blast can mask fish quality just as hazelnut creamer saves gas station coffee. Yet, these guilty pleasures remain in high demand because people want flavors they recognize mixed with the sensation of sampling a delicacy.

Ninja Sushi and Izakaya in Almaden Valley sells these doozies. “The Kitchen Sink” ($19.95) somehow combines shrimp tempura, creamy crab, avocado, cucumber, spicy tuna, salmon, albacore, yellowtail, escolar, snapper, ebi, scallop, fried crisps and fish roe with spicy mayo and sweet teriyaki sauce. If that’s your pleasure, more power to you.

Me, I can’t. I won’t. I refuse. When I eat sushi, I come to sample un-fiddled-with flavors of nature’s healthiest meat. I want to put stuff in my mouth I’ve never tried. So I told the server I had 50 dollars to spend, and I didn’t want anything deep fried or drizzled in mayo. She nodded, went to the chef situated in a square station surrounded by glass display cases containing chilled fish. He nodded at her, then nodded at me. I nodded back. It was on.

To activate my taste buds, they brought out a steamy red bowl of miso. The cloudy soy-based soup exemplified the sensation of rich, full flavor hugging your tongue. Then they brought out a custom platter dotted with simple rolls and tailored nigiri. Several showcased their top-rate tuna. The lean-ish, deep burgundy Maguro ($5.95 for two pieces) tasted like the sea from which it came. The fatty toro (price varies) melted in my mouth. And pieces of the “Dynamite Maki” spicy tuna roll ($5.50) dotted the corners while wrapped in a taut band of seaweed, containing a crunchy bite of cucumber to cut the just-right heat.

An unlisted Unagi Special bifurcated the plate. The roll contained imitation crab and avocado wrapped below caramelized eel strips brushed with a sweet, soy-teriyaki glaze. Other stand-outs (ranging from $3.95 to $6.95): pliant, creamy calamari; floral, briney scallop; two-toned, pleasantly astringent hamachi; chewy, smoked octopus with little sucker blips in its outline; and mackerel with a miniscule dollop of ginger paste that sat silky and fresh on the tongue.

Ninja Sushi strikes the necessary balance for an American sushi spot: inventive enough to craft circus rolls, but plenty deft to prepare stand-alone fish.

Ninja Sushi and Izakaya
5945 Almaden Expy #120, San Jose