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A nine-piece nigiri combo is a great way to try a variety of seafood, including tuna, salmon, eel, mackerel and more at Star Sushi. It also includes the ever-popular California roll. [Photo by Anita Burke]

Star Sushi draws fans in Medford and Ashland

With Bear Creek Plaza sporting a new look with an upgraded rock façade, my husband and I decided Star Sushi in the shopping center at 1080 Biddle Road was worth another look, too.

We found it a pleasant place for a late lunch while running errands on a busy weekend, and judging by the steady stream of customers, many of whom appeared to be regulars well known to the bustling staff, plenty of Rogue Valley residents agree.

The restaurant is owned by the family who also operate a Star Sushi in Ashland. Both locations are popular with locals for their wide range of sushi, bento, noodles and a handful of other Japanese and Korean specialties offered at reasonable prices.

At the Medford location, the typical strip-mall sushi joint décor of gleaming granite bar, paper lanterns and murals of cherry blossoms is accented with dark colors and a nighttime scene of a giant octopus emerging from the briny deep painted across one wall.

Star Sushi offers a broad selection of maki sushi rolls, including interesting vegetarian options starting around $3 for a fresh cucumber roll, simple seafood combinations, and elaborate tempura-fried constructions drizzled with multiple sauces, mostly priced between $11 and $14, but topping out at $17 for the Pink Flamingo or the King Kong roll. Each of those feature a plethora of fish rolled inside and even more layered outside, along with crunchy fried elements and sauces — sweet, spicy and mayonnaise-based.

Not up for anything quite that complex, we opted for a combination plate with nine pieces of nigari and a classic California roll for $20. It was a cost-effective way to truly taste the key elements of fish and rice, and it provided plenty of food to fuel us through the rest of our afternoon.

Favoring delicate raw fish over the bland steamed shrimp that is common on nigari combination plates, my husband asked the sushi chef to substitute something else. He was happy to oblige, serving a piece of seared tuna instead. The array of seafood also included gleaming salmon, albacore, Hamachi, bright red maguro tuna, red snapper, flavorful mackerel, grilled eel, and escolar, also known as white tuna. While online experts express concerns about compounds in escolar that can cause digestive disturbances, possible high mercury levels and fishing practices that can harm other marine life, I don’t turn away an occasional sliver of this mild-tasting, yet rich, ivory-colored fish.

Star’s sushi rice is slightly sweet, but the pungent wasabi offers a nice counterpoint. The California roll is made with imitation crab, although some more expensive rolls on the menu feature real crab.

Bento boxes also offer plenty of options for diners interested in sampling from various parts of the menu. Diners can mix and match simple sushi rolls, teriyaki chicken, grilled beef yakiniku, grilled salmon, tempura vegetables, or stir-fried tofu and vegetables, choosing two items for $12.50 or three items for a few dollars more. The meal comes with a house salad, miso soup, steamed rice and two gyoza.

Fans of variety might want to explore the sake list, which is diverse, but not overwhelmingly long. Look for some intriguing fruit-infused options featuring plum and lychee.

Service is fast and efficient. Star Sushi is open 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday and stays open until 10 Fridays and Saturdays. Sunday hours are noon to 9 p.m. Takeout is available anytime, but only takeout orders are prepared half an hour prior to closing. If you’re looking for a menu online, you’ll have to rely on what loyal customers have posted on Yelp. Call 541-773-9098.

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