First Taste: Chubby Duck now slanging sushi rolls in Harmonie Park


  • Photo By Serena Maria Daniels
The line out the door of the tiny new Chubby Duck takeout eatery was evidence enough that downtown workers are craving a legit sushi spot.

Open just a few weeks in the Harmonie Park area of downtown, Chubby Duck is the brainchild of Ian Diem, who hails from Flint and whose creations have been offered to the masses at the city's farmer's market.

Now hungry Detroiters are getting a taste of his creations inside the shoebox-sized bistro on Grand River that used to house the Cilantro Bistro.

We recently stopped in to see what Diem has to offer. What we found, a study in improvisation: there's no formal kitchen. Instead, several rice cookers line a countertop, while fish, chicken and other proteins are prepared off-site and stored. At the helm, his expeditious apprentice/kitchen manager Tia Cleveland, who during the lunchtime rush, was seen assembling hand rolls at lightening speed. As for seating at the pocket-sized eatery, there are a few bistro-style chairs and tables on the sidewalk.

  • Photo By Serena Maria Daniels

The Temaki-style hand rolls here are known as cones. Sheets of nori (seaweed) are packed with sticky white and/or brown rice, fresh veggies, and your choice of several protein combinations. Sticking to typical Japanese tradition does not seem to be the point here, and in raw fish-squeamish Detroit, that could be a good thing. Options draw from a number of other culinary influences. Just four of the 13 cones on the menu contain fish. And diners choose can choose from proteins like jerk chicken, pork or beef bulgogi, spicy cured salmon, or a number of vegetarian-based rolls.

  • Photo By Serena Maria Daniels
  • Photo By Serena Maria Daniels

We went for the BBQ eel cone and a crab and avocado salad. Both were quite satisfying, the eel was generous in size (though it was reheated in a microwave), and accompanied with carrots, avocado, green onions, cucumbers, daikon (winter radish), and sesame seeds. The rice was nice and sticky and didn't fall apart as we munched away. The salad had a nice spiciness to the crab, balanced out by the creaminess of the avocado.

On top of the hand rolls and salads, there's a robust selection of soups and coming soon, a raw juice bar. In keeping with the menu's healthy fast food concept, 13 of the spot's offerings are marked vegetarian-friendly. Also on hand, a selection of bulk rice, flour, and other dry goods.

In all, we dig this newest option in downtown lunching and applaud Diem for making the sushi roll approachable to the locals on the run.

Open 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Chubby Duck is at 208 E. Grand River.

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