Sushi has become so commonplace that you can buy it at gas stations, but it can be surprisingly hard to reel in a really lovely piece of fish.

Since Samurai (9648 Transit Road, No. 450, East Amherst,, 688-7808) opened in June 2008, chef-owner James Shao’s menu of tweaked Japanese and Asian classics has made him a lot of fans.

One of the hits is Thai crispy fish ($16.95), an 8-ounce hunk of Chilean sea bass rolled in a thin potato starch batter and quickly fried. Then there’s the sauce, a Thai-inspired sweet-and-sour sauce flavored with fresh oranges and a minor kick of chile heat.

The result is crunchy fun on a plate. It’s aromatic, piquant and yet still tastes like fish, which is an accomplishment that requires skilled hands.

“We have so many good dishes,” Shao said. “We haven’t even talked about the sesame chicken or mango shrimp.”

– Andrew Z. Galarneau

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