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You don't have to hit up a sushi bar to get your raw fish fix

Take a swim

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Some of us at the City Paper would eat sushi every single day if we could. But we can't. Fewer restaurants will put a dent in your wallet like a sushi bar. Of course, it's damn hard to avoid being tempted, especially when you consider that you can find nigiri and sashimi and tataki at more than just one of the Holy City's fine sushi bars. In fact, you can get your raw fish fix from true blue sushi to tataki and tartare at some of the most unlikely places. Read on to learn more.

39 Rue de Jean

39 John St. Downtown (843) 722-8881 39ruedejean.com

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Amid 39 Rue de Jean's mussels and coq au vin is a traditional sushi menu. To this day, we're not sure why it's there, but we're not complaining. There are lots of basic rolls, like hamachi and tuna tataki, but the maki and temaki menu offers a few experimental selections — including a very French orange duck confit roll. We suggest trying the jumbo tempura shrimp roll. Rue butterflies the shrimp, stuffs it with avocado and sun-dried tomato, wraps it all up in some seaweed, and then fries them. They're then served over pesto. And the restaurant's ever popular spicy tuna isn't the kind you're imagining, all glopped up in sriracha mayo. Instead, they roll up the fish with some wasabi and serve it over a spicy-sweet sauce. —Susan Cohen

Sushi By Lisa

at the Drop-In Bar & Deli
32-B Center St. Folly Beach (843) 633-0234

If you're stranded on Folly Beach and looking for some Japanese fare, Lisa Dixon rolls up handmade specialties to order at the Drop-In Deli, where her Sushi By Lisa operation serves up raw fish every Tuesday through Friday starting at 6 p.m. and ending whenever the day's catch runs out. After honing her skills at a sushi bar in the Virgin Islands, Dixon returned to Charleston with entrepreneurial dreams, setting up her mobile sushi station at far reaching locales, from Trio to Moe's Crosstown. These days, she's settled comfortably into her gig at the Drop-In, serving up favorites like the Flaming Scorpion (shrimp, cream cheese, mango, almonds, and jalapeño). "I like the ones where she incorporates fruit," says Drop-In co-owner Lewis Dodson, the mustached SWIG 2010's Hottest Male Bartender. Dodson is partial to the Big Apple, a tasty combo of tuna, cream cheese, avocado, and Fuji apples. Dixon isn't afraid to branch out, serving up sea urchin roe and baby octopus whenever her bar clientele are willing to venture off the beaten Rainbow Roll track. —Stratton Lawrence

Caviar & Bananas

51 George St. Downtown (843) 577-7757 caviarandbananas.com

Caviar & Bananas' sushi may come in to-go plastic containers, but their selections go above and beyond the typical grocery store sushi case. They've got traditional rolls, of course, like a California roll and a spicy tuna roll, but you'd never see the Waterfront — tuna, tempura shrimp, fresh crab, lobster claw, avocado, spicy mayo, and black "forbidden" rice — chilling out at the Teet. The black rice is more of a purple color, and it gives the roll a nutty texture. And then there's the Southern Roll, which wraps up cocktail shrimp, pimento cheese, red pepper, candied pecans, spicy mayo, and white rice. —Susan Cohen

Graze

863 Houston Northcutt Blvd. Mt. Pleasant (843) 606-2493 grazecharleston.com

Mt. Pleasant's Graze has dabbled in Asian fare since they first opened — these days they're offering miso soup, hoison short ribs, and bulgogi-style beef deckle, although we surely miss their kim chee and pork stew— so it's no surprise to find raw fish on their menu, in this case, Spicy Tuna Tataki. Seared on the outside and sprinkled with sesame, these four hunks of beautiful tuna are served with a small pickled cucumber salad, crispy wontons, and two sauces, a "firecracker" mayo that isn't nearly as hot as you might expect and a spicy chili bean paste that should appeal to Korean food fans. —Chris Haire

Tabbuli

Downtown 6 N. Market St. (843) 628-5959 tabbuli.com

One of the true treats of life in Hawaii is knowing that no matter where you go — whether it's a fancy restaurant, a gastropub, or a sports bar — you'll find poke on the menu. What's poke, you ask? Just about the best bar food ever, like broke da mouth good, brah. Basically, poke is pretty simple. Take some ahi, chop it into cubes, toss it in a bowl, and throw in some onions, scallions, and limu (seaweed), and lightly coat the whole thing in chili sauce and shoyu (soy sauce) but be sure to maintain a light touch. While poke is a rarity on the mainland, it's even rarer in the South. Fortunately, Tabbuli offers their take on this Aloha State staple, Ahi Tuna Poke, and they do a pretty dang good job of maintaining poke's poke-ness while giving it a hip makeover. The limu may not be there, but the deep red ahi's cut into chunks, the onions are hanging out, and the whole thing has a nice peppery punch. Tabbuli adds crispy wontons to the mix as well as carrots and mangos, a move that bucks tradition but adds a nice crunch. Now, if only somebody around here would try their hand at lomi lomi salmon and Spam musubi. —Chris Haire

J.Paul'z

1739 Maybank Hwy. James Island (843) 795-6995 jpaulz.com
1405 Ben Sawyer Blvd. Mt. Pleasant (843) 884-2425

At first blush, a tapas joint seems like an odd place to find sushi. After all, tapas is Spanish, not Japanese. But the more you think about it, the more it makes sense. Tapas and sushi both offer bite-sized bites and they naturally lend to convivial, conversational eating. The folks at J.Paul'z are apparently well aware of this fact. How else do you explain their extensive sushi menu? Not surprisingly, J.Paul'z offers up the fried sushi offerings that are so popular in these parts — crispy stuff like the Island Roll (tempura-fried shrimp, avocado, cream cheese served with an aioli sauce) and the Cajun Tempura Roll (fried shrimp and asparagus, and avocado), as well the usual American faves like the Philadelphia Roll and the California Roll. —Chris Haire

Cypress

167 East Bay St. Downtown (843) 727-0111 magnolias-blossom-cypress.com

There's a reason that Cypress has kept their Sashimi Tuna and Oyster dish on their menu for going on nine years — it's insanely popular. In fact, on any given Friday or Saturday night, Chef Craig Deihl says they might go through up to 225 Beausoleil oysters, the small, salty New Brunswick variety that's the base of the dish. Shucked to order and served on the half-shell, the oyster is topped with a thin slice of sashimi tuna and then a chili garlic glaze. It's finished off with a fragrant, nasal-clearing blend of fresh pineapple juice and wasabi. "You get the flavor of the briny oyster, the creamy, fatty tuna, and the sweet and sour glaze and that spicy, sweet wasabi glaze," Deihl says. "It hits every note on the palate that you're looking for in a well-balanced dish. That's what I've learned from Japanese culture, that balance of hot, salty, sour, sweet." —Erica Jackson Curran

Fish

442 King St. Downtown (843) 722-3474 fishrestaurantcharleston.com

You can think of Fish's Tuna Tartare as an upscale tuna salad. Served as a snack or starter, the dish blends chopped bits of buttery raw tuna with chive crème fraîche, shallots, cucumber, and pepper. When eaten with the lightweight Vietnamese crackers served, there's a powerful crunch to the dish that pairs nicely with the velvety texture of the fish. —Erica Jackson Curran

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