First Bites: A look at Eight, Bakersfield

Two new spots, in the NC Music Factory complex and in Dilworth, zero in on what’s been missing – and what hasn’t been.

Eight Sushi Asian Kitchen adds sushi and an Asian melange to the Factory space. It’s part-sibling to next-door Osso and across-the-lot Texicali, as well as uptown Blue, all run by restaurateur Alex Myrick and chef Gene Briggs. At Eight, Label club owners Lisa Bennett and Robert Ortez are also owners.

The food: Here, Briggs offers an eclectic lineup. Complimentary (and nicely seasoned) edamame hummus arrived with shrimp chips, and what the menu offers as “dim sum,” more accurately described as appetizers by our server, ranges from a tasty and unconventional version of char siu bao (here, moist pork arrives slider-like, on actual bread buns, rather than the traditional fluffy steamed form, and garnished more like a banh mi) to miso soup to Korean-style beef skewers with pearl onions and mushrooms. A few salads (including a dismally tepid som tam, a green papaya salad that should be spicy, if nothing else) share a page with a handful of entrees, including pad thai, yaki udon with sirloin, whole fried snapper and General Tso’s Sweet Potatoes. That’s the entree for vegetarians, and ours was mushy but interesting.

The rest of the menu is a mix of classic sushi and sashimi plus maki (rolls, in classic and “signature” forms). Much of the higher-end stuff – toro, for instance – isn’t on hand yet, as the place waits for business to build, explained our server. Ours were a mixed bag: good salmon, lackluster tamago (egg), disappointingly textured striped bass, sweet shrimp without the delightful fried heads that usually accompany them. One roll was unevenly seared – odd in itself, but especially odd since the menu mentioned nothing about it being a cooked roll. Best from this area was a fine plate of sliced tuna served with avocado and a daikon slaw, dubbed “T & A Sashimi Salad.” Get it?

The look: The long, lean corridor of a space wows with some cool color and light, and art that’s part graphic-novel, part graffiti, by John Hairston, and Matt Moore and Matt Hooker.

The service: Ours was attentive and sharp, from explaining the sake service (you get an “overpour” into a masu, or wooden box, symbolizing prosperity; sip from the small glass, then drink the overage from the box) to attending to details.

The details: Sushi rolls about $6-$17; entrees about $13-$27; 1000 NC Music Factory Blvd.; 704-900-6147; www.eightcharlotte.com.

Bakersfield, on the other hand, is a taco place, going into a former taco place, across the street and down a couple of blocks from two taco places. Dilworth’s not going begging in the corn chip department.

The food: Several of these tacos are pretty good. The cochinita pibil is pork with pickled red onion, and if the habanero salsa doesn’t crank up the heat enough, it’s still got more guts than most, which a braised short rib taco adds queso fresco and some crema for a silkier experience. Mole was pale in flavors, but pollo rojo had a nice smoky edge, and vegetarians have an interesting option: huitlacoche, and a mushroomy kind of “corn truffle” (aka corn fungus), served with roasted poblano, corn, cotija cheese and onion. Chips are the thin sort, though too greasy, and salsa has a little punch. The beer list offers rotating taps, along with more than a dozen craft brews in bottles and cans, and yes, there are margaritas, by the glass or pitcher.

The look: This chain out of Ohio put some time and money into this, and it’s a wood-dominated look designed for crowds, with plenty of bar-height seats and places to stand with a drink. Stripped-down bulb pendant lighting and a garage-door window/wall brighten it, but if you liked the islandy Longboards murals, you’re out of luck.

The service: Ours was a little distracted, but cordial and cheerful. I’ll count parking as part of service, and parking can be a mess. Good luck on street parking. After 5:30 p.m., you can park at the tiny Berrybrook lot across the street. Complimentary valet starts at 6 p.m. (except when it doesn’t, as on our visit). After 7, you can park across East Boulevard in the Dilworth Drug lot. If valets are there, definitely go with that.

The details: Tacos $3-$4, salads and sandwiches $6-$9; 1301 East Blvd.; 980-938-8565; www.facebook.com/BakersfieldEastBlvd