16 January, 2022, 18:41

IOU Sushi IV: Polynesian Flavors, All-You-Can-Eat Indulgence

In the sea of all-you-can-eat sushi, IOU Sushi IV is a tasty island.

Situated in a shopping center on Oracle Road near Limberlost Drive, IOU Sushi IV will never be accused of ostentation. In fact, you’ll be hard-pressed to see it while driving along Oracle Road.

Rather, the tucked-away, 53-seat restaurant is a place you’ll visit on purpose.

The team crafts an ocean of expertly made-to-order rolls, nigiri, temaki and maki – many with an island twist.

According to the well-versed server, Ian, IOU means “good” in Japanese and is pronounced “yo.” (Editor’s note: On the IOU Facebook page, it means, “delicious, tasty, sweet.” A brief Google search turned up the translation “sulphur.”)

That explains the $6.25 IOU-asis (“yo-asis”), a tropical layered drink of grenadine, pineapple rum and blue curacao.

Before you even pick up the chopsticks, $2 Shock Top and Bud Lights will tempt you to spend a lazy day watching the game on one of the restaurant’s flat-screen televisions. IOU Sushi IV also offers Barrio Brewing Co. Citrazona IPA, Kirin beer, and margaritas for $4.

IOU Sushi IV (Credit: Taylor Noel Photography)

IOU Sushi IV spread (Credit: Taylor Noel Photography)

The cheery décor includes Rothko-esque red-and-cream painted walls and a mix of booths and tables. About a dozen chairs surround the sushi bar, and photos of sushi dot the walls.

Besides IOU’s expansive sushi menu, other offerings include appetizers and a handful of lunch and dinner entrees, including chicken or shrimp katsu ($8.99-$9.99) and a beef, chicken, salmon, shrimp or combination teriyaki rice bowl or plate ($7.99-$12.99).

But let’s not kid ourselves: We’re here for the all-you-can-eat sushi. At $18.99 for lunch and $25.99 for dinner, the prices are a steal. You can order the sushi at a la cart prices, but after doing the math, you’ll see the folly in not indulging.

Unlike many sushi restaurants, IOU Sushi IV does not impose time limits on diners. Obviously, guests can’t load up on sushi to go after eating their fill, but the restaurant doesn’t follow a hard line when it comes to policing. In other words, they want you to be happy.

Guests can choose from a couple dozen nigiri, which includes tobiko, green mussels, octopus, and tuna. The seared tuna especially delighted the taste buds.

But it was the tempura upside down shrimp that really wowed. Two oversized shrimp nigiri with green onions were slathered with sriracha and IOU’s house sweet sauce. The mix of sweet from the sauce, a tiny kick from the sriracha and the crispy tempura made us want to order seconds and thirds.

Nan Madol Roll and Upside Down Shrimp at IOU Sushi IV (Credit: Taylor Noel Photography)

Nan Madol Roll and Upside Down Shrimp at IOU Sushi IV (Credit: Taylor Noel Photography)

And while we could have done that, we would have missed out on the IOU Roll, an eight-piece roll stuffed with cream cheese, salmon and jalapeños. The sweet sauce balanced out any spiciness in the roll, and sesame seeds sprinkled on top provided a satisfying crunch.

The teriyaki chicken roll came out looking like a green, 7-inch caterpillar. The green covering was thinly sliced avocados, and the roll included white meat, julienned cucumbers and sweet sauce.

If you’re still stumped on what to order after reading IOU’s relatively thorough menu descriptions, the affable and well-versed servers are more than happy to explain the menu and offer recommendations. The kids’ menu – not on the all-you-can-eat – includes $4.49 for an ants on a log roll (celery, cream cheese and raisins in a soy wrap) and a $3.49 PBJ roll.

For an additional $10.99, other offerings are available from the a la cart menu, including olo nigiri sushi, which is a two-piece seared tuna with crab and avocado, green onion and sweet sauce. It will take multiple visits to do the regular menu justice, so we’re holding off on that addition for now.

Jalapeño Bomb at IOU Sushi IV (Credit: Taylor Noel Photography)

Jalapeño Bomb at IOU Sushi IV (Credit: Taylor Noel Photography)

IOU Sushi IV opened at the end of January and is owned by Rocky Holden of Boise, Idaho. Tucson is the fourth IOU Sushi for Holden, and a fifth is slated to open in Killeen, Texas.

Tucson’s outpost is run by Holden’s cousin, Gerner Poll. He is one of six employees in Tucson that helps make IOU a memorable experience for diners.

IOU Sushi IV is located at 4280 N. Oracle Rd., Ste 180 and can be reached at (520) 887-3967. Keep up with IOU Sushi IV on Facebook.

Valerie Vinyard has written for newspapers and magazines for over 20 years, including a stint as a food writer and critic for the Arizona Daily Star. The Cleveland native has lived in Tucson more than 15 years, and still dines out daily.