Friday, July 22, 2011

Big Box Store Sushi

Well I've sunk to a new low I guess. I ate sushi from a big box store and lived to write this post.

Some areas of our countries call them Krogers, other's Piggly Wiggly, Food Lion, or Albertsons, but here in the midwest, our version of the big box grocery store is Hy-Vee. Our Hy-Vee store here in town has moved around several times during my lifetime and several times before that. The latest move was to build a 'super Walmart-like' store on the rubble of the small grocery store they ran out of business in a classic war tactic in an effort to demoralize their future competition because their current competition have been completely vanquished.

But as I mentioned in a post last week, it hasn't been all for naught. Along with high prices and twice as much junk prepackaged foods, there has been a slight increase in the diversity of some of the aisles I do shop in, namely the fresh meat and produce aisles. Along with that, they increased their food court area to include Chinese, Italian and sushi menus as well as their traditional American fare.

Now in my office, there is a group that goes out twice a month on our payday to eat and though I haven't been going out much with them the last couple years, I do get out a few times a year. We rotate around town on where we dine but since the new Hy-Vee store was opened, they have been eating there often. They last two times I went out with them, I ate Chinese food which as expected was incredibly bland and barely luke warm. I would almost guess that blindfolded, you would be hard pressed to even tell that it was Chinese food. The Italian food looked terrible too and the American fare looked no better. So when we pulled into that place recently for our payday lunch, I was none too excited.

I live in the middle of this country about equal distance from any ocean so the terms fresh and seafood don't really appear in the same sentence here. I buy the large majority of my seafood that I do consume frozen or if 'fresh' which most of the time means frozen and then thawed again before showing you, I cook it well. Also, I live in an area where 99% of the people think putting a pickle on a hamburger is adventuresome eating so the turnover rate of 'fresh' fish at sushi bar is probably turtle-like at best. That is why I have passed on the sushi bar until this past payday.

A line thirty feet long for Chinese food and almost that long for Italian and American foods with not a person standing at the sushi bar convinced me to rethink my feelings. I convince myself that if I ordered sushi that wasn't raw, that even if it tasted bad like the Chinese, American and Italian food would surely be, I wouldn't die or get some intestinal critters growing inside of me. What made my decision is that the sushi bar was the only food area that actually had free samples out in front. I snarfed down a California roll slice served in a little plastic sample cup (sushi shot?) and it was actually not too shabby. So I ordered an eel roll and watched them make it.

The rice and seaweed wrapper come in pre-made sheets and all they had to add was some shredded carrot, a long slice of avocado and some slices of eel that came in a plastic container that I would bet had been frozen not to long ago, perhaps even as late as that morning. They seasoned everything with a labeled shaker of spices, formed the roll, sliced it and handed it to me about five minutes after all my coworkers had already started eating their Chinese food after waiting through the 30 feet long line. Needless to say, the sushi makers weren't very fast probably from lack of experience. I've eaten at more upscale sit down sushi places that made rolls much much faster and were factors of ten times busier.

So I sat down with my coworkers already half done with their meals and started in on my eel (unagi) sushi roll and it actually was pretty decent. It didn't have the level of flavors that can be found in the urban jungle and the eel although not bad, obviously wasn't fresh from the taste. It just tasted as if it had been frozen for awhile.  It also didn't have all the ambiance or fancy plating since I was eating it in a large cafeteria next to grocery shoppers and eating it off a plastic plate with a plastic fork with a section of plastic sheet 'grass'(?) between some of the slices. But the price was certainly much much cheaper so you get what you pay for. Bottom line, I think I would pick up some sushi there again but I still don't think I buy anything truly fresh as in raw.


R. Sherman said...

My daughter had sushi from the grocery store once and pronounced it so-so. I'm not sure I'd be willing to try it without knowing how long it had been sitting around.


Ron said...

LOL - "I wouldn't die or get some intestinal critters growing inside of me."

We used to go to the super-duper Hy-vee for brats... they had various flavors and seemed to be better quality at a better price than the others.

Ed said...

R. Sherman - Though they made mine for in-house consumption, they still put it in a carryout plastic box with a label that sell by the following day. So at least at this store, there is a two day limit.

Ron - I put that line in there for you since you brought that up previously. They do have some pretty decent made brats there.

Woody said...

I love sushi! A friend, who is so-so on his appreciation for it, calls sushi a delivery system for wasabi.

I've had bad sushi on the west coast and good in Rolla MO.. Roll the dice.