Monday, September 28, 2009

But that fish isn't cooked!

Having been raised in a very rural part of southeast Iowa, we didn't eat out often due to the distances involved. Our county to this day doesn't have a fast food restaurant (nor a stoplight) and most of the sit down places served only sandwiches and fish dinners on Fridays. If we were really celebrating, we drove 30 miles to the next county to eat at the Pizza Hut.

When I went to college, I sought to expand my horizons but due to my lack of money, this mostly meant eating at all you can eat Chinese buffets. I remember the one time I went out to something outside my culinary horizon and that was a Thai restaurant with a buffet, not much different than the Chinese one.

To quote George Thorogood once I "got a real job", along with some money, I gradually started breaking away those barriers. So when a coworker who didn't like to eat alone asked me to join her at a sushi restaurant in downtown Minneapolis, I accepted. I tried just about anything given to me that night but only remembered two things, that octopus is tough and chewy and that eel (unagi) is outstanding. That was over a decade ago.

My wife and her colleagues were planning an outing to a local sushi restaurant named Miyabi 9 here in the Urban Jungle and she finagled a way for me to join them. Everything looked worthy of trying but I knew that it would be physically impossible so in the end, we ended up ordering a sampler platter of a variety of different sushi and a side order of unagi (eel) because of my decade old memories. We weren't disappointed.

The platter included raw tuna, raw yellowfin, raw salmon, shrimp and one eel slice which is why I ordered more. Besides the eel, all the other fish was new to me and not what I would expect. I would expect something that it a little chewy and fishy tasting. It is fish after all. However, what they serve you is a cold slice of fish, wrapped around a small spoonful of warm rice and melts like butter in your mouth. It in fact had little taste to it which is why I think they added quite a bit of wasabi to it, so much so that I had to eat most of it since my wife couldn't deal with the heat. I did so with pleasure. The only thing I can't comment on was the shrimp which Little Abbey ate.

Also included in the sample platter was some caviar, also new to me. It too wasn't at all like I expected. I expected something salty and rich. Instead it was really light, slightly sweet and just exploded with little balls of flavor inside my mouth. I could have ate a lot more of it but I suppose due to the price, all we got were a couple tablespoons worth on our platter. The unagi is a very tender meat with a smoky flavored sauce that it has been marinated in. Finally, we had a probably a dozen and a half sushi rolls of various flavors all wrapped in sticky rice and seaweed. All were little pleasures easily popped into ones mouth with the chopsticks.

Included with our sampler platter was a bowl of miso soup which to me was a smoky, slightly earthy tasting broth that was quite good along with a house salad which to me was nothing special. Little Abbey tasted the Japanese version of lightly fried chicken from someone elses plate and loved it so we had to get her an order since besides the shrimp, she couldn't eat anything else due to the wasabi or just wouldn't try it.

The restaurant was small, enough that our group of eight took up almost a third of the seats and it was a really hopping place for a Monday night. But after eating there, I can see why. The food was outstanding and the service was excellent. Although it was pricey compared to what I am used to paying in rural Iowa, $50 was our bill, it certainly was a lot cheaper than most of the other sushi places around. My first sushi experience up in Minnesota set me back over $50 for just five or six pieces of sushi for one person! It will definitely be on our list of places to entertain people in the future. I'm already working on my parents.


geri said...

This post made me hungry. I love Japanese food! In Chicago there is a Japanese buffet for $25 named Todai, which is really good. I could stay inside and eat the whole day.

R. Sherman said...

I'm afraid I've never acquired an appreciation for sushi, try as I might. My daughter loves the stuff, though, which necessitates frequent trips to St. Louis for her.


Ed said...

Geri - I'll have to remember that the next time I'm in town.

R. Sherman - I've become an addict which is probably why it is good that the nearest one is 150 miles away!

Edelweiss Transplanted said...

OK, I'm going to have to go have some sushi after reading this. I envy you getting out of there with a bill of only $50 for all that yummy stuff! I hate to think what it would cost here.

Murf said...

You know, there is a reason for the discovery of fire. ;-)

Ed said...

Edelweiss - I'm guessing it is closer to my first experience when it was $50 per person. That took place in Minneapolis.

Murf - Creating cancer causing carcinogens? ;)

sage said...

Yellowfin tuna... I'm hungry.

In the book "Roy Blount's Book of Southern Humor," Blout has one of his own stories, titled "I Don't Eat Dirt Personally" In it he tells about how sushi came about...

"You know how sushi got started, don't you? Some Tokyo marketing people were sitting around thinking how they could create a whole new American market, and one of them said, 'Restaurants.'

And another one said, 'Okay. What would these restaurants serve?'

'Oh, fish."

'And what would be the most cost effective way of cooking it?' asked another.

And the eyes of another one lit up, and he said, 'You konw what we could do...?'"

Woody said...

I'm so jones'n for sushi now. Thanks Ed

Beau said...

Oh yum! It took living in Japan for me to really love sushi... especially the tuna (maguro). It's hard to explain how enjoyable it is, and I'd love to visit the restaurant you described! Strange that I never enjoyed the eel (or sea urchin- Uni) as much as the other varieties. My then two-year old loved the fried squid and rolls.

Murf said...

Alright...change fire to 'electricity' and the creation of a stove. :-)

Ed said...

Sage - I never been to Japan outside of their fine airport so I can't verify it but it wouldn't surprise me. We Americans are a gullible lot.

Woody - Just reporting for humanity.

Beau - I've never enjoyed calamari for some reason. I think it is just all those tentacles.

Murf - Alright, you have me there. Electricity is mostly created by ozone depleting coal or nuclear fuel that lives on forever.

TC said...

I don't like sushi. I'm a big fan of things being cooked for some reason. I've tried a couple of things, but they just don't do well for me.

I've had octopus cooked before: it's still tough and chewy.

Vince said...

I lived in London from the mid 80's to the mid 90's. Where I had my first Pizza, Quarterpounder and most of everything else. Except Japanese food. Remember the boom, it priced Sushi well outside the pocket. And by the time Sushi became ethnic again rather than expensive, I was reading at NUI,Galway. Nowadays, I would love to know how to scale a fish, or figure out how to make a chowder without the cream or the flour.

Murf said...

I'm fine with that. I heart electricity.

Eutychus2 said...

My son and oldest daughter like sushi a lot. My daughter taught me to like barely cooked tuna, and now I get it when I can. Though I'm not big on sushi, I'm going to try that eel. I like fried squid and mussels, so thanks for encouraging me to stretch my taste buds.

Ed said...

TC - Raw octopus isn't any better in my opinion.

Vince - Making a good chowder is high on my lists of things to learn someday too.

Eutychus2 - This will seem like a cliche but if you like barbequed chicken with a smoky flavor, you will like unagi/eel. Thanks for dropping by.