A connoisseur of the subtle nuance of grocery store sushi goes highbrow for a night. It goes...great?
October 18, 2016
Let me be the first to admit: I am a Whole Foods sushi-liker. An endorser, even!
It’s tasty and doesn’t make me feel like shit after eating it for lunch. I like it so much that—even as someone who will willingly spend her limited funds on the occasional expensive meal—I can't make myself fork over $200-plus for an omakase. I see that the fish is higher quality and the servingware is handmade by Tibetan monks and the chefs are highly trained and have blowfish licenses, but grocery store sushi has filled the rice and fish void in my soul for so long I know no other way. For the record, though, I do hate California rolls, and gas station sushi maybe crosses the line.
But a few weeks ago, I went all Pretty Woman and found myself hopping the expensive sushi train for the very first time. It was a brand-new place, run by a very acclaimed sushi chef — which I know is true because I am told right away when I walk in that the "bigger a sushi chef’s knife, the more accomplished he or she is," and this chef is holding basically a katana sword and watching me. So.
The tasting menu is divided into three sections: starters (mostly non-fish), sashimi (just the fish), and sushi (fish over rice). Here are my ensuing notes from the evening, the thoroughness of which are perhaps debatable.
1. The opening bite is edamame that’s cut fancily to make it easy to pop the beans out. When you eat it, it does appear to be edamame.
2. Sashimi course consists of pieces of raw, buttery slices of fish topped with fun stuff like yuzu and chilies. I love this.
3. Turns out, freshly grated wasabi is like the ornery, DGAF grandparents of the grocery store variety. Despite all the warning signs, I pile a mountain of it (overzealous!) on top of one of my pieces of fish to prove my bravery, then singe off my nose hairs and cry horseradish tears for five minutes.
4. Soy sauce tastes the same even at fancy sushi places?!
5. By the time the sushi course rolls around, it’s hard to detect differences in the various pieces I have been presented with, as my tongue is suddenly numb from the steady drum of alcohol that has been sent my way. WHICH LEADS ME TO ASK: if enjoying the meal requires you to have all your sensory bits perfectly intact why not conduct it in a sensory deprivation tank of some sort and have someone lower the bites onto your floating face? Should I have consumed nothing but mountain spring water in mist-form to prepare? Answer = more sake?
6. Miso soup tastes the same at a high-end sushi restaurant as it does at the sushi place down the street from my apartment. Way to go sushi place down the street!
7. I am talking to my friend the entire meal, which I now think was a mistake. I think sushi is supposed to be eaten anti-socially—like those ramen places you hear about where you are not allowed to speak? I have just grabbed a piece of sushi that was in front of me and popped it into my mouth like a potato chip— note to self: perhaps not sophisticated enough to be eating fancy sushi?
8. I am still hungry, even though I have just eaten 20 small pieces of fish and many small clumps of rice. I wish for a bottomless noodle course, then curse my plebian cravings.
9. On the way back to my apartment, a Whole Foods sign catches my eye. I AM TEMPTED.