As often happens with me during the hour I shut my office door to eat a salad and read the NY Times online, an article sparked an idea for a post. This article entitled Sushi for Two brought back memories about my introduction to sushi.
Seven years ago when I first arrived in New York City, I had never tasted sushi. Not due to any particular aversion, mostly just a lack of opportunity. On my first day of work I was told that I was selected to go to the Tokyo office for a couple of weeks and that I would be leaving on in three days. I was excited for a number of reasons but sushi did not top that list. A couple of attorneys offered to take me out for my first sushi experience and then proceeded to abuse my naive willingness to try anything. We went to a small sushi bar tucked away on a side street under the towering shadow of the World Trade Center. We sat at the bar and my colleagues (whom I was trying to impress because it was only my third day on the job) proceeded to order for me. I cannot recall the names of anything I tried but I vividly remember nearly panicking when I thought one particular piece was somehow expanding in my mouth and refused to go down. I didn't have a napkin and my water glass was empty and I thought I would never make it through just chewing. Somehow I managed but I must say, I was not entirely enamored with the idea of eating it again.
Of course, as soon as I arrived in Japan sushi opportunities presented themselves over and over and I slowly began to appreciate it as I took less ambitious tastings to ease myself in. I especially loved the tiny little sushi bars with the plates of sushi that would float by in water conveyer belt fashion. Instead of ordering you simply selected what appealed to you as it floated past in a little boat. When you were done you collected your plates and paid for the stack. By my last night in Tokyo I was a pro. Another summer associate had just arrived from New York to replace me and unlike me he was a seasoned sushi eater and could not wait to try the authentic stuff. I led the way to a small sushi bar near our hotel and impressed him with the one or two phrases of Japanese I managed to pick up in my 13 days in the country (none of which I can remember now other than ichi means one). In the tiny restaurant with two bars running along the walls in an L shape and only a couple of empty tables, we stood out when we ducked under the fabric hanging in the doorway and made our entrance. I was used to this because that is what I had been doing for the last two weeks - always grateful for the photos on the menu. We sat at the bar and my companion was beaming with excitement. We began pointing and badly pronouncing the Japanese names of the fish we wanted. As our meal wore on it was clear that we had the attention of most everyone in the restaurant. Our chef began offering different types of fish for us to try (we were on an expense account and didn't worry about the cost) and the other diners waited patiently for us to dip the piece in soy sauce and after popping the whole thing in our mouths we would give an exaggerated nod of approval and the chef would smile and a murmur of approval rippled through the restaurant. The item I remember most was when the sushi chef held up an eel. I recoiled a bit and shook my head initially but upon seeing the looks of disappointment and the gestures of encouragement I agreed to try it. I not only liked, I loved it and it must have shown on my face because I vividly remember clapping. Clapping! It was an experience not to be forgotten.
This article reminded me how fun it is to sit at a sushi bar and let the chef give you an adventure in eating. I haven't done that in a long time and oddly enough the last time I did was in Salt Lake. If you want an excellent sushi experience, go to Takashi on Market Street and sit at the bar. Chef Takashi is by far the best and he is entertaining to watch and will help you expand your palate.