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My Visit to Ushi Wakamaru

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My Visit to Ushi Wakamaru

big o | Jul 4, 2005 02:45 AM

I was really up for sushi on Saturday, and decided that the ten-minute walk to Ushi Wakamaru was finally going to have to be undertaken. Though I've been enjoying sushi for a long time now (from the supermarket variety to meals at mid-level establishments), I had yet to take a good chunk of money and pony up to a bar being run by an notable chef. All I've read on these boards lead me to believe that Ushi was going to be a good place to bust that particular cherry.

Being a Saturday night, my plan was to arrive as they opened at 6 and hope they weren't booked up. However, due to an extended stay in my neighborhood hair-cuttery (where I get to be the only person around who prefers the company of women), I didn't arrive until 7. There was one seat left at the bar, which, sadly, was all the way at the far end. I took it, which put me away from the action I was hoping to witness up close, but, no big deal. Despite being out in the boonies, and the only non-Asian in the entire restaurant, I was still treated notably well by all involved in my meal.

Wishing that I had skipped lunch, I jumped into the $70 chef's-choice meal, rather than the $100 offering. I also ordered some sake -- "Oto..." something. It was the one billed as dry. Very nice stuff, which was presented in an according manner.

Dishes began arriving without much of a delay and, at the start, I thought they were trying to get my white ass out the door as soon as possible. My first three dishes were on the table at the same time -- raw tako (octopus) served with some salt and pepper, a small plate of cooked hamo (pike eel), and a greens-in-spring-water-with-mountain-potato dish that was interesting in both flavor and texture (read: sliminess). I enjoyed everything in that first round, and my excitement was raising by the second at the prospect of a meal filled with these great tastes that I'd never sampled before, either at all or simply at such high quality.

Incidentally, I missed a lot of the Japanese names for these dishes (and, in some cases, the English ones as well). Anyone who has partaken in similar meals before, and could fill in the blanks, would have my appreciation.

The pace did slow down at that point, and I believe the next two dishes up were a sashimi trio and a flaming shell containing little bits of meat in a sizzling liquid. After some research, I'm leaning towards sazae (giant snail) as the combusting shell. The sashimi included sliced-up ebi (sweet shrimp -- which was one of the best offerings of the night), and two others I can't securely place. One looked like mackerel, though tasted milder than what I've had in the past. It was served with a side-plate of fresh ginger and scallions, which I was told by the younger sushi chef was specifically for the mackerel-ish fish. The third item was comprised of large, square, pinkish slices that I at least feel confident in saying weren't tuna. That's as good as I can do, however. They were of a more firm texture than most uncooked fish and had a distinct flavor that I couldn't place. Any ideas?

The cutest damn things ever were served next: tiny little hard-shelled crabs that I'd have wanted to play with had they not been previously killed and prepped for my ingestion. A quick search has left me with the term sawagani as a potential name for these guys. They were delicious and kinda fun to eat.

A small, whole fish came out next, served with a bowl of green, liquidy dipping sauce. It had a bit of a salt-crust going for it and was extremely tasty (as was the sauce). I'm completely clueless about the name, and equally clueless about what the acceptable means of consumption were for that guy. Just from a quick touch, my fingers got dirty enough to leave me thinking that hands-on wasn't the way to go about things, but that fish was a pain to tear apart with my chopsticks. I had felt confident in my sushi etiquette up to that point in the meal, and found myself waiting for the waitresses (who hung out in my area) to go off on some business before I would attack the fish. What's the usual method there?

Sushi was up next, and I was well ready and quite excited about it. I was first presented with a board containing seven or eight pieces: fluke, ebi, amberjack, kinda-fatty tuna, fatty tuna, and crap-I-with-I-could-remember-the-rest. They were wonderful, as fresh as I've ever had. A second plate came out with uni, ikura, unagi, and tamago. They were equally wonderful. The salmon roe in particular was much better than I'd ever had before. And, I've gone a long time before realizing how good the omeletes are in sushi restaurants, but the last few I've had will pretty much guarantee orders during nearly all future sushi meals.

Miso soup (concealing a big-eyed shrimp head) rounded out the main meal. I closed out with the mochi with red bean sauce, which was a great way to end.

The six cooked dishes, sushi/sashimi offerings, and dessert (all covered under the $70 tag) plus a $20 bottle of sake took me to just under $100 for the meal. I tossed in a notable tip, in the hopes that... well, that it'll be notable. I plan to return in the near future.

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