Tagged: sushi

The Spurious Sushi Exclusion Zone

I try not to be too much of a food snob but there are a few things that just sort of make me nervous for no good reason, and having sushi far from the open sea is one of them.  This is bogus for any number of reasons, most notably that a great deal of all restaurant sushi even in Japan is frozen at some point – either at sea, right on the fishing boat, or later on for the purpose of shipping or killing parasites.  (If you need a citation on that, check the NYT, and especially note the quick list at the end of what’s usually frozen and what’s usually fresh.) Nonetheless I maintain a Spurious Sushi Exclusion Zone of about 100 miles beyond which distance from open water I am loath to order sushi.

Naturally, once you’ve created an admittedly pointless geographic entity, at least if you’re me, the next step would be to map it.  Sure, it’s usually pretty easy to know if you’re near the ocean or not, and pretty easy to measure on a map to any given place.  But where can I get a map of everyplace that’s more than 100 miles from the ocean?  Sadly, I came up empty, but along the way, I noted this map of the coastline as altered by rising sea levels of various magnitudes.  Limeduck world HQ seems safe to +13 meters, more if I’m willing to commute by canoe directly from the window.

Naturally, this level of flooding would only push the SSEZ deeper inland.

Another note on this topic is that by my rule, there is nowhere in all of Japan where I would not order sushi, because  in Japan the farthest from the sea you can get is only 120km (~75mi), in Maebashi.  This leads me to consider reducing the SSEZ to 120 km.  Because I need the greatest precision in my bogus heuristics.

Gastronavistalgia in New York City

Where’s my flux capacitor when I need it? We all live in the past to some extent, but a recent episode of dining in New York City with Professor N reaffirmed that we sometimes eat in the past too.

First, we decided on the basis of a review in New York Magazine to dine at Mainland, a Chinese place on the upper east side. Knowing that the NYC restaurant scene can be turbulent, I called for a reservation. A woman with a thick accent in a noisy room picked up the phone and took my details. When we showed up at the address, there was no sign of Mainland. Instead of a hot and loud chinese place, there was a cool and louder Italian one, Accademia di Vino. Same address, same phone number. Oops.

Consulting our mobile internets, we decided to check out a nearby sushi place called Sushihatsu. We arrived there and proceeded to read the New York Times review by Eric Asimov posted in the window, which began,

LIKE traffic at rush hour, decent sushi is no surprise. It’s there and you accept it. Great sushi is another matter, as rare as a memorable turkey on Thanksgiving. When you find it you treasure it, which is why I was so sad to learn earlier this year that Sushihatsu had closed.

Closed?? But we’re right here reading the review! Despite the fact that Asimov devotes easily 30% of his review to the former establishment, the place is now in fact Sushi Seki and is declared a worthy successor. We entered, dined and enjoyed ourselves, especially the horse mackerel and seared salmon.  Also pictured, soft shell crab maki and pickle maki.

Sushi Seki

Later on in the week, we have a craving for thin-crust pizza and get a tip to try Company in Chelsea. Despite the trendy overlay, the place is said to have a 900-degree oven, and that bodes well for thin-crust pizza.

True to its hip Chelsea vibe, we were assigned a pretty waiter who is bored with our existence and petty ordering. After three tries, we got a nice housemade lemon soda and eventually a classic Margherita and something called the Popeye which is a bianco style pizza with generous spinach on it. As advertised, the crusts are ultra-thin and very crisp.

So crisp, in fact, that a diner at a neighboring table sent back part of her pizza because it was burnt. Sensing the eyes of fellow diners upon her, she protested a bit too loudly, “what? It’s carcinogenic!” which does little to impress our waiter. The customer is always right, but honestly, I think the charred bits are part of the fun with thin crust pizza, especially in a wood-fired oven. (and, I’m pretty sure the cancer risk is very low for meat char (see myth #4) and zero for vegetarian char)

When Prof. N returned home and regales his sister with the story of our rude waiter, she replies with, “oh, you should have gone to Accademia di Vino, they have great pizza.”

Porter ExChanges

I ventured out at Lunch today for several reasons, not least among them to get some spring air.  And some lunch.  The destination: Porter Exchange.  The observations: several…

Kotobukiya Sushi Bar is doing great.  I had a very nice crunchy spicy salmon roll.

Kotobukiya Market is closing on May 10.  I wish it were otherwise, but it’s happening.  Word on the street is that Leslie University wants more space. The shelves are already starting to look a little picked over.  I bought the last box of Crunky biscuits.


The mall giveth, the mall taketh away.

Not too long ago, the Art Institute of Boston (AIB) opened the AIB Gallery at University Hall inside the Porter Exchange.  I had noticed a show of four photographers – John Arsenault, Janieta Eyre, Darren Miller and Lissa Rivera – curated by Arlette Kayafas and Andrew Mroczek a few weeks ago but it closed last week.

This week, there’s a bachelors thesis show up in that space.  The four young photographers are Jon Bakos, Dan Caridi, Neil Contractor and Shane Godfrey.  The next show, The Deceptive Narrative, curated by Andrew Mroczek, will open May 7 with work by Naoe Suzuki, Christine Murphy and Andrew Brandou.

Change is the only constant, but the Porter Exchange remains a bright spot in Porter Square.

Super big sushi, huge size never seen

I didn’t notice the slogan on the menu until most of the way through the meal at Super Fusion Cuisine in Brookline.  It proclaimed proudly if oddly, “First time ever in Boston.  Super big sushi, huge size never seen.”  I kinda like the sound of that, although I’m not sure how much size matters with sushi.

Super Fusion Cuisine is a theoretically pan-Asian or Asian fusion joint (seating for 12, indicate your choices on the laminated menu with a dry-erase marker) at 690 Washington street in Brookline, but for all practical purposes, it’s a sushi place, and a well-regarded one, too.  They do a brisk business in carryout and we hit a 30 minute wait at 7:30 on a (holiday weekend) Monday.

We started off with Asparagus Oshitashi, a Jenga-style tower of chilled boiled asparagus with a peculiar sesame miso sauce and curly fried onions on top.  I was thinking that it should have had seaweed in it, and perhaps a different sauce.

When the nigiri arrived, I remarked on their size, not yet having noted that it was a point of pride here.  Hamachi was bright pink and ice cold, possibly still a bit frozen.  Sort of a shock, but tasty still after defrosting dunk in the soy sauce.  Saba – a definite favorite of mine – was room temperature and tasty.  Each portion of fish dwarfed its rice ball and was nearly impossible to take in a single bite.  The size, especially the thickness, of the fish slices was a little off-putting, lending a steaky texture, but a great deal at $5-6 for two slabs.

From the maki menu, we chose the Brookline maki – eel tempura with cucumber maki topped with torched white tuna, tobiko, unagi sauce and spicy mayo – and the Washington maki – sweet potato, tobiko, spicy snow crab with avocado on top.  Both were excellent, but the Brookline was a standout with a great combination of soft eel, crunchy tempura and firm white tuna.  I was skeptical about the dual sauces, but they won me over.

Trying to teach Twitter at Minado

I met up with some good folks I used to work with for our quasi-monthly “fest.” We chose Minado, an all-you-can-eat sushi and buffet joint in Natick across the street from the shiny new mall that’s too cool to call itself a mall, the Natick Collection. I’m told it’s breathtaking.

Clockwise from lower left: edamame and spicy seaweed salad, tuna tataki, spicy tuna roll, red rice veggie roll, salmon skin roll, tuna roll with scallions, octopus, stuffed mushroom, crab noodle cake. This was my first plate.

The sushi at Minado isn’t really all that grand, but it is reliably ok and individual types can be really good. And there’s a full hot buffet as well. For $40 each, we enjoyed all we could eat plus a drink, tax and tip. I suppose for the same money, you could have a single truffle hamachi maki with a drink, tax and tip at Oishii Boston, but you’d still be pretty hungry. But anyway, I was there for the company.

The conversation turned, as it often does, to social media stuff, as the assembled crowd had for a brief moment in history all worked together in the same marketing team. We compared Facebook notes (L is pretty into it for work, R finds old summer camp buddies there, H and J seem to be staying on the sidelines) and then everybody turned to (on?) me and asked, what’s the deal with Twitter?

I’ve tried to explain Twitter before and I generally fall back on “you just have to try it.” Like the matrix, no one can be told what it is. But I think I’m getting better at my answer now that after many moons of twitter-skepticism, I’m a heavy user and mildly bullish on the whole twitterverse. Here’s my new take:

If you just join Twitter and just start tweeting what’s on your mind, you’ll get bored quick unless you’re extremely self-absorbed. But if you find a micro-community of like-minded, or at least interesting and interested, micro-bloggers, and follow them and get followed — you’ll find yourself in a conversation of sorts. People tweet what they’re doing right now, but that’s not as interesting as when somebody tweets a question or breaks some news or reports on an event in progress, and people comment, reply, opine, and commiserate. And that can be interesting.

It could still be a giant load of hooey, of course. Constant partial attention, too many channels for too little information, tweetspam, the works. So far one of my dining companions has tweeted up and followed me. I hope I haven’t led her too far astray. At least I didn’t try to turn her on to Plurk.

One more social media note before we get back to the food. During the discussion I reeled off a list of social networking, social bookmarking, and other random web 2.0 type sites that I’ve joined recently. The overwhelming response was, good grief, why? Why indeed would I sign up for Gather, for example, when I already have LinkedIn and Facebook? For me, the answer is simple – invest a little energy in signing up and exploring because you don’t know what’s going to get big next, and you don’t want your favorite handle poached. A small investment of time for future brand security. (Speaking of personal branding, let me tell you – and google – that DougH means Doug Haslam – get a hundred more like that and you’re golden)

Now, dessert!

Green tea ice cream, chocolate cake, green jell-o. Why jell-o? It makes me laugh. That ice-cube-sized portion is about all the jell-o I’ll eat in a sitting. I boycotted the crepe station for its lack of nutella, but I’m told it was quite nice.

We’d been talking good trash about how many kappa maki we could eat (I think L’s record at a prior outing was 42) but the downside of such great company and conversation is that we talked more than we ate and were more or less thrown out of the place at closing time.

This reminded me of a great lesson via the excellent Presentation Zen blog. (really, it’s excellent, I even bought the book) Hara Hachi Bu means “eat until 80% full” and is a maxim that keeps Okinawans trim and long-lived. Garr links this idea to presentations, and by extension to business meetings and conferences, which are as chronically overstuffed as typical Americans at buffets and in front of televisions. Maybe this restraint will eventually save us from the flood of wannabe social media sites all doing the same thing or the deluge of pointless Facebook apps. We can dream, right?

Update: as of this writing, I’m in a game of Facebook Scrabulous with three of my four dining companions. It’s R’s turn, what’s taking him so long??

Snappy Sushi comes to Davis Square

Although its grand opening might have been obscured by nearby Chipotle’s free burrito day promotion on Thursday, Snappy Sushi is a welcome addition to the Davis Square dining scene.  Especially the lunch scene.  The intrepid FG marketing group set out to investigate.

Nice clean space, sage green and blond wood.  Unusually, there is just one big table and a small sushi bar.  It’s a nicer table than we have in the big conference room at the office, and might even seat more.   I forsee many meetings here.  The menu is compact and more or less all sushi; no hot food to speak of.

Left:  cucumber roll, saba, yellowtail and salmon. Center: california roll and something I forgot.  Right: lunch box special – eel roll, avocado roll, shrimp, white fish, salmon and tuna.  Note that all of the above are prepared on brown rice.  If you’re the sort of person who gets excited about brown rice kappa maki (and you know who you are), you should check out the closeup:

Everything was carefully prepared and tasty.  The staff were extraordinarily pleasant and polite, a big step up from the general run of Davis square service.  Prices were good, even a little low.  I hope they make a good go of it.  Next time we’ll have to try the fancy rolls.  I can’t find a website for this place, but it’s on Highland Ave a couple of doors past Blue Shirt.  Here’s another good review.