Anyone here like sushi?
If you can’t tell from the picture above (a picture of a sushi plate that I had once right before I dug in), I adore sushi. It is, perhaps, the only food that exists on this planet that I never stop craving. I could be saving someone from falling to their death… I will stop for sushi…
(Okay…that’s not actually true… I’ll save them.
But then I will ignore them for the sushi.)
Sushi, to me, is the greatest food in the world. Given a choice, I will choose sushi, every single time. Not given a choice, I will still choose sushi. If I could get away with it, I would live on sushi. I will even eat sushi that includes food I usually don’t like (like cucumber) when it comes as maki with salmon and avocado or something like that with the particular normally-disliked food.
Now, I didn’t always like sushi. I hated it when I first tried it as a young boy. The whole reason I grew to love sushi was envy, actually. Dad loved it. So I had to try it. I didn’t like it. Not too long after, my brother also had to try it. He loved it. For reasons I honestly could not explain now, I was a bit envious of this (Dad and bro liked it; I didn’t… I don’t really see what’s there to be envious about, but whatever… for the record, I’m the older brother [well, he’s older mentally, but I was born first… :D]). So I decided that I simply had to like sushi. I don’t remember if it was an overnight change or if it took me a little while to acquire the taste (I’m 25 now… I was probably 10 then), but it did not take long at all for sushi to become the one thing I couldn’t stop craving.
So it’s right to say that I’m quite addicted to sushi. When all else fails, sushi is where it’s at, IMO. Luckily, it’s a relatively healthy addiction to have… for the body, anyways… the wallet, not so much. And this is why I love the buffets.
Now, there’s a reason sushi buffets are generally unpopular, and that’s because sushi is a food that simply has to be eaten fresh. It could take no longer than ten minutes for some of that raw fish to turn into bait. It’s something that has to be eaten the moment it’s put in front of you. So I can understand being iffy about buffets, because, sometimes, you can’t really know how long that sushi’s been sitting out there.
There are ways around this, though. Many buffet lines at sushi buffets (mainly the more expensive ones) are cold. They place the sushi on dishes left in the freezer then placed on a bed of ice which serves as the bottom of the buffet line. The colder the sushi, the longer it’ll remain edible. On top of that, the vast majority of sushi buffets (including the ones using the ice buffets) usually have sushi chefs on the other side, refreshing the sushi constantly.
But here’s what’s great about sushi buffets: I can get myself a plate of sushi that at any non-buffet sushi restaurant would cost me as much as $100, for a measly $12 (not including drink, tax, or tip) at lunch time. I can fulfill my sushi craving for almost a full day for no more than $16 total (with drink, tax, and tip).
Now yes, there’s a sacrifice in quality, here. The sushi at a buffet with those prices is nothing like what you’d find at the restaurants, but… damnit… I like proportioning my meals myself, thank you very much! If you want me to spend $30 on a sushi boat, I demand more than 4 maki, 2 nigiri, 4 sashimi, ginger, and wasabi. That’s not a meal! That’s a fucking APPETIZER!!! I’m ordering a MEAL, here!!!!! What part of MEAL do you not understand?!?
Where was I?
Oh… right… how much I adore sushi.
So, again, while I do recognize the sacrifice in quality, and yes, I do enjoy those sushi restaurants, too (on the ridiculously rare occasions I can afford to eat at them), I love the buffets. And… you know what? The sushi really isn’t that bad! It’s a hell of a lot better than mall sushi. If you’ve never been to a true sushi buffet, mainly out of fear, then you need to remedy that. Search for one that is strictly sushi, with some basic cooked chicken, pork, steak, veggies, and such on the side; the ones that build their buffets around their sushi. Those are the buffets where you are safest. The “Asian buffets”, where they feature numerous different “Asian foods” (which we all know is basically American food drowned in soy sauce), are the ones with the lowest-quality sushi that isn’t watched very carefully. But the buffets that specialize in sushi will keep it fresh in every way possible, because they want high grades, good reviews, and returning customers.
I have developed certain ways of eating sushi that I enjoy. Only one of these is considered “bad etiquette”… I mix the “wasabi” (you’ll understand the scare quotes after reading the following paragraphs) in with the soy sauce. I do this because I like the flavor it gives to the rice when dipping. It is considered wrong because the chemicals that give wasabi its characteristic fragrance are water soluble… mixing it in soy sauce will basically ruin the fragrance.
But here’s the thing… if you are actually given real wasabi, then you aren’t at a sushi buffet; you’re at a sushi restaurant. And not just any sushi restaurant, but one where 4 nigiri might cost as much as $50 (or more); and the chopsticks you’re getting are not two sticks of wood stuck together; they’re most likely already separated and glazed/laminated pieces of art that come not in a paper wrap, but in a napkin.
The reason for this is that real wasabi is actually very hard to cultivate. It also happens to be extremely rare outside of Japan. Thus it’s ridiculously expensive. At the buffets, what you’re getting is ground up horseradish with green food coloring, mustard, and starch. There’s no need to worry about ruining any traditional fragrance there, so I’m fine with the mixing.
Here. Read about it.
Now, I have had real wasabi. Although still strong, it’s not as strong as horseradish as we know it. And no, I did not mix the wasabi with the soy. Already knowing it was real wasabi, I chose to do with it what you’re “supposed” to do, and that’s dab a little on top of your sushi (after tasting it first to see if it even needs wasabi; you’re given very little, because it’s not meant to be used that much). Actually, at that sushi restaurant (in New York; I sadly cannot remember the name… it’s been a while), you could tell by watching the other patrons that a certain etiquette was expected of you; and we (Mom, Dad, brother, and I) managed to follow it quite well even though we had never done so before.
That is actually another good thing about the buffets; you’re not expected to follow the etiquette. You are expected to basically eat like a pig; mix your pseduo-wasabi in to the soy sauce, drown your sushi (even the ones with sauce) in that mix, and enjoy it all however your little heart so desires.
I should point out that this is not necessarily a knock against the sushi restaurants like that place in New York; if I could afford to (it was expensive), I would eat there again. Even though I (criminally) cannot remember the name of the place, I do remember the sushi, and it was absolutely the best sushi I have ever had (well… so far, anyways… I’m only 25, after all). So I have no problem following the etiquette just to be able to eat at places like that; I simply have to be able to afford to, and in my situation, being able to afford to is insanely rare (very nearly unrealistic, in fact).
But sometimes, I just want a soy-(pseudo-)wasabi mix, eel sauce on the side for the eel, and a trough-full of sushi, and you really can’t get that anywhere else but the buffets.
As for concerns over buffets… I may be cursing myself here, but despite my love of sushi, I’ve never gotten food poisoning. This may partly be because my love of raw food extends beyond fish… I like tartare, raw eggs, cookie dough, brownie batter, bread dough (well… sometimes), pancake/waffle batter, etc (for the record: don’t think I actually eat dough and batter in place of the cooked food; I don’t… but I love taking little tastes and stuff… except for cookie dough… I like that better than cooked cookies :D). So I’m no stranger to raw food. I think my system honestly can just handle it… which is awesome, because I’ll never stop eating sushi…
But if you’ve never tried a buffet, then I think you should. Just make sure you do your homework and choose the right one, and you might actually find yourself enjoying sushi you never thought you’d enjoy. Not all buffets are made the same, and with a little homework, you can enjoy perfectly fine-quality sushi, avoid the salmonella, and fill yourself up with as much of that sushi as you want.
And don’t you dare forget the salad with ginger dressing and miso soup. They round out the experience quite nicely…
For the record, I do like seared ahi tuna… though it’s not really necessary to say because, technically, that is sushi, so…
Now I want sushi…