Tuesday, October 4, 2011

no longer a sushi virgin.

my stomach dropped when i opened a text message from my good friend taylor today.

"how do you feel about an adventure to get sushi tonight?"

my thoughts: heck to the no! the only sushi i ever had was in high school in my culinary class and it came in a package from the grocery store. i remember it tasting like the smell of my pool after we didn't clean it for a while. imitation crab meat, slimy cucumber, rubbery carrot, not enough rice. all wrapped in the leaf of a plant that grows at the bottom of the ocean. probably not the best first sushi experience.

my text back: "oh snap."

so the plan was made. she had been to this sushi place in eau claire before and had loved it, so naturally, i decided it couldn't be that bad. after all, taylor and i rarely disagree on things, especially when it comes to quality restaurants. and let me tell you, this place was better than quality. there wasn't a name on the building and was definitely giving off a sketchy vibe, but when i walked in, i knew they had to be good. it was right around 5:15 when we got there and there was a little line to be seated so clearly people knew about this sign-less restaurant. it's called shanghai bistro, if you're curious, menomonites :)

after being handed a lengthy menu, taylor was already telling me what she normally gets and how it's so good and how there's no seaweed and how much i'm going to love it and everything else. all the while i'm just hoping i can put some down to (a) say that i did it and (b) not feel like such a loser for not liking sushi for the first 21 years of my life. we decided to get some appetizers since there was a sign in the front that says they were voted best appetizer in eau claire and because we were hungry and clearly couldn't wait patiently like other restaurant-goers for our actual meals to come. she said that the egg rolls were really good, so we went with those for an appetizer. 

but they were only $3 so we figured we could splurge and get another app. my turn to feel like i knew something about this kind of food. i saw edamame on the appetizer list and convinced her to try it. i told her i've had it before at an italian place in the twin cities and it was so good.

"you had edamame at an italian place?"
"yeah, when you say it like that, it doesn't really make any sense."
"what kind of italian place is that?"
"i don't know, it came as a side to potstickers."
"they had potstickers too?"
"ok, yeah i don't know. it's called a pasta bar, so maybe i just assumed it was italian."

ok so we made up our minds about the appetizers. now we just had to figure out what kind of sushi we were gonna get. she already had her two favorites picked out so we decided we would just share both kinds. perfect. hopefully i'll like one of them at least. our waitress only had to ask us like 4 times if we were ready to order :)

not long after we ordered, out came out appetizers. i got so excited i took a bite and then remembered i brought my camera. whoops.

served with sweet and sour sauce and some kind of "very spicy mustard." i was fore-warned and therefore steered clear. wasabi and i don't get along so i guess i just made all other "spicy" japanese condiments guilty by association. i was peer pressured to try wasabi and regretted it so i wasn't about to do that again. call me a wimp, i don't care. the egg roll was fabulous. cruncy cabbage, deliciously crispy and got even better with the sweet and sour sauce. perfection.

the amount of edamame we got for $4 made my day. a nice big bowl of pea pod look-alikes steamed and then tossed in salt. fresh and bright green and so great.

the first time i got edamame at that "italian" place, they asked if we had ever had it before. neither me nor the person i was with had ever had it so they explained that you do not eat the pod... just the little soybeans found inside. you kinda squeeze it til it pops open and then eat the goodness that is edamame.

like so...

however, during my first edamame experience, being the foodie i am, curiousity took over. i mentioned to the equally as curious person i was dining with that i wanted to eat the whole thing just because they told us not too. like the rebellious 5-year-old who wants to play in the mud in their church dress just because mom warned you not to, i simply wanted to see how bad it could be. let's just say i didn't try it this time around. i think i related it to eating the shell of a peanut or the shell of a sunflower seed. you're not really supposed to, but you know you do every once in a while.

after polishing off both the egg rolls and the healthy portion of edamame, our two kinds of sushi were brought out. my sushi na├»vety was pretty much telling me that it was gonna be like 6 little pieces laid down flat looking kind of eerie and plain.

if you're thinking my reaction was something like a jaw-dropping-gasping-for-air-flailing-my-arms-around-bouncing-up-and-down-in-the-booth you would be ridiculous. please people, i can control myself in public. but i was kinda freaking out at how totally beautiful they looked.

the above picture was our godzilla roll. it wasn't on the menu but apparently if you request it they'll do it for ya. fortunately, taylor was all over that. unfortunately, we had no idea what it was besides that we got the option of shrimp or crab. we picked shrimp. it was rolled up with some avocado and then topped with albacore tuna and its white toro (after a google search, it's the fatty underbelly of tuna). then drizzled with some soy sauce and spicy mayo.

basically what i'm telling you is that i have been converted. i'm a sushi lover.

our other kind was called the extreme philly roll. with a name like that i assumed it was going to have mushrooms, peppers, onions, cheese, i don't know something that has anything to do with a philly? but no. it was rolled with salmon, avocado and cream cheese, then tempura battered and fried. crispy crunch on the outside and the creamy center satisfied just about every bone in my body. also drizzled with the spicy mayo and some other kind of asian soy glaze and sprinkled with green onions. wow. so great i don't even know why i waited so long to convince myself to try good quality sushi.

about 15 seconds after these beautiful rolls of rice and japanese wonder appeared on our table, taylor had already figured out that we would each get 4 of the godzilla rolls and 6 of the extreme philly. kinda seems like a lot of food right?

 i have no words for my gluttony. but in my defense, i'm pretty sure it's an insult in that culture to leave food on the plate.... right?

like any good restaurant like this, our meal ended with steaming hot towels and a fortune cookie informing me to express myself and teaching me how to say bowling in chinese. i already forgot how, but i feel if i ever travel to china, that would not be a word that i would think to myself, "dang! i forgot how to say bowling!" i digress...

looking back, i'll admit that i was more than a little hesitant. and i realize this is pretty basic stuff. no raw fish or eels creeping out anywhere. not yet at least...

thanks for an awesomely delicious and satisfying first quality sushi experience, taylor! love you!

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