Friday, October 15, 2010

Reprints: Dutch Symphony

Reprints are essays written in another time and place, reposted in part because the archive holding them is going away and in part to remind me that I used to write pieces I enjoyed reading.  A new Reprint will appear each Friday until I feel like ending the series.

Dutch Symphony was originally posted on September 13, 2005.  

Everyone has weaknesses. My weakness is food as I am prone to mention to friends, strangers, passersby, and the fellow sitting next to me at the movies. Perhaps it is some prophetic cluster of neurons within my mind that has determined through an esoteric distillation of impulses that, hours before my eventual death, I will partake in an excellent round of sushi.

This thought, while at first mention appears formed with a distinct lack of sense or sensibility, may hold up in light of a brief note of empirical evidence; when I go out for sushi I have an extremely difficult time not ordering everything on the menu for which I have a fondness.

Before this platform came into being, there was a forum of communication through which many of the current members here remained in contact and shared the adventures that were their lives. What follows is both a shameless attempt at inflating my word count, a tease at something in the works, and text to illustrate my incapacity for rational behavior at good sushi establishments.


Date: Sun Aug 11, 2002 1:50 am
Subject: Unagi vs. Maguro episodes I, II, & III

As I have mentioned to Luke and Brian, I've got a $50/week sushi habit. Every Friday I go to this incredible sushi bar and have a man named Sazuki make me the most mouth watering sushi and sashimi I have ever had. I try to chronicle the ongoing battle of Unagi V Maguro.

Two weeks ago, Maguro was the clear cut winner, the 7 red slabs of quivering raw Maguro served beside a generous portion of thin clear-white crunchy sprouts of some variety were without par. The Unagi was just another new dish that I deemed to try.

A portion of every Friday is spent trying a new piece of sushi. Curiously enough, the Unagi was served hot. I had never had it this way before, and I will never have it any other way from now on. Still, that week nothing could topple the freshness that came with every tender bite of Maguro sashimi. It melted away in my mouth.

Summary Week One
Unagi V Maguro : Winner ....Maguro!
Atarashii Sushi : Unagi sushi & Ebi tempura roll
Beverage : 22 oz bottle of Asahi
Verdict : Maguro was so good I had it twice

Week Two came soon enough. Unagi V Maguro began with Maguro Sashimi. It was tender and delicious as always, but lacked that last bit of creamy goodness that made the previous week's battle so one-sided. Were, perhaps, the individual slices smaller? Was Sazuki-san nearing the end of his Maguro supply? I was not about to question the ins and outs of his delivery schedule, as there was no need to risk putting him off of his game.

Maguro was followed by Ebi sushi. Ebi sushi is a great way to show off that you know how to eat correctly. Sushi is eaten in one big bite, however, Ebi sushi has a tail that cannot be eaten. It is necessary to slide the hashi to the tail as you consume the Ebi and finish with nothing but the inedible tail clasped gently between the sticks.

Soon after came the Unagi. Served hot, of course. Unagi is heated and laid gently over a portion of rice and wrapped lightly with a thin band of nori. Atop the is ladled as small amount of brown sauce containing the faintest traces of ginger. The pieces are finished with a sprinkling of sesame seeds. The battle was on. Typically, when one person orders Unagi (in this case myself), the other two (Bob and Manni) order it as well. However, today, Manni had brought his wife and young daughter. Sazuki-san was bombarded with 5 respectful orders for unagi-zushi.

As the pieces were consumed, a hush fell over the customers. It only becomes quiet when everyone is trying a piece at the same time. It only stays quiet if that piece is fantastic. Astounding! I ordered it again. While Bob made motions to leave he told me to try the black cod. Manni grinned like a wolf. They understand my weekly battle. They are determined to introduce me to so many different delicacies that I will never order the same thing twice.

Summary Week Two
Unagi V Maguro : Winner ....Tie! (the love of maguro out-lasted the amorous advances of the steaming unagi)
Atarashii Sushi : Black cod (no rice)
Beverage : 22 oz bottle of Asahi
Verdict : Unagi is winning me over, can it be!?!

The day began as it usually does, with Maguro sashimi. I fear I will never again try Maguro sushi. Why cloud the pure form of red raw Maguro with virginal white presence of sticky rice? (how can I manage to put the words virginal and sticky in the same sentence?) Bob and Manni were late in arriving. This did not bode well for my budget or my deadline. It is Friday after all, Buffy at 7 and Farscape at 10. The schedule must be observed.

The Ebi Tempura Roll came next. By the end of this, Manni had shown and shortly thereafter, Bob. The Battle was joined. Atarashii sushi wa < WWF announcer > Albacore < /WWF > A wide strip of fresh pale albacore placed solidly atop a sturdy support of rice, topped with thin strips of soy marinated ginger and splashed lightly with a vinegar based finishing sauce. The taste is lightly bitter and sweet at the same time. An interesting middle ground between the cold tender clutches of Maguro and the steamy, creamy clasp of Unagi.

My west coast friends decided to 'spice' things up a bit. An order with Sazuki-san, a 911 roll. At first I thought this to be quite inappropriately named, however, after eating it I realized that the name is derived from the combination of spicy tuna and spicy top sauce rather than < media voice > the tragic events of 11 September. < /media > Little did Manni and Bob realize, but I laugh in the face of such spicy sauces (Being native to an area known for hot wings). Of course, I DO NOT laugh in the face of free sushi, so I graciously accepted two pieces. Quite tasty. The roll comes as twice the size of a normal roll (two rolls side by side) so this is truly a dish ordered with company.

Also, I politely tried a piece of blue crab offered by Manni. I did not want to tell him that each person in the world is allotted only so much crab, and I exceeded my limit one terrible night at a Red Lobster. So I am now officially one cubic inch of crab over my limit.

Somewhere in all of this we all ordered Unagi. < Homer Simpson > muuuuuuuhhhhhuaalallllllllllllluuuuhhhhh < /Homer Simpson > . Which is about as close as I got towards public drooling. I think am voting this piece of sushi retarded in how good it is (mall-rats usage, not the mean way). The night was about to finish with black cod again, but, since it takes many many many minutes to prepare the cod, I ordered a second helping of Unagi.

In Summary (week III)
Unagi V Maguro : The winner is .... Unagi! Its going to take a melt in my mouth super portion of Maguro to top it.
Atarashi Sushi : Albacore. I can't remember the Nihongo name, I'll know by next week, its going on the menu.
Beverage: Look, its always going to be a 22 oz Asahi, and I have learned the answer to two things:
1. Why it is difficult to get Asahi on the east coast.
2. Why I am going to keep drinking it every Friday.
The Answer is the same for both, the US Import Center for Asahi is Torrance CA. Which happens to be the town that I work in. An analogy would be Alfred importing something you eat at Cosco's. Very close therefore very fresh.
Verdict : Unagi is a fantastic hot piece of sushi.


And so arrive now in the present day, and I shall slide you neatly into place within this haphazard narrative. There exists, along the Green Line in the fair city of Boston, a sushi house of extraordinary service and fine faire. It is called Symphony Sushi. Therein you shall find your beer cold and at your table shortly after it is requested. The selection is laid out clearly in a complete menu. The prices are reasonable.

All of this normally spells doom and drool for me, however that was not to be the case. I had the pleasure to be sharing my meal with an old friend from my college days whom I had not seen much in the past few years. I was a hermit in the days covered by the narrative above, and she had just finished that daunting and succubus of time known as the third year of law school. But, here we were, she now finished, and me now present. And, as we share several common traits like being lefties, phone-twins, and lovers of sushi, we took the opportunity to catch up.

She is a smart one, this friend of mine. Poised on the edge of a gastronomic blunder she came to my rescue with sage advice: we should order four rolls and split them between us. I threw in an appetizer of spring rolls to get it all started and we were off.

I will not go into details as to why she almost did not go along with the unagi roll, but our final tally was as follows:

2 shrimp spring rolls
1 caterpillar roll (unagi & avocado)
1 tekka roll (the basic unit of tuna roll)
1 spicy hamachi roll (a variation on the 911 which I refer to sometimes as a 912)
and 1 Idaho roll (a work of genius as it combines the best tempura in the known universe - sweet potato - with the word roll)

The spring rolls are a good start. At Symphony they arrive with a slightly sweet dipping sauce and each roll is cut into two pieces. Light, not too filling, but something to munch on and distract you from the small about of time it takes to create a serious of amazing rolls.

The caterpillar roll is, bar none, my favorite roll in the world; I like eel enough to make that claim. The eel is warm within the roll, smooth, soft, and the perfect balance of texture between it and the avocado. Often sushi places will decorate caterpillar rolls to make them look more like their namesakes. The presentation at Symphony is not over the top, and the slight "S"-shaped curl present in the roll makes the individual pieces more accessible.

The spicy hamachi roll was top caliber. Straight forward presentation, stuff to bursting with spiced up yellowtail. It had kick and savory bits. I expected the roll to step up and be counted and I was not disappointed.

The tuna roll was a tuna roll. Small, plentiful, soft, flavorful. If you like simple sushi this is a good choice for you. As my ranking of sushi desires can be determined by my end game - the meticulously debated order in which I consume my final pieces - I made it obvious that I respected the tekka but did not give it a place of honor with the culinary gems laid out before me.

The Idaho roll, ah! the Idaho roll. This is a diamond among diamonds. Tempura is good...really good; it is, in its basic form, batter fried vegetables. Batter...Fried...there is nothing amiss with those two words. Sweet potato, ah! Sweet Potato. Often too heavy for me in fry form, as an item of tempura I have been known to use wheedling, weaseling, trickery, and sophistry to obtain unequal portions for my own consumption. Get This Roll. Everything good in the world is contained within it. Crunchy, Fried, Tasty, Warm, Sweet, Soft, ...sigh.

The dinner went well. Catching up was accomplished, good food was consumed. Add in two beers, tip, and tax and the final ticket punched out at $46. I gave her my $23, she used her plastic, and our little Symphony split came to its sweet closing number.


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Geek - Gamer - Librarian - Writer. Only awesome at one of those things at a time, unfortunately.

About Fading Interest

After writing op-eds and travelogues for several years, after finishing a few books, and after failing to get the ball rolling with project after project I stumbled into an idea that might just hold my interest long enough to enjoy some level of satisfaction with my writing.