Saturday, February 5, 2011

Never Had Sushi? Neither Had I Until Yesterday

( A typical sushi sampler )

Why had I never had sushi before yesterday you ask? No reason really, maybe only that I wasn’t a fan of fish when I was a kid, and there wasn’t (and still isn’t) any influence from my family around sushi. It was on my list of things to try and I just got to cross it off.

I found a great guide for my first sushi experience in Richard Auffrey, a.k.a The Passionate Foodie. Richard is a certified sake professional and a passionate writer/educator on many food and wine topics. We hadn’t yet met and picked a lunch outing for what I expect will be the first of many meetings as we both weave our way through all the wine and food events in the Boston area. Richard picked the Kyotoya Sushi restaurant in Stoneham, MA, both because he has had many positive experiences there and they are BYOB. That last part would give me an opportunity to bring a couple of my homemade wine selections to have with lunch.
I can see why Richard makes a great educator. He is approachable, very easy going and is extremely knowledgeable. We talked about topics from all over the spectrum from visiting Sherry bodegas in Spain to what makes a good wine shop. I am sure we could have filled days with similar conversation.

I asked Richard to pick a sushi sampler that would offer me variety but wouldn’t be too much of a challenge for a first try. The following was returned to the table on a beautiful tray which looks quite similar to the borrowed picture above. I had my camera but was enjoying talking and tasting so much, I never broke it out!
  • Ebi (Shrimp)
  • Tamago (Egg)
  • Sake (Salmon)
  • Maguro (Tuna)
  • Hotate (Scallop)
  • Unagi (Fresh water eel)
For pairing with lunch I brought a 2009 Sauvignon Blanc made from Sutter Ridge frozen juice and something called Pacific Quartet , a kit wine that is a blend of Vidal, Gewurztraminer, Chenin Blanc and Muscat.

The scallops were massive, a two biter for sure. The texture was so creamy, and of course not fishy as it should be. The salmon was quite familiar in flavor, but the texture of it raw was amazing. The shrimp was the least adventuresome for me as I will eat those and lobster in volume! The tuna was really incredible and I finally know what people mean when they say that it is much more like red meat than fish. It was richer with a bit more of a chewy texture than say the scallop or the salmon. The Tamago is a sweet egg omelet served over a rice ball wrapped in a small band of seaweed. If you have never had it or have seen it, it is the item closest to you in the picture above. From what I understand the fish influence can be from a fish broth used to cook it. This was very surprising to me. The texture was similar to that of the fish and the flavor was incredible, sweet, but not like candy. The final item was the Unagi, fresh water eel that has a small amount of what Richard called a BBQ sauce and is served over rice with the seaweed wrap. The taste and texture here is a bit different. It is also a bit chewier but not displeasing. Richard said that one of the best things Kyotoya has is an Unagi sandwich that consists of the eel, sauce between two pieces of tempura sweet potato. Before I had the eel that sounded weird but not so much after. The wine pairing that worked the best was the Pacific Quartet. It has some residual sugar and a good balance of tart and sweet that ended up working very well. The Sauvignon Blanc was tasting very good, this was the first bottle I’ve opened, but was too dry and too specific of bell pepper to work with the fish.

My first sushi experience was extremely positive and will not be my last. I am going to try and work on Margot to go with me and try it too. I think she will like it, but something tells me her approach won’t be so calm and full of interest.

We also ordered from the lunch special menu. I had the Crab Rangoon, Tempura Shrimp & Veggies, Fried Tofu and Fried Rice. The tempura was the highlight and specifically the acorn squash and the sweet potato. This feels to me like and underrated delight, something I will be looking for more examples of very soon! The fried Tofu was interesting. The Tofu had some funk to it and the exterior sections were crispy and very tasting. The inside, well it wasn’t that interesting. But is Tofu ever really that interesting? Everything else was very well prepared and tasty.

I left Richard with the wines we enjoyed at lunch and two other bottles from our collection. A 2009 Petit Verdot and a 2008 Gewurztraminer/Riesling blend. I can’t wait to hear his thoughts on them. I love getting feedback because it always helps guide my future winemaking.

Hungry for sushi now? I sure am and I just had it for the first time yesterday! Thank you very much Richard.



Picture Citations


Richard Auffrey said...

Thanks for all your kind words. It was a real pleasure to meet you as well, and I had a very enjoyable lunch chatting with you about so many food/wine related items. I enjoyed the two whites at lunch, especially the off dry Pacific Quartet, and look forward to tasting the two others too. I may even open the Petite Verdot tonite.

I look forward to hanging out with you again, and am sure we will continue to have much to talk about. Thanks very much for a very pleasant lunch, with great food, wines and company.

Joy, The Herbed Kitchen said...

Shocking! I kid. I think I take sushi for granted because I worked at a sushi restaurant and now my husband's restaurant has a sushi bar. I'm very proud of you for eating the unagi, and not just because it is my favourite. If you can get past the idea that it is eel (and some cannot), it is one of the most delicious and tender items on the menu. Next time you go, look for butter fish. It is aptly named.

If you can ever find it, look for avocado tempura. I made it at home then blabbed to the owner of one of the many sushi restaurants here and it's now on his menu. That soft buttery flavour of avocado is succinctly captured in the tempura batter. It's to die for.

The fish is where it is at for sushi but if Margo is reticent, some of the maki are a great introduction. I'm partial to a simple salmon maki or the oshinko (Japanese pickle), the crunch and delicate sweetness are wonderful.

Island Vittles said...

Welcome to the wonderful world of sushi! You have years of discovery and enjoyment ahead...Theresa

Spice Sherpa said...

Glad you discovered sushi! You liked it once, prepare to enter the path of addiction.

Jason Phelps said...

I definitely can't explain why it took so long but it is for a lack of adventure, and I did truly enjoy it. Life is funny that way!