I have an assignment for a magazine – travelsrilanka.com magazine – a local travel magazine – to do a restaurant review for Sakura Japanese Restaurant. Cool.
Free food. And getting paid to eat it. Always a bonus. Especially when Fahim says that he hates Japanese food and won’t eat at Japanese restaurants, even when I’m hugely craving sushi. Never mind that he’s never actually had Japanese food.
That’s right, folks. Fahim’s prejudiced.
But whatever. So I’m not going to go with him. But I’m still going to go.
I’ve been craving sushi for months. Back in Canada, I could get it anytime I wanted. Japanese restaurants are all over Vancouver – literally – and there are even quite a few in Kelowna. Always a bonus. Always.
Anyway, because it’s a restaurant review, even though I can order what I want, if they have something in particular that they’d like me to taste, then I have to. Sakura’s is known for their sashimi.
Who out there already knows what sashimi is?
I know my niece Nikole does – she’s had it, and I even had proof. (Hi Nikole! How ya doing?) I think my cuz Char knows what it is – she loves sushi and Japanese restaurants in general, as does her hubby, Henk. (Hi Henk & Char! Hugs and kisses to ya!)
Sashimi is raw fish.
I’ve had sashimi before. Exactly three times before. In Canada. Let me tell you a story.
Okay, rephrase. Let me tell you another story that’s only very loosely related to this one by virtue of being about sashimi.
Okey dokey smokey.
First time I had sashimi, I went out for lunch with two other people – all three of us were subcontractors for a client of mine. Nathan and I wish I could remember the woman’s name. The woman will hereafter be called Penny for lack of anything better, although I can tell you with a certainty that that is NOT her actual name.
Nathan had had sashimi before – many times – and loved it. He also knew way way more about sushi and sashimi and Japanese food in general than either I or Penny. Sure, I had it occasionally, but . . . So we decided to go with a combo plate for lunch and feast on sushi. Nathan ordered sashimi.
This plate – this huge plate – of raw fish arrives at the table. Tuna. Salmon. Shrimp. Squid. Lobster. Red snapper. I can’t even remember all of it now, but there were at least a dozen different types of fish represented.
I’m the kind of person who, even though I know it’s gonna gross me out, will try it anyway because it’s something new and I can’t pass up on something new just because I think or even know it’s gonna gross me out. I don’t lack adventure. I crave adventure. And I tried every single different kind there was.
I wasn’t gonna stop with trying two different kinds when . . . Nope. Gotta give it an honest try. A for effort and all that. Penny was not quite so, uh, adventurous, but she did pretty good. She tried most of them.
The funny thing is that, even while I’m eating them, I’m saying, “Oh. This is so slimy. It just feels so gross.” And then I pick out the next one.
But I wasn’t adventurous enough to eat more than that. We had to order a couple of plates of California rolls – perfectly innocent sushi with nothing resembling raw animal or fish protein in it – to complete the meal for both Penny and I. Seriously, the amount of sashimi we ate would not be enough to satisfy anything. Except maybe Tellulah. Not Oberon, the pig.
And that was that. End story one.
Fast forward a year or so, and I’m back in Vancouver on business. On my way back to the hotel, I stop at a Japanese restaurant for take out and order sushi. It was some kind of combo deal. They charge me the wrong amount, I correct them and tell them that no, that isn’t what I ordered – I wanted this. They charge me the correct amount, and I figure everything is fine.
I get back to the hotel, crack open the styrofoam thingy, and it’s, guess what? Sashimi.
But damn, er, uh, dagnabbit, I was so hungry that I couldn’t be bothered to drive back and go to the hassle of having it replaced. So I ate it.
Yeah, it still felt gross, but not as much as the first time. It was mild grossness, not full out. And the taste wasn’t bad. It was just the texture that bothered me. And it filled the gap, for which I was thankful.
I probably ended it with a chocolate bar just to make absolutely damn, er, uh, dagnabbit, certain that my stomach wouldn’t complain, and ended it at that.
Fast forward another couple of years, or at least one, anyway, and enter my neice, Nikole. (Hi Nikole! Wanna come visit? I’d love to have you!)
Nikole grew up primarily in small town rural Alberta. Meaning limited cultural experiences. So when she came to visit, she wanted to have sushi again.
The year before, when she was visiting, she, my cuz Char, and I went out for sushi, which Nikole had never had before, and she was ready for some more. But this time, she wanted sashimi, and she wanted pictures for proof. You know. Teenagers. EW factor maybe. But definitely coolness factor for giving it a try.
I’ve got to give her credit – she really gave it an honest try. We’ll ignore the fact that she made an awful lot of faces at it, and groaned and complained. She tried the stuff. Good for her.
I had some, too, and this time, I wasn’t grossed out anywhere near as much as before, but I wasn’t yet at the stage of actually liking it. I was tolerating it well, and happy that I’d reached that point.
See, part of what makes it easier to tolerate is that I know that in Canada, there are very strict guidelines regarding food practices in restaurants, and places that serve raw fish are more strictly observed, and if there had been any problems, the restaurant would have been shut down.
But in Sri Lanka? I’m not so sure. I have no idea what, if any, guidelines are in place. So I was hesitant. Think about it. I think it’s understandable.
But Sakura has been open for 22 years, serving sashimi for that long. And the manager answered my questions regarding raw fish very nicely. In Sinhalese. So the photographer had to translate. But Suda was really cool, so it’s okay. Bottom line being that, in 22 years, the restaurant has never had a single complaint.
Okay, I feel better.
Add to that the fact that Suda eats at this restaurant frequently and has the sashimi all the time and has never had a problem, and yeah, I feel even better. So I give it a try.
Sashimi number four.
And this time?
I actually enjoyed it.
That’s right. I enjoyed eating raw fish.
We had a whole bunch of other things, too. Chicken. Beef. Oh, man, we ordered enough food to feed four people easily. But this is a restaurant review, and we need to sample a wide variety of dishes to give a fair representation. Oh, the strain!
And yeah, we weren’t pigs and we didn’t eat it all.
Well, I wrote the article, and I don’t want to write the same stuff here, so when I can, I’ll link to the article for you so you can read it for yourself.
But let me tell you – we had chicken. Beef. Japanese omelet. Miso soup. A whole bunch of other things that my strained brain can’t seem to quite put together in any kind of meaningful way. Oh, tempura. Can’t forget the tempura.
All in all? It was good – flavorful. Very flavorful. Perfectly balanced. Nothing overbearing. Yum.
You know what I really liked? Other than the food? The menu. Names of the food in Japanese and English. Picture of said food item. Description of said food item. So ya actually know what it is that you’re ordering. Excellent idea for foreign food. Or, perhaps I should say excellent idea for foreign consumer?