Anyone who’s seen my Facebook page knows that it exists primarily to promote my eatery write-ups, but I also try to pass along any food offers from the numerous daily deal sites. If you haven’t been keeping an eye on these things, you’ve been missing out. I’ll likely do a blog entry on them at some point, or perhaps add a sidebar linking to the various sites and mailing lists, but in the meantime let me give you a prime example of exactly why these things tickle me so.
A few months ago, I purchased a voucher for Shige Japanese Cuisine from a then relatively new deal site called LivingSocial. To this day, it’s the best restaurant offer I’ve seen on any of the sites. By paying $20, I essentially got a $40 certificate to use as I pleased. 50% off is pretty common with these deals, but this one allowed for each person to use their own certificate so long as they were on separate bills, and didn’t restrict alcohol. Plus, it was for what is generally regarded as the best sushi place in town! Better yet, I talked three people into buying certificates using my personalized link to the deal page, which made my certificate free. Because I’m a swell guy, I split the difference with them so essentially we each paid $15 for $40 worth of Japanese food. The only question that remained: could I eat that much sushi in one sitting?
I love sushi, and I tend to have very little self-control when it comes to eating it. Unfortunately, when you have an insatiable appetite for something that costs several dollars per bite, you can run up a substantial bill pretty easily. So, I rarely go out for sushi, saving it for more of a special occasion kind of thing. But having $40 to spend certainly seemed special to me, and I looked forward to it the way children look forward to Christmas.
It was unseasonably cold when I arrived just before the start of Shige’s dinner service, joined by my mother and sister who I had also talked into the certificate deal. No girlfriend or kids this time, the only thing they would have less interest in than seafood would be raw seafood. Mom and sis were splitting a certificate, but I had decided to see if I could use all of mine alone (unfortunately they must be used in one sitting). We were seated near the rear wall, out of the main traffic flow but close enough to watch the chefs work. It took a long time to peruse the menu with all of the different options available, but my dining companions opted to split a plate of gyoza (Japanese-style potstickers) as an appetizer. I was so deep into the menu that I didn’t get a picture, but I tried one and trust me when I say the presentation and the dumplings themselves were exceptional. And that’s coming from someone who doesn’t much care for gyoza! I decided to take advantage of the lack of alcohol restriction on my voucher and ordered the one Japanese beer they had on draft, Kirin Ichiban.
|The beast Kirin on tap|
I’m generally more of a Sapporo fan, but I couldn’t pass up the draft option, and I actually enjoyed the Kirin much more than usual because of it. After what seemed an eternity of studying, questioning, and both internal and external debate, everyone finally figured out what it was they wanted. The ladies settled on the Sugar Daddy Roll (shrimp tempura, cream cheese & lettuce), the Dragon Roll (shrimp tempura, snow crab, eel, avocado, tobiko & hot sauce), the Kani Maki Roll (snow crab) and the Spicy Tuna Roll. I didn’t try anything of theirs and I’m ashamed to admit I didn’t even really ask what they thought of the food, though my sister’s sighs and moans kind of said it all. I was too firmly in my own little world to notice. Just for the hell of it though, here’s a picture of their platter.
|Clockwise from top: Sugar Daddy Roll, Spicy Tuna Roll, Kani Maki Roll and Dragon Roll|
Let’s step back a bit first. The next things that hit the table were miso soup and a side salad. I love miso soup, and this was definitely the best I’ve had in a while.
The salads are never terribly impressive at Japanese restaurants. It’s only a little bonus course after all, a little lettuce and shredded carrot, maybe a little beet or something for color. But it’s the dressing that makes them worthwhile. If only I could buy it in a store…
For my entree, I decided to get the Sushi Matsu (chef’s choice) platter, with the caveat that I’d prefer there not to be any squid or octopus involved. I also got a spicy tuna roll for myself, and though it wasn’t on the menu I asked if they had Uni (sea urchin roe…okay, so actually it’s the ovaries, but who cares) since it’s the right season. I was thrilled to find out that not only did they have it, but it wasn’t much more expensive than anything else on the menu. Even though everything hit the table at roughly the same time, I homed right in on that sea urchin.
|Uni, battleship style|
I’d never had Uni before, and had tried many times last winter to remedy that with no success. Now it was sitting right in front of me, and I’d finally get a chance to see if it’s as big a deal as everyone says. To clarify: yes, yes it is. In the Mediterranean, it is eaten raw with lemon. Other cultures use it as a flavoring agent in everything from omelets to mayo. One group of islanders used it in place of butter, and I could see why. If ever a divine entity had intended us to have something resembling butter, this was nature’s way of providing it, a butter of the gods. Next I turned my attention to my nigiri platter.
|The Sushi Matsu platter|
Here is where I really started to lose perspective. The beer was working, I was still high on urchin, and my appetite was in overdrive. Usually I’m very specific about what I order, but this time I just ordered the most expensive nigiri platter. As a result, I didn’t know for certain what everything in front of me was, nor did I have the patience to wait for our server to come back around so I could ask (plus I probably would have felt a little embarrassed). I’m certain about the Maguro (tuna, upper left), the Sake (smoked salmon, below the Maguro), the Ebi (shrimp, to the right of the Sake), and the Tuna Roll. I think the pieces at the upper right may have been Tai (red snapper), but the ones below the Sake stumped me. All I know is that it was melt-in-your-mouth tender and delicious. My favorite on that plate had to be the Sake. Salmon is actually one of those fish that I just plain prefer raw, and I’m crazy for smoked anything, so the combination is exquisite to me if done right. The only thing I didn’t really care for was what I assume was red snapper, the flavor was fine but the texture wasn’t as pleasing as the others. I was thrilled with everything else, my only regret being that there was no Unagi (broiled fresh water eel) on my plate, but then again I still had an entire Spicy Tuna Roll to get through. I didn’t see the point in taking another picture of another Spicy Tuna Roll, so just look a little further up the page. They were very generous with the sauce this time around, and my mouth was soon pleasantly on fire.
By now I was stuffed like a Christmas goose, but our server came back around and asked about dessert. I told her I wasn’t interested, and she informed me that a few dollars remained on my certificate. For a second I thought about ordering the Unagi I had been craving, but I knew that would be foolish. Instead, I opted for a refill on my Kirin. Things are a little fuzzy at this point. I was nowhere near drunk, but between the food and the beer my body was trying to enter hibernation mode. Mom dropped me off at home and my gal kept the kids from using me as a jungle gym until I’d had a chance to lay back and relax a bit. When I was able to focus again, I realized that Shige’s prices aren’t so bad after all since I would never eat $40 worth of food under normal circumstances. I’d like to return soon and actually sit in the Express section for once. Conveyor belt-style sushi is just too cute, and I understand they have specials between 5-9 PM Wednesday through Saturday…
Final Grade: A