So in honor of Xani's triumphant (?) return to Baltimore, we decided to go to dinner at Matsuri for dinner. Matsuri is our favorite local sushi joint-- it offers high-quality, freshness, and good selection. It doesn't hurt that it is also the closest sushi place in Baltimore, right next to the Cross Street Market, an easy walk from either of our homes. But while avoiding parking hassles is a priority, no way would we go to Matsuri as often as we do if it didn't offer great food, service, and atmosphere. I particularly like the atmosphere-- the downstairs has a small sushi bar and is crowded with tables that overlook the street. It seems cramped but once you are seated, everyone has plenty of room. The upstairs dining room is a bit more spacious (and has tables for larger parties) but I think the downstairs has a better "city-livin'" vibe to it. Also, we once saw a celebrity there, sitting downstairs -- none other than Chef Duff of Food Network's Ace of Cakes! So, there's that...
Moving on, we got seated downstairs right away and after catching up a bit (it's not often the BCD sisters don't see each other for a WHOLE WEEK) we got down to ordering. We have our favorites but we always check the specials to see if they have anything interesting going on. While they did have a Super White Tuna Sashimi special, which we have had before and was quite good, we decided to pass this time. Instead we ordered some wakame (seaweed) salad and vegetable tempura.
Seaweed salad was a hearty helping of the chewy, green strands, and the tempura featured slices of eggplant, zuchinni, green pepper, and sweet potato, and a green bean in that delicious, crisp coating. We were disappointed that we didn't get the broccoli that sometimes appears in this appetizer, but I guess thats the luck of the draw!
As we were finishing up the first course, the watiress arrived with the massive tray of sushi we had ordered. "Oh no!" we said, in unison. We always over-order! Everything just sounds so good! Anyway, here it is:
Um, yeah. We went a little overboard, I guess. Specifically we have here a soft shell crab roll, salmon avocado roll, hamachi with scallions roll, ruby roll (tuna with fresh crab meat and scallions), spicy scallop roll, and two pieces of ama-ebi (discussed below). Yikes! What were we thinking?? I guess we were thinking we were damn hungry!
Spicy Scallop Roll
Ruby Roll and Salmon and Avocado Roll
We have tried most of these rolls before-- spicy scallop is a favorite, hamachi and salmon avocado are good standards, always very fresh and flavorful. The ruby roll was new for us, and while it was good, the texture was a little unusual. The crab meat (which is cooked) was a little stringy/mushy. Not offensive, just a little odd.
Soft Shell Crab Roll
We Marylanders love us some crabs: hard-shell, soft-shells, cakes, puffs, etc. Sushi is no exception. This roll featured deep-fried whole soft-shells wrapped into rolls. Matsuri serves theirs with mayonaise which we had to specifically request not to have because please, people, sushi and mayo have NOTHING TO DO WITH EACH OTHER. Some of you are probably saying we have no room to talk, as we are eating COOKED sushi rolls, and you kind of have a point. But I still think mayo (or cream cheese, ick!) on sushi is just going too far!
We always save the best (weirdest) for last: Ama-ebi, which is shrimp (sometimes called "sweet shrimp"). The body is served as nigiri sushi (raw on top of a finger-shaped clump of sushi rice) accompaned by the deep fried shrimp head. Oh yeah. This is the good stuff.
Sometimes it seems people fall into 2 categories: first, the folks who suck crawfish heads, eat the "yellow" out of steamed crabs, and cheerfully crunch on ama-ebi. Then there are the folks who prefer their food not be staring at them while they devour it. To each his own-- personally, we think a ama-ebi is a thing of beauty. The raw shrimp has a very rich, creamy taste and texture, and the fried head is VERY crunchy, and the flavor from the... whatever is inside the head, is awesome (if you are into that kind of thing, of course).
Now having fully gorged ourselves on sushi, it was time to head home. We were glad for the fresh air on the walk home, and went to sleep with visions of shrimp dancing in our heads...
P.S. Extra points for readers who correctly identify the source of the blog post title!