Wow, THAT'S an appetizing title, huh? What I meant to call this post is "Amazing Sushi Dinner We Had Several Weeks Ago That I'm Just Now Getting Around to Posting" But that's a little wordy, don't you think?
Um, anyway, the sushi. The whole BCD family got together one evening for dinner at Sushi King, a Columbia restaurant that has been open, in my estimation, since the beginning of time. I certainly remember coming here when I was pretty young-- maybe eight or nine years old? (This was back in the day when my favorite roll was Unagi (eel) and EP would only eat tempura shrimp! Man, how things have changed.... you will soon see that our current sushi tendencies fit squarely in the Weird Food category.) Now we especially like going to Sushi King because they always offer a variety of interesting chef's specials in addition to the regular and sushi menus. The BCD fam LOVES us some unusual sushi, and this is the place to get it! As soon as we were seated at our table and had a few sips of cold sake in our bellies, it was time to investigate the specials and come up with a sushi game plan...
This was the first any of us had heard of "Sparkling Sake"-- but I can't resist anything with bubbles!
So much food, we have to write down our order
We pretty much made a meal of the specials, including Hamachi cheek, round clam, scallop, monkfish liver, conch, cobia, and salmon belly. We also ordered a couple of sushi rolls, and some Am Ebi (our favorite!). Does that sound like a lot of food? It was. Did we eat it all? Stay tuned to find out!
First up came the Hamachi cheek, also know as "fish face," because, technically, that's what it is. A big piece of the cheek is roasted/grilled and served hot, with a soy dipping sauce. This dish is fantastic-- don't be afraid of it just because it's face (if it's any consolation, there are generally not eyes attached to the face-- not that we have problems with eyes, but maybe some people do?). The cheek meat is super-rich, flavorful, and has plenty of crispy skin to go around. Absolutely fabulous....
We made short work of the cheek and moved onto the next course, which included round clam sashimi, scallop sushi and sashimi, and monkfish liver:
Again, these are slightly unusual dishes but each one is a little masterpiece. The round clam is very much like eating clams from the raw bar-- the pieces are slightly chewy, salty, and taste like the ocean. Eating them with a little wasabi and soy is an interesting change from the traditional cocktail sauce you might use at the raw bar. The scallop is served two ways-- the large, roundish muscle we all think of as a scallop is sliced and served as nigiri sushi (large pieces on top of sushi rice), while the other pieces of the scallop (additional muscles that are usually discarded) are cut up and served as sashimi. I particularly like the variety of textures in this dish-- the scallop sushi has a wonderful smooth texture and a mild flavor. The sashimi pieces are a little chewier and have a more intense taste. The scallop was also served with a spicy, creamy sauce on the side-- an interesting change of pace for the palate after lots of soy and wasabi. You can have your seared scallops-- I only like mine raw! Finally (for this course) the monkfish liver. Now I KNOW some people out there are squirming. But honestly, this is one of my favorite new discoveries. Often called "the fois gras of the sea," (which we said REPEATEDLY while eating it) monkfish liver does indeed have a fois-like texture, if a slightly ocean-ier flavor. Sushi King serves it sliced with soy, cucumbers, tobiko, and (another surprise hit of the night) pickled carrots. If you ever run into this on a menu (I spied it once or twice on menus in LA, but my fellow diners were too weirded out to try it!) just put away your fear of liver and give it a shot. Pretend it's not even liver-- who knew fish had livers anyway?!
Finally the rest of our order came out on a GINORMOUS platter (complete with fake plastic tree):
Here we have soft-shell crab roll, am ebi, salmon belly sashimi, uni (with quail egg), salmon roe (also with quail egg), cobia, conch, and probably some other stuff I can't remember anymore. The point is, it was all DELICIOUS. I could eat this exact meal at least three times a week until the end of time and be a very happy person. Again, everything was super-fresh, and there was a fantastic variety of flavors and textures on the platter. Soft-shell crab roll is super-crunchy and a must-have (we love our crabs in MD !), as is the am ebi. We've blogged about this dish before-- raw shrimp bodies served as nigiri sushi along side the deep-fried shrimp heads-- perfection. The salmon belly was extremely rich and fatty (as most "belly" sushi is-- toro, or tuna belly, is pretty easy to find but Sushi King is one of the only places we have found salmon belly, too), and the uni was, as usual, just such a luxurious and wonderful treat. The raw quail egg on top took it into the "decadent" category (or the "even more disgusting" category, for some of you, I'm sure). As I recall, the conch was sortof a non-starter-- chewy with not that much flavor. But everything else was excellent, as evidence by this:
Oh yeah, we ate it all. Not only that, we ordered more!! A few more pieces of that salmon belly sashimi, and a couple other things I think (no pictures here as I'm sure we didn't want to document the fact that we were going for Round 2!). But hey, it's just raw fish, it's good for us, right??
I know this isn't the sushi dinner that 99% of Americans are ordering. There's no California Roll, no deep fried spicy tuna, and no cream cheese. Not that I don't like those things (ok, I don't like sushi with cream cheese), but sometimes its fun to try new and unusual, or even weird things and realize, holy crap, this tastes great! So next time you are at your local sushi joint, be sure to check out the chef's specials. If you're lucky, maybe there's some fish face in your future!