I still remember that evening when my notions about sushi all came wrong when I regretted believing those who told me, “Oh, it tastes weird because it’s raw fish mixed with rice.” I had been putting off trying sushi for a long time. Of course, it sounds repulsive when you hear ‘raw fish’! But, I wondered what harm could it do to try anyway and I was sure I could always choose to not eat it again if I did not like it. So, both me and my husband went to the Hibachi House at downtown Rochester in Michigan. Downtown has some nice hot spots that attract crowds with an appetite for anything – breweries, steakhouses, Mexican and Italian joints, cafes, good old American munching and there is still room for dessert!
Entering this place had a sudden whiff of warmth and smoke that came from live grills. This feels especially comforting if you are freezing from winds outside. As sufficient as the table seating was, there were three other large live cooking tables with enough seating for impressively 15 people. The first attraction about any place is watching people have fun and sure, there were many sharing laughs and cries of excitement when the chef showed off his skills. They can get very mischievous. I was waiting to find out. The courteous waitress let us sit at one of the live tables with another gang of 10 people being served at the moment. It seemed as if the chef was trapped in the center of the table with his kitchen counter and resources well kept within his reach bordered by all of us. A happy looking chap who looked far away from bored and enjoyed entertaining his group of 10. At a time, he could only attend to the current bulk orders since he had to use the same counter top for everyone. It was alright, since he maintained clearing out food as soon as he was done cooking. He also made sure if there were any vegetarian meals that he would serve that table.
As we were awaiting our turn, four others joined our side of the table while the chef continued to serve the others already present there. He was quite the entertainer because he was cheered with hoots and screams every time he would set a graceful fire or chop with great speed and toss his knives in the air. If this wasn’t enough, he even returned the favour with asking one of them to open their mouth wide and tossed a bite-sized portion of food into his mouth. After every catch, they wanted more and he must have insisted almost everyone to try doing that. While the men at the table really brought out their wild side, the women at the table were rather embarrassed of playing catch with their mouths so humbly refused the chef and he laughed!
After the group had left, the chef turned to us for our order and he made a very good host with his manner. There was no conversation other than discussing the order yet he managed to convey his cheerful vibe to us. Nothing stopped him from being who he was whether you liked it or not. That’s pretty brave for someone who has to deal with foreign people everyday. We chose the grill menu which came one step at a time. First, the soup that was absolutely flavourful with chicken broth and mild spices. Then came the serving of sushi with avocado and spicy wasabi sauce. Now, I don’t know how to use chopsticks so I used the conventional Japanese way of eating with my hand instead. And the first bite did not feel like eating raw fish at all! The wasabi sauce did its spicy trick while the avocado stuffing between the perfect proportions of rice and fish balanced out the sting. I bet even the shrimp stuffing would have tasted marvellous except that I am allergic to shrimps.
Following sushi came the chef’s special where he mixed rice and noodles with vegetables or meat as preferred in the choice of sauces we could alter between; ranging from mild to spicy. This was the platform for the chef to do his onion volcano and I was fortunate to be sitting right in front of him to observe his dexterity with knives. There was some juggling with it and then he turned to my husband with a smile and pointed to the rice with his cutlery asking if he was ready for a toss, and my husband was a sport. Although, he loved tossing food like that, I wished he hadn’t tried thrice because he couldn’t get even a single morsel inside his mouth that was trying to move along with the catch and then I told him he had to stay still for that!
The portion size was large with both rice and noodles and sauteed vegetables with some chicken. I liked mixing more seasonings of seaweed and sesame oil on the sides. It had a smokey barbecued touch to it because it was cooked on a high flame. I was reminded of grilled pepper chicken. Equally, good! And with that we finished our drinks that helped wash down the pungent wasabi that had hit us during this memorable Japanese experience.