Friday, August 04, 2006

Fishy Folk

Last Tuesday, I was at my local Korean grocery, picking up some grub because I decided I was too lazy to cook. Ok so...wait, digression, what is it with all the Korean women at the grocery store? I mean, here I am at 10:00 a.m., eyes barely open, with my ratty t-shirt and skirt, looking for all practical purposes like the cat-loving spinster who sits on her couch and eats a gallon of ice-cream and moans about how men never get women. So I look like shit. And then I stand in the check out line. Behind the chichest chic woman ever, flawless makeup, gorgeous outfit, with a $2000 Fendi Spy bag casually slung on her shoulder (I kid you not! Who goes grocery shopping with $2000 bags?).

I look behind, hoping to be reassured by catching a glimpse of some harried housewife. And find another flawless woman, in a designer dress, daintily pushing her cart, this time with a $1000 Gucci bag. I look around, and even the grandmas seem better dressed than me, looking gorgeous with their coiffed hair and pearl necklaces.

I got my vanity taken down several notches, but at least I didn't get food poisoned. At the fish counter I got very tempted to buy a sushi assortment, which though pricey for a grocery store, was several dollars less than what I'd pay for a comparative meal in a sushi restaurant. I asked the fishmonger, who was Hispanic, "Was this packed today?" He looked at me, and then in a conspiratorially low tone said, "No, on Monday", and then motioned with his eyes that I should drop the packet. That's one of the big advantages of looking Hispanic, I get loads of brown solidarity and insider tips. It's especially helpful at fish counters, because they always steer me away from the bad buys towards the truly fresh stuff.

Speaking of I had the best, best sushi I've ever had a week ago, and I truly believe that it was so sublime that it probably wouldn't be topped by any other sushi meal, even if I go and eat a $500 dinner at Urasawa some day (this is of course subliminal rationalization, I know I'll never be able to afford that $500 meal at Urasawa). But truly, this was divine sushi. It was toro, or the fatty part of tuna, something that I generally order at every sushi meal, but thist had all the creamy, velvetty texture of butter with none of the queasy feeling of consuming pure fat.

The restaurant, Sushi Gen, is fairly reasonably priced by sushi standards, but the meal can get pricey pretty fast if you keep consuming stuff like toro. Also it gets packed like crazy at meal times. Apparently people start lining up at 10:30 a.m. and the place starts serving lunch at 11:15 a.m., and the average wait for a lunch table is 1 hour. I got lucky because I was alone and they took me straight to the sushi bar, where the head sushi chef (who's apparently very well known) flirted all the time with me, and made me promise that I'd be back in dinner and drink sake with my meal.

It's funny, but sushi is one of my rare indulgences that I tend to do on my own. It just feels like a very adult thing to do, to sit alone at the bar, concentrate on the simple, incredibly fresh flavours, minimal conversation with the chef. For some reason, I never feel like eating alone at any other kinds of restaurants, so when I'm out for work and need a quick lunch by myself, I always look for a sushi restaurant.

Also, is it just me, because as an Indian woman, I feel especially awkward eating by myself at an Indian restaurant. The one time I did that I got stared at by everyone, I mean, counter guy, chef, waiter, every other male diner, and after a point it was so persistent that it became uncomfortable. I'm sure the Japanese men stare too, heck they flirt, and Japanese public transport is pretty notorious for sexual harassment, but here in LA they seem more subtle. Or maybe I'm biased.


Blogger Tabula Rasa said...

with you. love sashimi.

3:24 AM  
Blogger Szerelem said...

i love(d) sashimi rice to get in the way of the fish. of course then i turned veg and so no more sashimi...

5:17 AM  
Blogger thalassa_mikra said...

TR: Yes, none of those wacky rolls for me, pure and unadulterated pleasure.

Szerelem: The only reason I eat sushi is to stretch my meal dollar. If I just consumed sashimi, I'd be broke before I fill up.

1:43 PM  
Blogger The Guy Next Door said...

It is indeed rare to find an Indian woman sitting alone in a restaurant, anywhere in the world - Be it LA , Tokyo , London or Bhatinda. I do eat out a lot here in London and I cant remember the last time I saw an Indian woman having dinner by herself. Always wondered why. Maybe they always have enuf to go out with OR maybe when they are alone they just dont eat out : o

Good to see you buck the trend - Nice Blog you have here.

8:36 AM  
Blogger thalassa_mikra said...

Guy Next Door, welcome! Thanks for the nice words about the blog. I think a lot of women who grew up in India were conditioned by the general disapproval of the practice of women dining alone there. When I used to work in Delhi, I'd often have meals by myself, and there were very few restaurants where I felt comfortable doing so.

Even here, in a busy restaurant a woman occupying a table all by herself would get some pretty stern looks :)!

5:31 PM  
Blogger Cyberswami said...

there's a japanese restaurant in london, nobu i think it is called. the most wonderful maki i have ever had. pricey, but definitely worth at least one visit.

nice blog. i'll be back.

8:49 AM  
Blogger thalassa_mikra said...

Cyberswami, yes Nobu Matsuhisa, who actually started out in LA and whose USP was sushi with a twist. Given the fact that he had worked in Peru before he came to the US, so there was some interesting amalgam of flavours.

5:24 PM  
Blogger Miss Chamko said...

guess whose back.. in a new avatar..

12:40 PM  

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