One of the things I enjoy about visiting more metropolitan areas than my own is seeing the food fads that show up in particular cities. Like the sudden resurgence in fruit juice in 2013, or 2015’s bone broth craze, or the still-with-us circa 2005 cupcake craze (we’re past Peak Cupcake, but there are still a lot more cupcake places about). In Seattle, one of the 2016 trends was poke: the Hawaiian dish made from cubed, raw, marinated fish served over a bed of rice with a selection of toppings like garlic, the infamous “krab stick”, edamame, ginger, and various seaweed products. It’s actually a dish I rather enjoy (or, more usually, the closely related Japanese-inspired donburi, which is more common out my way). But it was definitely one of the current food trends in Seattle, since during our march we saw no fewer than a dozen places advertising their poke. And there were few better examples of the craze than the 45th Stop N Shop Deli.
At the end of our first full day exploring the Faroe Islands (including some stunningly awesome sea cliffs), we found ourselves back in Tórshavn for dinner. When trying to figure out which option to try for dinner (unlike most of the rest of the Faroes, Tórshavn has a reasonably good selection of good restaurants), one of the options was “sushi”. And, since one of the ever-present sights while driving through the many fjords of the Faroes is the giant, circular aquaculture pens, I figured this would be a good opportunity to try some of the salmon. With that in mind, we decided to tryout out Etika, the only actual sushi restaurant in the Faroe Islands.
Our visit to Oahu was filled with all sorts of recommendations, and one of the more interesting ones came from my friend Tim from Minneapolis: “Go to Sushi ii, order the omakase, and eat whatever they put in front of you.” Sushi ii is off of most tourist radar, located in a small strip mall (the “Sam Sung Plaza”) across the street from the Walmart a few blocks north of the Ala Moana mall, Sushi ii (the “ii” is from the Japanese for “good”, it’s not a Roman “II”) is one of those neighborhood sushi places that somewhat blend into the background: while I may have picked it at random if I was in a sushi mood, I probably wouldn’t have found this place without a good solid recommendation.
I knew that eventually the concept of the “pop-up restaurant” was going to hit the area. For those that aren’t familiar with the pop-up concept, it’s basically a temporary restaurant, where a chef or kitchen team opens up in a temporary space or borrows another restaurant’s space for a night, serving their food and menu instead of the normal fare. It’s a good way for chefs to test out concepts or run limited restaurants, and they’ve been all the buzz the last few years. Indeed, one place I’ve reviewed here, Dock Kitchen in London, started as a pop-up. And like most any culinary fad, eventually it finds its way here to northern New England. In this case, the pop-up restaurant is a sushi place, Himitsu Sushi.
After the first evening of the Vermont Brewers Festival, it was time for us to seek out a a light dinner. Being a Friday night, that’s usually a little hard in Burlington, but as we exited the festival, I was reminded that one place on my hit list was literally right there. Adjacent to the exit of the festival was San Sai, a relatively new Japanese place in Burlington. Located at 112 Lake Street (in what I still think of as the “New Condo building down by the lake”, even though it’s been there for a few years), San Sai is located in what used to be the location of Taste, right off of the waterfront. It’s actually a great location for a restaurant, except for the fact that people don’t expect a restaurant to be there. If I hadn’t known to look for San Sai, I probably could walk by it a dozen times without noticing it. And it’s not just me, since we walked into San Sai at 9pm, right after the Friday Vermont Brewers Festival, and got promptly seated. Let me tell you, if we had tried to go to Flatbread or Farm House, for example, we’d be waiting until rather late to get a seat. But San Sai had a reasonably good number of tables open…
This week, several different client meeting in Massachusetts resulting in my having a free evening in Natick. Natick is an interesting little town, there’s an old-style downtown that has a few decent restaurants, and then there is the Rt 9 strip. There’s no shortage of places to eat on the strip, but it’s mostly major chains. Oga’s Japanese Cuisine is the sort of place you drive by a lot of times and don’t think of checking out, since it looks little different than, say, a low-grade Chinese place or an office supply sort, at the end of a somewhat dismal strip mall with one of those annoyingly small one-way parking lots. But several online sources gave the place good reviews, and I’ve been in a mood for Japanese food, so I decided to check it out…
I’ve enjoyed sushi for quite a few years, but I always get a little frustrated that your typical sushi places just have the same standard rolls, with little attempt to be innovative or inventive. But every once in a while there is a sushi chef that’s still trying to do things both creatively, and well. So one thing I make sure to do if I’m visiting a major metro area is to check to see what some of the local sushi places are up to. In Montreal, quite a few of the local reviews gave really high marks to Mikasa Sushi Bar. It was walking distance from our hotel, so we decided to check it out our first night there.
Once my friend Steve’s wedding was over, we still had another day to check out more of Marin County. After considering a lot of day trips, we ended up taking the ferry to Angel Island for a day of hiking, and afterward we drove around to Sausalito again to check out one of the top-rated sushi places in the Bay area: Sushi Ran. I’m rather glad we did.