I am not the best candidate to spend $600 for dinner at Masa. My brief brush with Masa is the conversation I had with Danny of Year in Food in which he revealed he’d dined at Masa. “How was it?” I asked. “Was it worth it?”
“It is,” he said, “if you really like sushi.”
Well I’m not sure that I really like sushi. I like it the same way that most Americans seem to like it in that it’s a fun dinner playset: oooh fun sticks to eat with and green hot stuff and little packets of soy sauce. Sushi cravings creep up on me now and then, but I can satisfy them quite well at Whole Foods. Give me a pre-packaged spicy tuna roll or a salmon roll and I’m set.
James Felder, however, has set my sushi life on a new course. When Masa came up in conversation a few months ago, James balked and said: “The best sushi in New York is Tomoe Sushi.”
So yesterday when James and I were chatting online, I said: “Let’s eat lunch tomorrow. Let’s go to your favorite sushi place…what’s it called?”
“Tomoe,” he said, or wrote. “Let’s meet at 1—I’ll get there early because there’s usually a line.”
How right he was! I arrived before James (I am constantly early, it’s a real problem) and there was already a crowd of people waiting. James bumped into his friend Bobby who he invited to eat with us. Can you spot James in the crowd? Can you spot Kirk (of The Daily Kirk) coming to meet us too? It’s like Where’s Waldo in Sushi-land. Do you see the wizard with the cane?
Eventually a tall Japanese man with long hair came out and asked us how many there were in our party. Parties of six were asked to split into smaller groups. We were led in and sat at a table by the front. The place is very quaint, with two windows looking out on Thompson and three men behind a sushi counter slicing fish with great concentration.
James suggested we order the sushi lunch plate—you get a nice variety of sushi. In addition we ordered–are you ready for this?–shrimp head guacamole.
“Oooh this should be fun,” said James, “We’re adventurous eaters.”
After a little while, the shrimp head guacamole arrived. Here it is in all its glory:
Who among you would dare to eat these spiny critters? Eye balls and creepy crawly legs deep fried and then dipped into creamy guacamole… I hear the squeamish among you falling out of your chairs in shock. But be not shocked: these tasted quite good. They were salty and crisp and the texture, as you can imagine, is quite unusual.
Here’s Kirk with shrimp legs sticking out his mouth. He’d already swallowed the shrimp head, but somehow it was trying to fight its way out his body:
It eventually crawled up his face and made a home in his hair.
After our shrimphead guac, we settled down for our lunch sushi platters. The sushi in front is the lunch sushi platter, the sushi behind it is a bunch of special rolls James and Bobby ordered:
Now here’s the part where I have a big breakthrough and I realize that sushi really is remarkable, that I really do like sushi. This sushi WAS reamarkable: it was so fresh, I’d never experienced sushi like it. The fish in particular was slick and tender–almost buttery. Kirk and I had trouble keeping the long strips of fish in our chopsticks, so we eventually settled upon using our fingers. I had that sticky sushi fishy flavor on my fingers all day and I didn’t mind. I’ve entered a new state of sushi consciousness, and I owe it all to James Felder, who you can visit at Snapshot Artifact. Maybe he’ll raise your consciousness too.