May 04, 2014

Nearly criminal that I've never typed those words together before. OMAkase... OMAha... it just seems so... right.

Though as many people would [incorrectly] assume, sushi and Omaha don't have the same great correlation.

Yes, there was a time when sushi was nearly unheard of in our food-obsessed city. But I'd say it's really caught on in the last 10 years. And, yes, most people never stray from maki rolls, there are some very, very, decent options for sashimi and nigiri out there also.

The recent OWH article about omakase got me in the mood for fish feasting though, and I've never gone totally off-script before... Surprising because it seems like just the kind of food adventure I'd be into.

Omakase is actually a Japanese phrase that means "I'll leave it to you". (Which is a phrase I'll likely use often when I actually get around to visiting Japan).

But here in O-town, it really just means sushi.

The article mentioned several options for omakase, but I only had two places on my radar to try.

(In my next OMA-kase-ha post, I'll tackle Taita Restaurant - the place people don't know how to pronounce that's cranking out some huge wins in Benson).

But first up... Sushi Japan - the first place I ever tried sushi, and my long standing favorite.

I dined solo, relatively late on a Friday evening. The omakase style lends itself to sitting up at the sushi bar, which I saddled up to upon arrival. I hadn't called ahead to ask for omakase, figuring it wouldn't be a big deal for only one person.

Once settled, sake in hand, I glanced around the well-established crowd of Sushi Japan regulars... and nearly lost my nerve.

Me... self-professed, food-obsessed, sometimes extrovert that I am... I started gravitating back to the menu. The chefs were already hard at work, chatting up customers, and I nearly felt like I was intruding.
Momokawa Peal Sake. Cloudy and wonderful. (Liquid Nerve).
Luckily, that panic only lasted a minute before they welcomed me into the fold.

When Hugo sensed my indecision, he promptly told me I'd be taken care of.

Suddenly, strangers were recommending their favorites and I was ordering way more food than I could comfortably eat (plus the largest Rainbow Roll I'd ever seen - to go).

It was glorious.

To start, I was served an appetizer of seabass sashimi, jalapeno, cucumber, cilantro and grapefruit in a mango-esque citrus sauce. It was a moment of clarity where Hugo must've stared into my soul. I ate it all (and just barely managing not to attempt picking up the slender plate in an attempt to drink the remaining sauce from a corner). I'd love t order it again... if only I had remembered to ask what it was called.

Oh well, I'm sure next time they'll know what I mean when I ask for the 'grapefruit jalapeno fish appetizer', right? This dish was the favorite of the regulars on my left.

The 'Grapefruit Jalapeno Fish Appetizer'
 Next up, once I placed my happy plate back up on the bar, I was served the Mark Diablo roll. Spicy tuna, tempura fried, topped with tuna, toboko (flying fish roe) and sweet sauce. All served up on a bed of chili sauce... so you can either just eat the pieces off the top, or dredge it in the chili sauce to go as spicy as you like. This was a roll that I haven't had before - but it's obviously somewhat of a signature. And it was also awesome. Definitely something I'd get again. Case in point - branching out can sometimes be very rewarding!

Mark Diablo Roll. Take a look at that roe.

It's MINE! All MINE! Muahahahaha!
 Finally, I was starting to feel full. But to me, that means I still have room for one more dish! I turned to the couple on my right, who were chowing their way through a B-E-A-UTIFUL sashimi plate (and were also kind enough to let me try one of their fried apples - an 'off the menu' dessert item Chef Hugo whipped up for them).

These mysterious - and wise - strangers recommended 'Lily Pads'. Their favorite.

Sight-unseen, description unheard, I went for it.

"Yes, make me the Lily Pads!" I chimed in. And honestly, at this point, I was pretty excited to see what would show up.

Unfortunately for those of you reading this, it was another off-menu item so I don't really have the best descripotion (food blogger fail!) But at least we have a name in this case. The best I can describe them is little piles of heaven.

Yes. Piles of Heaven.

Or, if you're not religiously-inclined. Piles of Good. Piles of Yum. Or, if you're adverse to the word 'pile' they you can substitute "Stacks" for the above.

The Lily Pads were basically tempura-fried vegetable [something] with salmon and quail egg on top. There was a sauce also... lord, this is not my finest moment in food writing. Apparently when I go off menu I need to take better notes (or ANY notes). Though, worth mentioning, the ingredients of this sometimes change anyway to the Chef's whims... so it's probably best not to get too stuck on one composition.

You know what they say though, a picture is worth a thousand words...

Lily Pads. Yum.
 A couple more shots of the plethora of offerings on the counter made me sad that my stomach was finally full. I hadn't even gotten to the tamago, octopus or GIANT SHRIMP.

It's hard to say that it was the best thing I ate that night, since all three items were off the charts great, but it was a solid three-way tie where everybody wins. Especially me.

If you're looking to try sushi for the first time, or really go off the rails and get out of your comfort zone, you probably can't go wrong with Sushi Japan. And if you're dragging non-sushi lovers along with you - hit up the yakiniku side where you can grill your own meat (though that's really a topic for another post). In the meantime, get here. Explore. Your taste buds will thank you.

Sushi Japan Yakiniku Boy on Urbanspoon

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