“How do I get your job?” is a question I hear a lot. Like...a lot. Which is hilarious, because I didn’t think many people wanted my job. I mean, you could do it.
But I imagine it’s a lot like me when I see somebody with those bumpy things that are under shirts. They sound like a food I like? It’s, what is it? Right on the tip of my tongue.
Oh, right: muscles. I see someone with muscles and I think, “How do I get those?” Turns out the answer is, much like getting my job, relentless practice to the point of obsession.
And a journalism degree.
I answered that question once or twice at The Sushi Bar on Memorial last week. In a back room, several of us were sat around two long tables to enjoy one of my very favorite things at a sushi restaurant: letting someone else choose.
Having seen so many steakhouses and other upscale restaurants give it a try, I wasn’t surprised to see a sushi restaurant finally jumping into the set-menu game. It makes a lot of sense, frankly.
On the one hand, it’s a reward to your in-the-know customers. People who patronize your restaurant frequently get a chance to try something new and different, something off-menu, something they’re likely to appreciate more than folks who don’t make dining out a priority.
On the other, it’s a treat for the kitchen staff. Unless your menu is always changing, a la Ludivine or Nonesuch, the folks cooking the food can get a little bored with constantly preparing the same dishes night in and night out. A tasting menu dinner gives them license to cut loose, do something a little more risky for a set number of guests, rather than throwing a special up on the board and hoping someone will order it.
The Sushi Bar plans on holding these dinners twice a month with the menu changing every other dinner. That way, if you have something you absolutely must have again, you can go to the next dinner. (Or do like I do and pester the owner and GM and every server you see to please, please, please make one for me PLEASE.)
Tickets are $70 a seat, which is a bit high for a dinner without paired beverages, but it’s also unlike any of the other tasting menu dinners in OKC. I thought the food was worth it and I was especially pleased to see portions that aim to satisfy.
The first course was a sweet shrimp crudo, which is an Italian preparation of raw meat. In this case, tender sweet shrimp were sliced exceedingly thin and minimally dressed. It was much thinner than sashimi, for instance. It reminded me much more of carpaccio.
We were encouraged to use our forks, as the ultra tender pieces of shrimp would surely have torn if retrieved via chopsticks. It came with a miniature salad, which added a bit of texture to the dish as well as giving the seafood some nice acids to play off of.
That was a nice opening salvo, but the meal started in earnest with the blue crab asparagus salad. Oh, now this could definitely find its way onto a menu, but I’m afraid what the price would be. This bowl was heavy with shaved asparagus and big pieces of sweet blue crab in a light dressing. It came topped with chile threads — a bit of spice and added crunch — and a grilled lemon if we wanted to brighten the whole dish with smoky tart juice.
Yes. Yes, I did.
The chilled salad was especially welcome given how unruly temperatures have been of late and my belly was well and truly happy to receive such a bounty of crabby goodness.
Next came an intriguing dish with an overturned martini glass in the center. Pull it away and you were treated to a whirl of sweet wood smoke and a few gorgeously bronzed slices of cold-smoked and seared wagyu beef.
Just...yeah. I will do my best to describe this dish, because I’m pretty sure my brain had to reboot a few times. Cold smoking imparts the flavor of the smoke on meat without cooking it. I mean, why barbecue super tender pieces of wagyu when you can simply sear one side and let diners melt the beef on their tongues?
I could have gladly eaten more of any of the night’s dishes, but especially this one. The meat was intensely flavorful and extremely tender. I think I just shifted my teeth slightly toward each morsel and it gave up and disintegrated. The table, which had previously been filled with conversations and laughter, went suddenly silent when people tucked into this one. All you could hear was people softly moaning swear words under their breath.
Another treat with the beef was a small dish of housemade kimchi that was a touch sweeter than others I’d had. It could have eaten a bucket of it.
The fourth course shifted from savory to sweet with Korean-inspired seafood noodles. The broth the noodles were cooked in came from the lightly sweet kimchi, which added a fruity note to the dish along with shrimp and scallops.
In the center was a shell containing just an egg yolk, which I quickly whisked into the noodles. The result was a creamy, almost carbonara-like effect that clung to each noodle and dripped deliciously off every piece of seafood.
The final dish was a pair of desserts — a lovely slice of fresh cheesecake and a piece of creamy matcha cake.
The beauty of eating these in tandem was that the more intense flavor of the matcha still had a bit of that signature bitterness, which the cheesecake sweetly washed away.
I’m interested to see where The Sushi Bar goes with its next dinner. My only complaint, if any, was I’d like to see some of the titular sushi find its way onto a plate. Perhaps some fish that comes in short supply or a novel preparation of an old favorite. Regardless, I left the meal quite happy with both the contents of my stomach and the conversations I’d had with fellow food fanatics. Even the ones who want to take my job.