February 1, 2010


Tuna, Baby Yellowtail, Red Snapper at Gari

Sea Urchin and Salmon Roe at Gari

Sushi Deluxe Platter at Gari

I felt rather self-conscious when I first stepped into Gari. There were only a few patrons at 6:45PM, so everyone's attention was on us. We were greeted with a sharp "IRASSHAIMASE," which is a customary welcome at Japanese restaurants and businesses. Behind the sushi bar lined a row of five chefs who patiently waited to craft their next masterpiece. I usually like to sit at the bar, but only when the chefs are completely preoccupied and thus would have no time to observe my less-than-perfect table manners. But there was no escaping the unintended exhibitionism here. The giant glass windows and bright lighting insinuated that this place nor its guests had anything to hide.

To begin our meal, B and I ordered a plate of the beef short ribs to share. The ribs were smothered in a sweet and tangy honey tamari sauce. To compliment the richness, a side of delicately fried yuca flakes was laid next to the meat. As fragile as they may seem to appear, they actually packed quite a hard crunch! Even though the beef short ribs were tasty, they were tricky to eat (elegantly).

Shortly after the appetizer, entrees arrived on very simple white plates. Our waiter carefully identified each piece of sushi on my plate, but I was only able to remember a few: tuna, baby yellowtail, red snapper, salmon, sweet shrimp, sea urchin, and salmon roe. Using my best sushi etiquette, I dipped each piece (fish side down) gently into the soy sauce and placed it into my mouth, letting the meat hit my tongue first. I do this because dipping the rice down into the soy sauce would make it fall apart (and personally too salty for my liking). Secondly, you would experience the optimal level of flavor if you allow the fish to come in contact with your tongue first. I find using chopsticks to be a little challenging to maneuver each piece of sushi upside down, so I opt to use my fingers. This technique for eating Nigirizushi is actually perfectly acceptable according to the Japanese. Why do you think decent sushi places provide those hot hand towels at the beginning?

Each piece tasted fresh, clean, and light. The baby yellowtail wasn't as "melt-in-your-mouth" as its dad, probably due to its lower fat content. The most surprising piece was the sweet shrimp. It was buttery and ultra-tender. Unlike most (cooked) shrimp sushi that I've had, this piece was semi-raw. I saved the sea urchin for last, knowing that it could be a total hit or miss. Fortunately, the finale was a success. The flavor was pungent, yet not overpowering.

I finished my dinner with a cup of green tea. The entire experience seemed quite straightforward, almost commonplace. It was only after I had sat down to write this entry, study my photos and reflect that I began to appreciate the beauty within the subtle details.


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