Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Chiu's Sushi

I usually enjoy going out alone, but Saturday night my sister and I decided to go for some dinner and a movie. I figured I would drag her to my favorite sushi restaurant, Chiu's Sushi, next to the Whole Foods by Little Italy (I love their buffet, and if you buy anything in there, you get two hours of free parking with validation. Consider it for your next night out). "They have cooked things, too, right?" She asked. Yes - she will try new stuff, but doesn't do the raw meat thing.

So the two of us went to Chiu's and were seated. The server, who may be one of the owners, brought out hot towels. Remember, folk, they are NOT for your face. They are for your hands. I myself don't like them, as they dry out my skin, but most people must appreciate them, or else they wouildn't bring them out!

My sister ordered iced tea and I got a small warm sake - I usually order sake at Chiu's, and it's usually hot enough that you need to blow on it. I started in on my sake and my sister notes that she really wanted lemonade. No problem - we're going dutch anyway.

Now at Chiu's, I usually order an appetizer, and I told my sister that's what I planned to do. She ordered the extremely tasty seafood tempura plate, for about $20. I splurged and got the sashimi plate (again, about $20). Each meal came with salad and miso soup. My sister loved the salad - but had to use chopsticks! Now, she has never used them before, and judging by how long it took me to learn (a period of a few years, as I recall it), I had little confidence that I could show her, or that shewould pick it up either. But like Chloe Dao getting it right with her first foray into menswear in that Project Runway challenge where she had to make over fellow designer Nick (fabulous), my sister quickly got the hang of how to use the utensils. I told her one simple thing that I didn't realize: it's okay to use it to scoop your rice. I don't exactly know if that's proper chopstick use, but it works fine for me. She even told the waitress she didn't need a fork when she was asked about it, in a friendly manner (The folks at Chiu's are very friendly, I have found)!

After the salad and soup came our entrées, and MAN were they BIG and TASTY! Now I know better than to order the entrée, because I can't eat that much and I am not going to take sashimi home in a doggie bag. Not a good idea.

I've had the tempura before, but never the seafood tempura (though do order their soft shell crab tempura - if ever there was an appropriate item to eat at a Japanese restaurant on the Chesapeake Bay, it is this). My sister adored the veggies and the fish, and had me try a wonderful tempura'd scallop. Warm and moist on the inside, crispy and delicious on the outside! Next time I go there, I should just order the tempura, because it is quite good.

But it will be difficult to pass up their sashimi (raw fish without the rice - with the rice, it is sushi). Again, my raw-ophobic sister was initially unreceptive, but finally she said, "Aw hell, I'll try it. I would eventually, anyway." So the first thing she tried was a white fish. She dipped it in soy sauce... and she loved it! She was shocked! She soon confessed that the thing that most worried her about it would be the texture, which she didn't think she would like. But the sashimi actually wound up being smoother than cooked fish, and certainly not slimy. We both noshed on raw salmon and tuna - though she was more than content to leave me the octopus (Hey, more for me!). It was hard not to finish everything on my plate, because, again, it was all so good. The egg and shrimp sashimi was tasty. We even ate a little of the parilla leaf garnish (I was told it is called opa), which was deliciously peppery.

Almost stuffed, and with our beverages gone, we were faced with the question of dessert. My sister didn't want anything - she just wanted to bag her tempura and go. I, however, insisted that she at least try some tempura ice cream, one of my favorite desserts of all time. She relelnted and ordered one for herself. A few minutes later the tempura ice cream appeared. I've seen this dish done adequately, and I've seen it done half-assed. The least appetizing was at a sushi restaurant in Pasadena, California, which offered five different flavors of tempura ice cream. It seemed as if they took a pre-fried tempura shell and placed a dollop of ice cream inside of it. LA-ZY! Chiu's, however, does it up right! I'm not sure what they put around the ice cream to keep it from melting under the batter - I've read that some kind of pound cake coating works well. The one time I tried to make it, all I got was blobs of tempura floating in a pot of oil and boiled ice cream. It gave an interesting flavor and texture to the shrimp tempura I made next, but it still was not what I was looking for. But at Chiu's, the ice cream was good. The crispy coating was hot, and the ice cream - vanilla coated with a thin layer of some kind of cake - was still solid and cold. The chocolate sauce on top was also a nice touch.

We finished our meal and got the check - $60 before tip!!! This was for: one seafood tempura plate, one sashimi plate, one warmsake, small, one lemonade, one tea, and two tempura ice creams. At $30 each, that was definitely more than I usually pay for myself. But I rarely eat out with my sister, and I thought for once, I could splurge. My sister liked the complimentary Japanese gum we each were given. Not me - I usually just throw it out. I'm not too crazy about gum. But I was crazy about the food, and look forward to my (hopefully less expensive) next trip to Chiu's Sushi.

Next time, however, I definitely get the sashimi appetizer! My stomach is just too small for the entrée!