Friday, November 06, 2009

Learning to Love Japanese Food All Over Again at Sima Sushi – October 29, 2009

Last week, neither Jimmy nor I wanted to cook, so we went out for sushi. We had enjoyed Sima Sushi in the summer, and we wanted to see if it was as good as we remembered.

We both ordered meals that came with a bowl of miso soup and salad. No pictures of the miso soup, but it looks exactly the same as every other bowl of miso soup. The soup wasn’t as rich in colour (they must not have used red miso) or flavour (no kelp and bonito broth?) as Totoya’s in Ottawa. It was decent.

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The salad, as you can see, is the regular house salad served in Japanese and Korean joints. While the ingredients are the same, the dressing for this one had more citrus in it, which is a good thing. It was so strong that even Jimmy was able to pick it out. I liked the brightness of it.

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We ordered edamame to snack on while we waited for our dinners. The soy beans were sprinkled with table salt, so it wasn’t as flavourful as sea salt. Jimmy couldn’t taste a difference, so he was pretty happy with it. The beans weren’t cooked to mush, and I appreciated that.

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The spicy salmon roll is a favourite of ours, and yes, we know it’s not exactly authentic. This version was damn good—on the same level as Totoya, for sure. This roll was slightly larger than we expected, and it contained slivered cucumbers, a nice touch. The salmon was finely chopped, but the roll still tasted like fish. This is a good thing. Totoya’s version maintains the texture of the fish, while Sima Sushi allows the diner to enjoy the flavour of the fish. Jimmy liked this, too.

Sadly, all of my pictures of Jimmy’s main dish (unagi-don) were blurred to hell, and I couldn’t justify posting them. Apparently I have standards for posting pictures now. I know, shocking!

Anyway, it was, by far, the best barbecued eel bowl we’ve ever had. Unassuming in its small lacquered box, we were entranced by the smoky smell of barbecue. The eel was cut thick and laid directly over top of the rice, with no layer of nori to distract from the eel. It was juicy and tender, and there wasn’t a hint of fishiness. The sauce was mild, enhancing the unagi’s natural flavour instead of disguising it. I was amazed. Jimmy proclaimed it was the best unagi he has ever eaten, and I agreed. The balance between fish, sauce, and rice was perfect. Used to eating thinner slices of unagi over larger quantities of rice, Jimmy almost ran out of rice. He’s been craving this dish ever since.

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I ordered the deluxe sushi dinner, which comes with chef’s choice of nigiri sushi and a makimono on the side (usually California roll).

First, the sushi. I was pleasantly surprised by the uni (sea urchin roe) on the far right of the plate. Having never eaten this delicacy before, I was a little scared that I might not like it, as what happened with Taiwanese stinky tofu. My reaction to the uni went from, “Wow, this is kinda briny,” then “Holy crap, it’s so creamy!” to “OH MY GOD, THIS IS SEAFOODY CUSTARD HEAVEN!” It left quite an impression. Now if someone asks me what uni tastes like, I can confidently answer, “Creamy seafood custard.” I loved it.

Going to the left of the uni: amaebi, which translates to sweet shrimp. This was a delicate piece of raw shrimp on sushi rice. It really was sweet, but not unnaturally sweet. It was like eating the best piece of shrimp times ten. That shrimp flavour, however you would describe it, was magnified. Each bite was filled with shrimpiness. (I know that’s not a word, but that’s how I’m going to describe it.) Loved it!

The next piece of sushi was ika (squid). This was a rather thick slice of squid, gently scored and lightly blowtorched. I didn’t enjoy this one as much because I found the ika too thick and difficult to chew. It took me almost five minutes to chew through it, so I didn’t enjoy it as much. Although each bite released more of the fat and mingled with the rice in my mouth, having to chew for that long really grossed me out. I would pass on this next time.

The pale pink sushi was so delicate and sweet, I really wish I had asked the server what type of fish it was. It was sprinkled with tiny shreds of green onion, and that added a different dimension to the flavour. I liked this one too much to enjoy it, unfortunately, and I gobbled it up without stopping to think about it.

I didn’t get to eat the salmon, but Jimmy said it was comparable to Discover Japan’s salmon sushi. I’ll take his word for it.

The milky white fish was an unexpected winner. I have always been wary of opaque slices of raw fish. I can’t explain why, but I try to avoid eating them if possible. I have it in my mind that they’re going to taste unpleasantly fishy. After eating this sushi, I have decided that I’ve been ridiculous my entire life, and that I need to start eating all sorts of fish. This was spectacularly buttery and delicious. If I didn’t know any better, I would have thought that I was eating a slice of fatty pork. The flavour was quite strong and the texture quite meaty, so it probably won’t be for everyone. I have to find out what kind of fish this is.

The dark pink is the ubiquitous tuna. It was sweet and had a lighter tuna flavour than I had thought, judging by the colour. Because it was light, I wolfed this one down to move onto stronger flavours.

The almost translucent fish was very good as well. I only remember that it had a hint of smoke and was slightly drier than the others.

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The California roll shocked us by being delicious! The fake crab, the avocado, the shredded cucumber, and the little bits of roe were all packed full of flavour. I normally scoff at California rolls because they’re not really Japanese, but this has converted me. It can be just as amazing as any other roll, as long as you pay attention to the ingredients you use. Jimmy and I fought over these!

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We decided to forgo the dessert, and instead, indulge in hot green tea. It was very cleansing after eating such a rich dinner, and we slowly wound down after dinner’s excitement.

I’ve learned a lot from Sima Sushi.

1. Food tastes better when you keep it simple and focus on the natural flavours.
2. Eating slowly and enjoying the food makes for a nicer dinner than stuffing one’s face.
3. I should probably bring a mini bendable tripod when I dine out. I can’t believe I don’t have any focussed pictures of the unagi!
4. I need to learn more about seafood to identify the sushi I eat.
5. Dessert is overrated.
6. Yes, Sima Sushi is my new favourite Japanese restaurant in Kingston!

We ended up spending $54, including tax and tip, on an unexpectedly spectacular dinner. We were full, happy, and determined to save Sima Sushi to celebrate special occasions. I don’t ever want to dine there on a fluke night and ruin this bubble of mine.

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