Friday, September 07, 2007

Friday Field Trip #1

Welcome to our Friday Field Trip. A (semi)weekly tour of a Sushiboy haunt.

This week is the Holy Sushi Shrine. Home of my first sushi experience. Tanpopo.

The Most Holy Sushi Shrine,  Tanpopo. Like most people, I was convinced that I would h-a-t-e sushi. Tanpopo changed my mind.
Tanpopo sits innocently in a corner strip mall in Logan Utah but walking in the door will transport you to Japan. Japanese Magazines, in which read from the back (our back anyway) and turn the pages left to right, wait to be browsed on the waiting area table. Imported Pocky, Japanese snacks and knick-knacks hover close to the cash register. White paper lanterns with caligraphied black kanji adorn the ceiling. Japanese paintings decorate the walls. Wood framed paper dividers divide up sections of the dining area. In the far end of the restaurant, traditional dining rooms with bamboo framed paper walls and short tables. The food is served with traditional dinnerware (western style silverware is available on request) and, for the most part, traditional food is served. They have a lot more than sushi, and it is all delicious. The restaurant is cozy, some would say a little cramped, but from what I can tell that is authentic too. This is Tanpopo, home to my first sushi experience.

A Pagoda in JapanI've always been a fan of Japanese culture, I liked the art, entertainment and most of the food that this fine country has to offer. But the idea of sushi made my skin crawl and I wanted nothing to do with it. At first, I (mistakenly) thought Sushi was raw fish. Yuck. Then my friend Daniell (fake name, but the same friend we have international night dinners with) told me sushi referred to vinegared rice not raw fish. I despise vinegar. I eventually gave into her persistent sushi campaign, and I decided I should try sushi, on the condition that there would be no raw fish. So one evening we decided to have me take the plunge at Tanpopo.

Un•for•get•ta•ble (ŭn'fər-gĕt'ə-bəl) adj.
Earning a permanent place in the memory; memorable: an unforgettable experience.

A beautiful Rainbow RollI remember being surprised when the plate of sushi was set in front of me. It was the most beautiful plate of food ever served to me, and it didn't smell strongly of vinegar (like I was expecting). I bent down closely, it didn't even smell faintly of vinegar, some of it was even deep fried. I tried one of the deep fried (tempura) pieces first. I didn't hate sushi, in fact I really liked it. Almost loved it. Wow. The rice had a sweet and sour taste to it. Unlike Chinese sweet and sour, this is not a strong flavor it is very light. The rice is the perfect canvas to set off the rest of the ingredients. The Dragon (tempura) roll was warm, crispy, flavorful and visually striking. A far cry from the wet, cold, slimy food I imagined I would be choking down. I polished off my plate. I knew I was wrong about sushi and it wasn't long until I ate some of the raw variety too. That was even better. Each time I tried sushi I liked it more. Now it's become an obsession.

TanpopoThe Japanese word, tanpopo, means: Dandelion. It doesn't really jive with the restaurant, until I imagine why an American would name a restaurant Dandelion. I imagine a middle aged woman, who loves the color yellow, serving down home comfort food, (maybe with a sophisticated flare). Tanpopo is pretty much the Japanese equal to my imagined American restaurant (minus the yelow decor). So, whenever I visit Logan Utah, I have to stop by for one of the famous Sushi Happy Hours, or All You Can Eat Sushi Nights. It's then that I relive that happy moment when I discovered sushi.

I hope you all enjoyed our field trip. Please post any remarks or questions in the comments section. I hope you join us for our field trip next week when we visit Sushiboy's house.


Nobody™ said...

great post, and very informative. I'm going to try some more sushi this year in Vegas. The first time I ever had it was at the Spice Market Buffet at the Las Vegas Aladdin last October.

Mel said...

I have never been brave enough to try sushi and there are not that many places around here that offer it.

That is one pretty plate of food though!

Sushiboy said...

Nobody - Buffet sushi is hit or miss, if its been sitting for a while leave it be, if it is fresh off the Chef's knife it will probably be yummy. I've had some good sushi from a buffet, I wish I didn't have school, or I'd come down and sample some with you :)

Mel - I found Sushi in South Carolina when I was there in April. But of course I was on Hilton Head so it was probably not really like the rest of the state. :( I have noticed it is a bit harder to find a Japanese resturant in the South. If you ever want to try sushi, give me an e-mail. Its not too hard to find sushi you will like when you have a few pointers.

Sushiboy said...

Oh, the south may not have much in the way of Japanese cuisine, but the Cajun and other Southern restaurants make up for it. Its just about impossible to find Andouille sausage in Utah. (great for gumbo) but I saw it all over in SC. YUM. But with a little looking you kind find a Japanese place just about anywhere. (I wish it were true for andouilee)

Just Dave said...

That's weird. I had my first sushi experience at the Ginza restaurant in Salt Lake City. There is another place on West Temple that I can't remember the name of but they make excellent rolls there. After my first experience, I became an addict althouh, in some places, I think heroin is cheaper.

In Vegas, Rio has a good sushi bar as well as the MGM Grand. If you happen to be in Henderson, hit the Hyatt Lake Las Vegas Resort. Their sushi restaurant has been rated in the top ten in the country.

In Denver,where I reside, there are almost too many to list. Sushi Den is probably the best with fresh tuna flown in from Japan daily.

Scarlet said...

Great post.

I am a newbie to sushi (2-3 year) and where I live it is a bit of a challenge to find. Its funny, when I lived out in the sticks there was a Sushi place close. Move back to the 'Burbs and it's hard to get. But wow that looked good.

Teri said...

My friend took me for Sushi about 2 years ago. I'm a picky eater but I must have been feeling "adventurous" on this day.

I tried sushi with eel, crawfish, tuna and salmon. I loved the eel and crawfish but hated the tuna and salmon. You really couldn't taste the eel and crawfish that much and with the rice and seaweed it made a good combination.

I'm glad I went with someone who knows I'm a picky eater and who was helpful with the choices.

Nobody™ said...

I was at Spice Market Buffet right after they re-opened last year, so I figured the sushi was fresh. Hopefully it will be good this year too.

Skip school and come on down. I heard of a good sushi place in Vegas on Food Network last night, but I can't remember the name of it or where it was. I may have to track that down.

Nobody™ said...

Found it, it's at the TI

I don't know what any of it is.

"that girl" said...

omg! pocky!! i loved that stuff when i was stationed in okinawa. there is an all you can eat sushi place in las vegas that rocks! makano or something like that. bout $18 for lunch and $23 for dinner i think ... last time i was there was in january. but again ... all you can eat and all you can imagine. my mouth is watering just thinking about it ... mmmmmmm!

Sushiboy said...

JD - Wow lots of great resteraunts to try, my pocketbook flinched at the thought, I'll probably try Ginza soon.

Teri - Tuna and Salmon are some of my favorites and Unagi (eel) is awesome too. I like crawfish in anything. What didn't you like about the salmon and tuna? The rawness?

Nobody - I'd love to skip school for sushi, only problem is I'd probably miss some tests and end up failing. :P And then I've wasted tuition and $300 in books, Maybe next year... (stupid responsibility)

TGirl - I like pocky too, thats why it got special mention. I would love to visit Japan, even being there on deployment sounds fun.

Tug said...

I don't think I have it in me to try sushi...& I'm not a picky eater! I did love the post though, and love japanese restaurants that cook at your table - COOK being the key word there. ;-)

Sushiboy said...

MMM Tepenyaki grilling is cool. Its amazing what kind of neat tricks the chef pull off night after night as they cook at our tables.

Maybe one day you will know the joys of sushi, but if you stop at teppanyaki, well I guess thats not so bad. :)

Teri said...

sushi, yeah, I think the rawness was not to my liking. I think they were both smoked but I didn't care for it.

I like fish though, cooked!