Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Sushi Hoe Down

The first 50 times we went to our now favorite Japanese restaurant for lunch it was like going to the ballet; a choreographed meal.

We seek sanctuary in our Japanese restaurant where our corporate care-worn souls will be refreshed as our corpulent bodies are, er, recharged.

Nourishment for soul and stomach.

A perfect lunch place
Nourishes bodies and soul
With today’s special

We are often guided to a place by the front window where sunlight plays a pattern on the wooden table. Everything is in its place, and a place for everything.

Chopsticks are centered and soon so are we.

We are regulars and green tea is brought to us, served with a slight bow. Unbidden, a portion of ikura, our favorite treat, arrives. The waitstaff glides around silently and nearly invisible. Food appears and we can’t remember it being placed in front of us.


Miso soup is next, followed, in time and discretely, by a small salad. Finally, our main course is delivered and oriented just so, as pleasing to the eye as to the palate.

Each course is staged to fit our conversation and to enhance the joy of our stay. Slow, but deliberate. Timed to perfection.

As each course arrives our table is reset artistically with spoons, bowls, dipping sauces and whatever is required. Simply contemplating the laid-out table can be a mind-expanding experience.

Finally, we are presented with our bill, almost apologetically. We pay, leave a generous gratuity and depart amongst many arigatos and good-byes, see you soon, have a nice day, ciao and thankyouverymuch.

We return to the Industrial Complex and, shielded by our renewed bodies and souls, we fend off the Morlock tendencies of our fellow workers until we are released from our shackles at 5.

Ah, so.

Thus was the story I related to my out-of-town guest who was to join me for lunch and I suggested Something A Little Different. It is not lunch, I intoned gravely, it is life renewed.

Word to the wise. Never tell anyone…ANYONE…about a special restaurant because it’s a jinx! A JINX I tell you!

Enter restaurant
Expecting peace and quiet
Unwelcome surprise

At first everything looked normal. The Special of the Day was laid out for us to contemplate, patrons were engaged in food and banter, the sushi chefs were busy behind the counter.

It looked normal.

Looked. Normal.

We were ushered to a table away from the window; to a corner of the restaurant. Although soul-nourishing tables were available, we were hustled to the back, into the gloom, into a corner. I laughed nervously.

“Howdy! I’m Ray. Y’all want something to drink?”

I nearly fainted. Speaking, someone is speaking? What are they saying and why? What is this the Spanish Inquisition? I looked up into the bovine brown eyes of our waiter, Ray. Not Ray-san or Rayamura. Just Ray.

“Green tea. Two,” I replied quickly.

“Greenteetoo? I’m sorry but I don’t know what that is? Can you point to it on the menu?”

I glared, “Green. Tea. For. Each. Of. Us. Green. Tea. “

“Oh, green tea! I’m so used to iced tea. I got it. I’ll be back to take your order.”

I was in shock. My guest was nonplussed. “What?” she asked.

“The waiter. Not the usual,” I fumbled.

“He looked like a waiter to me,” my friend offered charitably.

“Yeah, but not here. Not here.”

Ray returned with our tea and remained, pencil in hand, to take our order.

“Two lunch combinations with salmon, steamed rice there, fried rice here, spicy tuna rolls there and California rolls here.” I closed the menu and looked up.

Ray wasn’t writing. He was looking at the folded menu on the table.

Ray looked around. He was sweating a bit. “Uh,” he stammered, “it’s my first day here and the menu ain’t numbered. Bear with me but could you repeat that, real slow like?”

In fifty visits I had never heard uttered the phrase “real slow like” even in Japanese.

Cool moss. Cool moss! I unfolded the menu, pointed and repeated the order.

Ray, looking relieved, stomped back to the kitchen with all the grace of a water buffalo with a broken leg.

Shortly later amid lively conversation concerning a low slung sports car and a high slung fashion model our lunch arrived. All at once. Soup, salad and main course. No pause to enjoy. Just clunk it was slammed on the table as Ray “moved stuff out of the way” to make room.

“Looks like y’all got quite a feed!” Ray announced and clomped off.

I surveyed the wreckage. Bowls here and there, soup in the corner, salad on the edge. My guest had my California rolls, I had the steamed rice. We traded trays. We swapped rolls, half and half.

We ate. We talked. I stewed in silence. I was not centered. I was definitely becoming unbalanced.

After a while my guest looked up, satisfied from a great lunch and sparkling conversation and said, “When’s the ballet start?”

“Come again?” I was half in and half out of the conversation, thinking mostly about murder. I was not centered. No, not centered at all. I was very highly strung and “epped!” every time Ray passed the table.

“The ballet! You said this place had a ballet, so, where is it?”

I glanced at my watch, looked up and said, “Oh, that’s only on Monday. I lost track of the days and it’s Tuesday. How funny? No ballet today.”

“Awww,” my guest sighed in genuine disappointment, “we’ll have to come back here again ‘cause I’d really like to see Japanese ballet!”

“Whatever,” I thought.

Ray strolled by and pitched the check on the table without breaking stride. Uncharitably, I left him a tip less than my usual generosity, although his widow would understand, I'm sure.

As we made our way to the front door I turned and glanced at the sushi chef. He caught my eye, paused knowingly and gave me a respectful bow. I returned the bow with a wan smile and went out the door into the parking lot.

My guest was still going on about the ballet. “Yeah, my daughter took tap lessons, but I never heard of Japanese ballet. We got to come back for that, OK?”

I was lost in thought:

Ballet lunch for two
Trampled by Ray the cowboy
Soul under boot


Foo said...

Suddenly my leftover enchilada casserole, nuked and plopped on a Styrofoam™ plate, doesn't sound so bad.

Anonymous said...

Sorry the Zen had been zapped from your moment. You've got to tell me where this happened. I want to see if your fave is my fave, too.

And nice use of the 'ku, dude.

Bret said...

Sushi. Unimagined harm.
My soul screams "Iced Tea?!?"

Anonymous said...

Great expectations
Are rarely met with a guest
At familiar haunts

Bill said...

Ah, yes, Ketchup Guy, how true that is. Time and again...

Kristie said...

It appears all of Houston is experiencing a service crisis...

Shalee said...

I admire the three, count them - three, haikus. That, in and of itself, is remarkable, astounding and awe-inspiring, not to mention really cool.

But you are right... never talk about the magic of your favorite spot; for with those utterances, the enchantment disappears.

Once the restaurant
revealed its deep, lovely soul
it failed your dear friend.

Shawn said...

...that's just quality humor.

which is almost as good as a laugh.

remarkably, the same restaurant exists, avec out-of-place fool, exists here in orlando.

Anonymous said...

What a lovely and sad, sad story.

To regain your balance:

Close your eyes.



Inhale again.

Close your eyes and picture the sky.

Picture Ray floating in the clouds like a big, clumsy, cowboy balloon.

Exhale, and push Ray farther and farther away with every breath until he is a tiny little speck.

Ray's going, going, gone!

Now listen closely...


Anonymous said...

oh yeah. i know this one well, the jinx of bragging on something. never brag on anything. you learned your lesson well. ray's widow? should we be worried here?

Antique Mommy said...

A cautionary tale. Never brag on your favorite restaurant, your kid or your dog lest you be made a liar.