Friday, January 29, 2010

Japanese Tastes

One of the first times I had sushi was in college. I was on an overseas study program in Japan and had taken a side-trip to Fukuoka, a city on the southern-most island of Kyushu. After a day spent with friends soaking in the hot geothermal baths that dot the volcanic peaks there (ah, college…), they decided I needed to learn to play mahjong.

At some point in the middle of the night the group got peckish and ordered takeout sushi, and in what seemed like mere minutes there was a knock on the door. Like most things in Japan, our order didn't come in a flimsy cardboard box but in a beautiful covered lacquer tray that would be left in the hallway when we were finished, to be picked up and spirited away in the early hours.

Though I don't remember much about mahjong aside from the wonderful clacking noise the tiles made, or about the specifics of the sushi (no doubt incredible), it did give me an enduring love for the cool, smooth, completely fresh taste of fish untouched by heat. I'd been in the mood for that taste again when Kathryn called, saying she was in the neighborhood and wondered if I was available for lunch.

Knowing that she is also a lover of all things Japanese, I suggested meeting at Hama Sushi in Hollywood. As I wrote in a post a couple of years ago, I like this place because of its excellent food and beautiful (read: not overwrought) presentation, and also for its unassuming nature. No costumes, no whirling knives, no koto music on the sound system, just really good, well-prepared, traditional sushi.

We started with bowls of miso, a white version rather than the usual dark brown, served simply in a bowl that is meant to be picked up and drunk from, using chopsticks to pick out the cubes of deep-fried tofu. Then came a variety of mackerel, tuna and salmon sushi along with a gorgeous and delicious avocado roll, which arrived looking like an edible work of art.

As I said previously, "smashing, and I can't recommend it highly enough." It's pretty much the next best thing to being young and playing mahjong all night with friends. Or at least as close as you can get for lunch.

Details: Hama Sushi, 4232 NE Sandy Blvd. 503-249-1021.


themanatee said...

agreed, hama is high quality and low key

Kathleen Bauer said...

Glad you agree! It's a great option for those of us who love Japanese food without the pretension.