Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover (Or a Restaurant by its Facade)

11 02 2011

The title of this post is an old and annoying adage but it’s one that has stood the test of time because it is true (although I really can’t resist judging books by their covers; but that’s another story for another day).  As human beings, we possess five senses.  Of those five, our eyesight is one of the strongest which is why when food looks unappealing, we have pre-emptive notions about the way it will taste.  In the food industry it is often said that “presentation is everything” and to a certain extent, I agree.  The same goes for the interior decor of a restaurant, its exterior facade, and the staff working within (don’t kid yourself, you know I’m right :)).

This is precisely why, on a recent visit to a new sushi restaurant in town, our group of three sushi enthusiasts (plus one sushi endure-er), were not so enthused with the idea of eating there, at first.  Our primary concern was the tired, weathered and worn out look of this “new” place.  True, it was in one of the old buildings on King Street in Waterloo but if a restaurant is “new”, an effort should be made to update it, repaint it and generally, make it more welcoming.  As we ventured in, we couldn’t avoid noticing the HELP WANTED sign in the window.  There is nothing wrong with this type of sign (given the current economy!) but it raises concerns when said sign is affixed to the front window with duct tape and is written on plain lined paper in equally plain Bic pen.

Upon entering, our hostess gave us somewhat confusing instructions.  We weren’t sure if we were supposed to follow her to a table or wait in the entryway.  After some hesitation, we decided to follow her and were promptly seated smack-dab in the middle of the eatery.  For a small restaurant, with just a few other couples dining in and some music playing much too quietly, we weren’t the best bunch to seat in the middle.  First of all, the sushi endure-er cannot whisper and tends to say lewd things in public, the other sushi enthusiast gets extremely grumpy and fidgety when hungry and the last two (myself included) already have a favourite sushi place so an (unnecessary) change in venue tends to bring on extreme complaining, whining and general mayhem.

Within a few minutes of sitting down, we were provided with menus which contained quite a few terms we had never seen before as well as plenty of White Out marks in the pricing columns.  White Out on restaurant menus tends to make me nervous and I always have the urge to scrape away the lies and reveal the mysterious truth underneath.  Except I didn’t this time; I was a good girl.  Instead, we all read and re-read the menu and tried to memorize what we wanted.  Trying to remember ones order of various pieces of fishy goodness can be quite a daunting task which is why most sushi restaurants provide paper and pencils.  Unfortunately, this one did not and there was some confusion when the waitress came to take our order.  The confusion resulted in two large pots of green tea arriving at once and three orders of miso soup instead of two.  This may have also been a result of the fact that at least three different wait staff assisted us during our dinner, so it was no surprise that there were a few hiccups.  When we asked for those wonderful, green, steamed vegetable shells that are practically the most perfect appetizer of all time, we were told that our “Ed-a-nah-nee” was coming right up.  We all cringed simultaneously but decided to just “go with it”.

Thankfully, the sushi was just fine and the plates and platters some of the best presentation I had ever seen at a sushi joint.  For example, the Edamame portion was quite large (although much too salty) and the miso soup was yummy.  The vegetable dumplings were quite good as well and the tempura yam was very fresh.  One of the hand rolls arrived in a champagne glass which was a nice touch and the spicy maki were actually…spicy!

But it was the Dragon Roll which arrived near the end of our meal that was the standout.  This consisted of about 11 sushi pieces which snaked around on a square plate.  The two front rolls were the “face” of the dragon and pickled ginger was rolled into a long snout and placed in front of the “face” pieces.  The green, plastic “grass” which comes in every bento box was actually used as the horns and tail of the dragon and everything was accentuated with an elaborate soy sauce pattern which was expertly dispensed on the plate.  It was fun to look at and equally fun to consume.

Crouching Tiger, Yummy Dragon

Overall, our sushi experience at the new place in town was just fine.  Although we all agreed that a return would be unlikely, because, as another old saying goes: if (Ye’s Sushi) ain’t broke, why fix it?

Proof that you can make anything with Lego

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