Who knew that I would have the best sushi in Charlotte, North Carolina? With the ocean at least four hours away and the national Nascar Museum around the corner, let's just say I wasn't expecting the sushi experience of a lifetime in this southern city. I trusted the reviews from my aunt; I didn't doubt that it would be good. But could a restaurant with pictures of the owner's wife in a kimono and a cowboy hat really make great tekka maki? Why yes, yes it can.
I am not kidding you when I say that Nikko Restaurant served what was quite possibly the best sushi I've ever had. The sleek black decor offset by funky white drops of light in glass lamps and a huge apple green bar screamed, "This sushi will not only be good, but it will be pretty freakin' cool." Bonus: the expansive bar showcases all the glistening cuts of fish--thick purpley octopus legs and ruby red tuna filets are enough to make your mouth water. And if you're anything like me, you'll let your eyes overrule your stomach and order way too much food. Hey, it's the south: go big or or go home.
I like to think that a bowl of miso soup is a good indicator of a japanese restaurant's worth. Kind of like how bread can be indicative of an American restaurant's worth (I know, I know, good restaurants can have bad bread or miso and still be good, blah blah blah). Nikko's miso was delicious--no wimpy tofu lumps here and none of those crinkled up old seaweed strips that taste too fishy. Nikko's miso soup had big fat strips of silky seaweed, and chunks of tofu with scallions all floating in a piping hot, light and not too salty broth. I could easily have eaten a huge bowl of that for lunch, it was that good.
For lunch, let's just say we went overboard for two people: six rolls and I just had to try an order of the yellowtail sushi. This is how sushi ought to be. THICK cuts of yellowtail laid on sticky rice--none of those paper-thin slices of fish you can practically see through. For rolls I sampled the following: spicy tuna, california, godzilla roll, tuna crunchy roll, rainbow roll, dynamite roll or dragon roll (can't remember which one we decided on!). Note: the descriptions on the website menu are different than what we ordered.
The godzilla roll (pictured at the top) was a california roll topped with tuna and panko crumbs. Amazing. The crunch of the panko with the smoothness of the tuna and avocado was such a good combo. The cruncy tuna roll (second picture) was laid in a ponzu sauce, that was just the right amount of sweet and the right amount of tangy--think rice vinegar. What was different about this sushi was that the outer layer was fried, not just rolled in panko. I think they fry the whole roll because some of the fish in the center was slightly cooked, same thing with the other roll pictured above. But this sushi was actually good served a little hot (NOT warm). Another one of the fried rolls had a delicious spicy mayo sauce with a thicker soy-like sauce. The crunch of the fried tempura exterior with the smooth, meaty fish and crab and the spicy, salty sauce. Oh my god. Amazing!
The presentation was outstanding. The pristine white plates showed off the sushi and all of the colors in the rolls. From the moment it was brought to our table, all the sushi just looked so good. The ingredients were all fresh and each little morsel was bursting with so many different flavors--crunchy, spicy, salty, sweet, and above all the flavors of the fish itself. If you are ever in Charlotte, this is hands-down the sushi place to go. And I hear it's pretty cool and clubbish at night.
Hopefully I'll have some more good places for you foodies to check out if y'all ever come down south.
After @ARKFoodie tweeted my post, "The Shakedown on Salt," I thought I might need to clarify myself a bit. In that post, I didn't really offer any criticism other than salt can in large quantities be bad for you and maybe all of us foodies could deal with sprinkling a little less of the white stuff on our food. However, with new information that has come to light, I feel...shall we say, pissed off enough, to write about the topic once again.
Consider this a rare, EXTREMELY rare, exploration into the politics of food. I keep my food and politics separate. In fact, I started blogging about food because in a town full of politicos, I was yearning for a less controversial topic! But that's another story...
To sum things up here: keep your damn hands off my food! Literally, and figuratively! Assemblyman Felix Ortiz and Mayor Michael Bloomberg need to find something better to do with their time, other than be the salt police. You want to ban salt in New York? Then I hope you're prepared to have the speak easies of salt emerge, where New Yorkers secretly trade bags of it and go underground just to have salted margaritas with nacho chips doused in good ole salty salt. Prepare yourself for New Yorkers to start migrating to New Jersey or Connecticut, where they can get some effing food with salt in it. And good luck regulating all those fast food places. Ortiz says if salt is a "functional component of the recipe," then it can stay. To which I counter: and who gets to decide that, huh? Let's put Ortiz and Bloomberg on a no salt diet for a year and see how they like it! Pretty bland, boys? Then let the people eat salt!
I can't tell you how much the mere idea of it pisses me off (even more than soda tax). You start taxing foods and you get into a pretty slippery slope. So salt is bad? Then I guess sugar is too! I guess I shouldn't be able to eat pasta either, since carbs can be fattening and lead to obesity. PUH-LEASE. Drive down unemployment, why don't you, rather than tell me my friggin' french fries shouldn't have salt on them or that my sushi shouldn't come with soy sauce anymore. What the hell ever happened to the pushy New Yorkers who think the middle finger is as common as a wave hello? C'mon people! Don't put up with this crap! Start rioting in the streets and throwing salt at the mayor whenever he makes public appearances! (Okay, don't do that, but if you do, don't say you got the idea from me).
What we have here is an issue that can be solved with something called personal responsibility. Remember when you were in kindergarten, and mom wouldn't let you eat dessert until you finished dinner? And then what happened--you grew up and lo! you controlled yourself not to eat sugary crap before eating a wholesome meal (and if you don't, then that's your business and not mine--and not Bloomberg's either). Remember when mom told you to chew your food carefully and not eat so fast, so that you wouldn't get a tummy ache? And what happened? You learned to friggin' eat at a normal person's pace so that you didn't stuff your face into oblivion and blow up like a balloon! Obesity, high cholesterol from too much salt--all this stuff can be solved with proper nutrition and personal responsibility. You choose how much salt you put in your food and you choose to ask the chef to go easy on the salt if you have heart problems. Take your own diet into your own hands, rather than hand it over to the politicians who will over-regulate it and probably give you cancer or obesity anyway (oh, remember when the FDA said trans fats were okay? And don't even make me point out the irony behind public schools choosing to feed kids the most unhealthy fat-laden crap, yet they want to tax soda and ban salt?!).
Each individual is personally responsible for whatever they put in their mouths and eat. The war on food is getting pretty ridiculous lately--researchers asking to change the shape of hot dogs cause kids these days apparently can't chew them without choking (how my generation and all of us before then grew up with hot dogs and survived remains a great unsolved mystery to those people), legislators wanting to tax soda and sugar and now they want to ban salt! Foodies, I urge you to be responsible and smart--eat what you want in moderation (revolutionary thinking! I know!). And don't let cranky old politicians like Ortiz and Bloomberg start to tell you what you can and can't eat. If legislators really want to meddle with something food-related, why don't they try reforming food stamps to actually be worth enough to buy something nutritious or be accepted at more farmers markets? Why don't they jump on Jamie Oliver's initiative to change food in public schools?
So go forth foodies and show those politicians that not only are you pissed off like me, but that you are capable of eating intelligently and independently.
When I first started this little project, it was mostly for self-gratification, an outlet to flex my writing muscles and something for my boyfriend to read (although did you know I have readers as far away as Australia, Russia, Spain and Germany!? G'day mate, привет, hola und hallo!). But now, this has blossomed into something I really enjoy doing (what a perfect excuse to try new restaurants and recipes--"I'm a food blogger") and have gotten some good things out of. Let's recap my recent triumphs, however small they may be:
1) On February 19, 2010, Robert Egger, founder of DC Central Kitchen, TWEETED BACK @bonappetitfoodi. The result: giddily proclaiming the news via my gchat status, calling my mother and boyfriend. Ok, I'm kidding about calling my mother, but I did tell Eshawn immediately. Egger is the man! And DCCK is my favorite place to volunteer!
2) After a tweet asking for donations, @ARKFoodie graciously donates gift cards to ARK Restaurants (Sequoia, Thunder Grill, American DC) to Epsilon Sigma Alpha's 4th Annual Battle of the Bands. All proceeds from the concert go to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, and you should all go or buy raffle tickets. Shameless plug--March 27, 2010, 7pm, Marvin Center Continental Ballroom. Of course, huge thanks to Andrew Pascal, now go read his blog.
3) Pining for the taste of the blackened chicken sandwich from Matchbox, I tweeted and tweeted about it. Oh how I longed for another bite of that sandwich that once graced their menu and my tastebuds. And lo! @MatchboxDC told me I could waltz in, talk to my server next time and ORDER THE FREAKIN' SANDWICH. Commence salivation.
Behold the power of social media and specifically Twitter! Thanks to everyone who reads this blog, tweets @bonappetitfoodi and supports me! Who knows where this blog will take me, but I like what I've seen so far.