NijoPorn1.jpg
Photo courtesy Joshua Huston

"I like places that dedicate themselves to the atom-by-atom reconstruction of long-forgotten pages from the Book of Lost Cuisines, don't get

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Friday Food Porn: Beautiful Little Fishies

NijoPorn1.jpg
Photo courtesy Joshua Huston

"I like places that dedicate themselves to the atom-by-atom reconstruction of long-forgotten pages from the Book of Lost Cuisines, don't get me wrong. I love a joint that completely geeks out on being able to score native ingredients or manage tricky, traditional preparations. But a part of me also likes those that stick a thumb in the eyes of traditionalists and, by way of a menu, seem to say, "Uh, you guys know this is 2010, right? And we're all sitting in Seattle?" No disrespect, but you're probably not going to find a Ponies and Rainbows roll on the board at Maneki. But Nijo has one: tempura shrimp and crab salad, rolled in rice and mame nori (yellowish soybean paper, absent any flavor at all), covered in tenkasu (crunchy little tatters of fried dough), and drizzled with eel sauce."

From "Close To Me," this week's review of Nijo Sushi Bar & Grill. For a peek at the full slideshow, click on over here.

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Photo courtesy Joshua Huston

"I go there one night and order the Dancing Shrimp (because I always order the Dancing Shrimp) and some gyoza and agedashi tofu, and it all arrives, it seems, before the words are out of my mouth. Tonight, the gyoza suck. They're Fancy Feast, with a flavor like something rotten, and are burnt besides--standing upright on their little bed of soy-soaked red cabbage like an insult. I push the plate aside. The tofu is too hot to eat immediately--cubes of it puffed up like little, golden pillows, served with bonito flakes and a ginger tendashi sauce. But as always, the Dancing Shrimp are addictively good--hitting that sweet spot of spice mixed with sweetness, of cheap fried food and cold beer."

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Photo courtesy Joshua Huston

"Edomae sushi became huge. Everyone ate the stuff. And while, yes, the cuisine has been refined over centuries (if there's one thing the Japanese are good at, it's refining a thing down to its basic principles, its constituent elements), it is not a lot different today than it was then: quick grub for the hungry and cash-strapped. And in that way, Wegman's and all those strip-mall, dollar-menu sushi joints with their buzzing neon and maneki niko good-luck cats are doing more to uphold the tradition of classical Edo sushi than any Nobu or Masa ever has. Sushi is not special. It is no more or less important than grits or dumplings or coq au vin."

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Photo courtesy Joshua Huston

"Behind the sushi bar, the cutters and rollers do not shout greetings to customers or dance around and catch fish in their hats. Nijo isn't that kind of place. They are focused and precise, working silently through a constant stream of orders, and they have some skills. When my kani come, the crab sticks (leg meat, sweet and chilled) are equally sized and tied to a rounded egg of tender, delicately sweet rice. The maguro are beautiful--flat, undifferentiated lozenges of flesh, pink like candy or paste rubies and warmed just slightly by the hands that had pressed them to their balls of rice. It seems, for an instant, almost a shame to eat them. But then I do, with my own hands, two bites apiece--and I am hungry again, for short ribs glazed and sticky with soy and ginger or for yam fries with wasabi oil and wasabi aioli that are never quite as good as I think they're going to be."

All the words are from "Close To Me," this week's review of Nijo. And the beautiful snaps are lifted from this week's restaurant slideshow.

 
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