As I watched my 12-year-old daughter smack her lips in delight with each bite of ikura (salmon roe) sushi during our recent dinner at the Sushi of Azakusa, I was once again reminded of the complexity of adolescence. This is the same child who pouts when her egg yolk is overcooked or stomps off in a fit of pique if her parents suggest she cut her bangs (the ones that just about completely cover her beautiful face).
Not only did she eat the octopus that came with the Azakusa Makunouchi ($19.75) combination, but she discussed exactly the prospect of sitting next time at the sushi bar so she could watch the sushi chef prepare the specialties from the lengthy list on the menu. I don't question her ability to eat her share of the $10 per person minimum without any of the squeamishness that has plagued some of our other family dining-out experiences.Maybe french fries and ketchup should be replaced by sushi and sashimi as one of the staples in our secondary schools as we compete with the Japanese. It may even explain why many of our adolescents act in such a direct contrast to their Japanese counterparts.
Of course the allure of the new and different is most likely the reason adolescents, like many adults, find life worth living, rather than reacting against.
Of the Japanese restaurants we have sampled around town, Sushi of Azakusa is the one that has the most that is new and different on its menu. In addition to traditional favorites, such as teriyaki, tempura and sukiyaki, the engaging menu offers mirugai-yaki (baked giant clam), tako-ten (octopus tempura), yawara-gani (soft shell crab), and tiger's eye (cooked squid rolled with salmon). And these are just a few of the items from the lengthy appetizer list.
Dinner specialties include spicy Korean barbecue ($10), katsu (pork cutlets) with curry ($8.25), kaki (oysters) fried ($7.65), tempura and samma or mackerel ($10.95), and ishikari nabe ($12) a Japanese style chowder with salmon. These are in addition to the tempura and teriyaki combination dinners.
The ishiki nabe was a generous bowl of rice miso broth, full of large oysters, mushrooms, chunks of napa cabbage, onions and black seaweed along with thick slices of salmon, skin, bones and all. It was like gulping up bowls of aromatic ocean air.
We were also impressed with the other soups we sampled, especially the perfectly seasoned curry udon ($7.50). It did not need the side of chili sauce that came with the large steaming bowl, since it was just spicy enough.
Besides the hand-rolled (nigiri) sushi and makimono (rolled) sushi resting on a bed of shredded daikon, the large tray with the combination dinner included several pieces of a very good chicken teriyaki and negima. Negima is broiled beef rolled, filled with blanched scallions and thin pieces of carrots sliced. It was both colorful and delicious.
Another treat with the large combination was a serving of goma-ae, spinach marinated in sesame oil and sake. The dinner also had several large pieces of tempura including shrimp, yam, carrots, green pepper, onion and potato. The batter was crispy and the pieces served hot.
Combination dinners come with pickled vegetables; a slightly sweet miso broth with scallions, seaweed and tiny cubes of tofu; and a mixed green salad with a mild creamy dressing.
Usually, one can get a quick fix on a restaurant with a tour of the kitchen. Sushi bars make that a regular feature as well as guide to the different choices. While using the restrooms in the rear of the Sushi of Asakusa, we not only saw a clean kitchen but gazed at a mural of children from around the world at play surrounded with sunshine, puffy clouds and rainbows.
The same warm spirit was evident with the personal service, comfortable and clean decor, and colorful and flavorful food we experienced at Sushi of Azakusa.
Rating: * * * * *
Sushi of Azakusa, 321 S. Main, 364-7142. Open 7 days a week. Lunch served Monday through Friday, 11:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m.; from 12 noon until 2:30 p.m. on Saturday. Dinner, Monday through Thursday, 6 p.m. until 10:30 p.m.; until midnight on Friday and Saturday. Open Sunday from 5 p.m. until 9 p.m. Accepts major credit cards. No reservations accepted. Karaoke room (singalong entertainment) requires advance reservation.