Sushi Can You See?


Got home last night from work and I was starving. OK, I was hungry, not starving. Beer-thirty had kicked in and the Asian salad with grilled chicken I’d had for lunch – and the fruit cup, too (sneer at it if you want, but it had strawberries, blackberries and grapes and was damn good) – had gone away. On top of that, I’d had to make a side trip to buy an iron – ours bit the dust Friday morning.

So I walked in the door blazing. “I’m starving,” I said to Karen, who had beaten me home and was trying to read the paper.

She looked at me, grinned, and said: “You want to go get sushi, don’t you?”

It wasn’t as out of left field as it might sound. We’d gotten a flier/menu the day before from a new sushi restaurant in Matthews that we agreed sounded good. We’ve been looking for a number of months to find a replacement for Hajimi, our favorite sushi place. It was a little joint in, of all places, Monroe that had great sushi at very reasonable prices.

We’d gone so much that we often chatted with the owners. They spoke halting English but we always communicated just find. We even found out eventually that one of their sons was a classmate and friend of Garrett’s. We saw them through a pregnancy. They gave us discount coupons, but we never used them because the prices were great anyway, and we wanted them to succeed.

Then one day we went to Hajimi, and it was dark. We were devastated. We tried another place in Monroe, but it wasn’t as good. In what way? In every way. (See how I mixed in that line from TGWTDT.) The owner not only looked like a member of the Yakuza, he screamed at his employees – especially the waitresses. The food was just all right. We tried it a couple of times but moved on.

———————————-

I remember when and where I had my first sushi. That place is closed, too.

It was when I came down to Charlotte for a job interview at the magazine. I was living in Henderson, where I had been the editor of a small newspaper for three years. I loved having my own paper and being the boss, but I never could keep a full staff and was always having to do double duty. I was missing my family something awful, and I really didn’t want my children to grow up in such a small town.

I got wind – actually Karen got wind – of the opening at the magazine, and I went for it. I landed an interview on a midsummer day. It was hot and the drive was long.

David Kinney and I talked about the job and my past and what I could do and what the magazine did and people we knew and places we’d been. It was going well. Then he asked, “You hungry? Let’s go get some lunch. Do you like sushi?”

Well, I was a country boy from Virginia who’d lived in eastern North Carolina and Gastonia (the Hellmouth of Weird). That means I’d had fried fish and steamed oysters and that was about it. So my answer was short and to the point.

“Sure!”

So we jumped in his car and drove down South Boulevard to this joint, which I recognized as a former Kenny Rogers chicken restaurant that I’d actually eaten at when I lived in Gastonia.

Still faking it, I ordered the Bento Box B and proceeded to eat my first sushi, trying hard to look like a pro. David didn’t notice when I tried a crumb of wasabi – right about the time my tea had run out. But I blinked back the tears, saw how to mix it with soy and continued the interview.

Because that’s what I think it was – a continuation of the interview, even though we were done talking about business at that point. I might have still gotten the job had I declined the sushi but I’m not so sure. When we got back to the office, David told me he liked the cut of my jib, and a couple of weeks later, I got an offer as I was wrapping up a vacation in the mountains (which meant that I gave notice the day after I got back to the paper from vacation – I know it’s a crappy thing to do but it just worked out that way).

Bottom line: I really did like the sushi and told Karen so. She hadn’t tried any either, at this point.

But after we settled in the Greater Indian Trail Metro, she’d work with a big sushi fan, who got her to go to Hajimi. She was hooked – see what I did there.

———————————-

We’ve been to lots of sushi places since, and we’d found an acceptable one in nearly Wesley Chapel that is pretty good even though it’s sushi menu is pretty small. It also has good Thai food – our latest food passion.

But anyway, when we got the flier we were pretty intrigued by the place in Matthews. I didn’t even know the name of it at that point – Karen had read some of the choices from the menu and I thought it sounded good.

So we pried Garrett away from electronics and decided to take a shot.

And when we walked in Fujimi, there they were: Becky (which I’m positive isn’t her real name) and her husband from Hajimi. This was their new place. She gave Karen a hug, we spoke with him briefly and David, Garrett’s friend, came out to chat with us. It was great.

So was the food. It was like we were back at Hajimi, only fancier. Particularly good: The black pepper shrimp piece I got. I saved it until last, as I customarily do for what I think will be the best bite. Always leave on a high.

The waitress was quirky but friendly. Her name was Melissa but she urged us to call her Mel because it was easier to remember. She identified the sushi on the plate I ordered – she got a couple of pieces wrong – but she was a great waitress who kept us stocked with what we needed.

We had a coupon but we didn’t use it. Maybe next time. Or not. Good luck, my friends.

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