Good meal makes up for communal seating

Friday, April 22, 2011, Vol. 35, No. 16

Last week I was privileged enough to be invited to eat lunch with three of our very dedicated and distinguished Army National Guard service members. Yes, one of them did just happen to be our son, however, it was still a huge honor. The ones I dined with will all be deployed soon, so it was special in many ways.

They chose the place, which was one I had never been to, Samurai Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi Bar, so I was ready for the adventure!

We were seated at one of the Teppanyaki tables – tables shaped like a three-sided box. They seat about 10 and arrange seats to allow the entire group to observe the chef’s showy display of culinary skills. The only thing I don’t care for with this type of dining is that you are seated with complete strangers. However, you know this before you go in, so it is to be expected.

After being seated, another couple joined our table. We all received hot hand towels, and greeted each other with the proper smiles and niceties, and then the reason I don’t care for this particular type of dining was evident. The first question from the man was, “What do y’all think about our Commander-in-Chief?” This normally would be an OK question to ask, but not after our Commander-in-Chief has just made the announcement that budget deals could not be met and so Federal employees would have an interruption in pay and benefits. Bad timing to ask a soldier that question!

Anyway, as you all know, the budget was amended. If the man were to ask the same question today, he might get a response instead of just silence and stares!

Anyway, I love Japanese Hibachi-style of food – you know, chopping faster than your eyes can follow, throwing and flipping food and knives and yet it all lands right where you intended, fires blazing on the griddle. I asked our food preparer where he learned his skills, and he said from watching YouTube. Do you think he was serious?

He juggled and tossed one egg so much before cracking and cooking it on the searing hot grill that you would have sworn it had been scrambled inside the shell. However, once cracked, it was a perfectly formed egg with an unbroken yolk and an unblemished white.

At one point, he sliced an onion, stacking it to form a volcano-shape, and that is exactly what happened. He held a lighter to the volcano, and it erupted with fire and then slowly burned down until it was just smoking and smoldering, there in middle of all the rice.

Don’t try this at home! There, I have warned you. If you insist on trying to sling knives and catch them, make sure all spouses are out of the room! Just kidding – I don’t recommend trying any of these little tricks without an instructor and a safe environment. YouTube not included!

There is sushi, also, but I can’t comment on it fairly. I just do not like uncooked fish. This recipe however, is one using cooked shrimp, cream cheese, smoked salmon, and rice. The smokiness of the salmon is similar to bacon, and combined with the shrimp and sweetness of the cream cheese, it is perfect for those who swear they wouldn’t like sushi.

Philadelphia Sushi Shrimp Roll

8 ounces cold cream cheese, cut into long, thin sticks
1 cup cooked sushi rice
10 large cooked shrimp, veins removed
4 asparagus spears, blanched and sliced
2 nori seaweed sheets
2 green onions
Place one sheet of nori seaweed on a bamboo rolling mat – make sure the shiny side is facing down. Cover the seaweed with prepared sushi rice (don’t stuff too much on) - leave enough room to add all the ingredients. Place remaining ingredients length-ways in the centre of the rice. Roll the sushi into a log jelly-roll style. Slice into 3/4 inch pieces. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Serve with desired sauce.