Friday, June 01, 2007

Prosperity begets prosperity OR Lessons learned at the sushi restaurant

We started the first day of summer league today. There are only 4 people per team, so with dad, my sister, the hubby, and coach bowling, I'm going to play the pinch hitter role. The hubby decided to let the family bowl, while he went home in hot pursuit of his family tree lineage. The more people he finds, the more he feels empowered. Many of the people he is finding are in their 70s, and in the same urgency that he feels he needs to find them, they have a need to talk to him.

The league is playing on the opposite lanes from where we were during winter, and I always liked those lanes better. The next thing I know, I'm already shooting to set the standard for the high series women's score with a 206 (no open frames), 175, and a 190, totalling 571 which I believe is one of my highest series ever. I'm shooting to hit a 600 series this league season though I'm not sure what prize I'll give myself for that. We don't know how we did until the averages get plugged into the computer.

It was fun introducing Dad to the other bowlers. One guy, a rather boisterous funny fellow, has been teasing my sister into not getting married and that she should marry him instead. Another woman on the team says, "you're too old." And always with the quick reply, "I am, but not my money!" So we told him next week, he's going to have to bring like 10 pigs, a couple of goats, and half a dozen chicken for the dowry. Ooh, forgot to tell him about the 7 years of servitude to the family. We'll add that to the list next week.

So my 200 game brings us to Kansai, which I blogged about before as one of the best sushi restaurants in the bay area and now I can say why. Anyway, since Kansai opened about 8 months ago, we knew it was special and decided to make Kansai a reward if one of us hit a certain score. Something just out of reach of our abilities which, at the time was 200. So, if we hit 200, then for sure we could reward ourselves with Kansai.

Before we used to sit at the tables, but now that we've met the main chef, we sit at the bar. We just ask him what is fresh today and he just slices it up and hands it over. Often he just prepares something and hands it over without us asking him. Hands down, it's the kind of place that after you eat here, you just know sushi everywhere else will never be the same. Today the dishes included a couple of fish I didn't even know the name to, uni, halibut with basil, large clam, and tomago. He also handed over a special soy sauce that had a light but rich sweet roasted flavor in a light golden color which brought a delicate flavoring without overpowering the fish with kikkoman salt.

He was a sushi chef in one of the main hotels in Tokyo for four years and was previously in SF when the owner of Kansai tried his food and courted him to work here. (God Bless that woman!) After dinner, he explained how in the morning they get fish locally, and in the afternoon, they get the fish shipped directly from Japan. All fish is wild, nothing farmed. He even showed us the full color faxed pictures of the boxes of fish he had gotten this day.

He makes everything that morning from the miso soup, which should never be boiled, to slicing the fish, and folding the tomago (it takes 10 minutes and he uses cactus honey and citrus vinegar and cooks it in a pan over 10 years old). As he said, by the time it's lunch, he's full because he tasted everything. His teacher told him that he should always be the first one to taste. Why, he asks. Because if it's poison, better you dead than your customer!

Everything is handmade. He told us about the ingredients for the sushi rice, no msg, no refined sugars. Just about everything comes from Japan. He also told us his various techniques for his sauces from his unagi sauce (other restaurants cheat by using teriyaki sauce), to his spicy mayonnaise (that is light and yet explodes with flavor and heat). His tomago was dense, no air, a consistent bright yellow with a sweetness that bounced off the tongue.

Over and over again, he kept saying, it's the technique, it's the technique. The patrons of the restaurant have been hearing about him and they're coming from all over the east bay. Some of them drop by and if he's not here, they leave, because they know the chefs under him, while good, do not have his technique in creating new dishes to suit their palattes.

During dinner, we were discussing prosperity and what this kind of thinking means.

And then this happens. The chef hands me a small tall box with Japanese writing. "Here, a gift for you." he says, "300 year old soy sauce. Just one touch to your finger, all you need." We were delightfully surprised at his gift and honored by his generosity. He could only get five bottles, he handed us two. In a way, he seemed to sense that we would appreciate the quality of 300 year old soy sauce that are stored in large ceramic containers.

He told us the difference between other sushi places and real Japanese sushi restaurants. He says there are only about 10 real sushi chefs in the bay area. He explained how the temperature must remain consistent, how other places keep their fish for several days or use the frozen kind. But here, fish stays in the display for one day only, then is tossed or given away to the staff. When the owner brought him to this restaurant, he had one request, to maintain a high quality of food. You could see the displeasure in his face of owners who fret about the fish being tossed and equating it to "losing money". But he says, he knows when the busy days are and how much fish is needed each day, so he regulates how much fish he'll need each day so not too much goes to waste. In his mind, serving bad quality is like poisoning your customers, they don't come back.

The restaurant before them didn't do so well and we could quickly see it deteriorate in quality. He says that they are now making double what the previous restaurant was making. Good for us because we want them to be successful!

Now in one sense, he could be a bunch of BS, but the truth is in the taste. In the same way, that once we tasted really good wine, it instantly broadened our palattes because now you could really tell the difference from the bad, the mediocre, the pretty good and the great, when you taste the food and the fish they prepare here, you will taste that what he says is true.

Sushi, he says, is supposed to be very healthy, but what has been catered to the American taste is full of refined sugar and msg. You can eat alot at Kansai, and not feel weighted down. You can eat a little at Kansai, and feel completely satiated because of how the flavors permeate your mouth. You can taste his technique.

As we've been learning and understanding what makes a prosperous mindset, it's interesting how the quality of things in our lives increase. How spontaneously things are given to us without us asking (or maybe we did ask and we never knew it) and things we truly want and appreciate as opposed to recieving things we would have to get rid of anyway. The generosity of giving, and the humbleness of recieving. And truly believing you deserve quality, not for show, but because you appreciate the value of quality, the content it provides.

We hoped to take our cousin here for his birthday that just passed. Him and his wife have been wanting to go to Japan, but then they bought a house, and now they want to start a family, so well, actually going to Japan will have to wait. The chef mentioned that if there was a special occassion he could set up a kaiseki for us, but would need three days in advance.

A few days ago, I dreamed I was in London, and that I had a life where I could go back and forth from Europe on a whim. I tell Tuhan this, and he says, "It's not the travelling. You can get everything over there, here. It's the freedom." And yet, everything you've always desired has always been here. The challenge is seeing it and appreciating it for what it is. So if you can't go to Japan, Japan can come to you. And it does, at least sushi-wise, here at Kansai.

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