I had my first experience with Japanese cuisine, specifically sushi, during my senior year in college. This may seem a bit belated, but as a child in the Midwest I wasn't nearly as adventurous with my food choices as I am today. My family ate pizza every Friday night (TGIF, guys) and most of the recipes my mother prepared included chicken, with standard canned fruits and veggies on the side. A friend of mine in college was surprised to learn that I'd never tasted a mango, and if I remember correctly I ate lamb for the first time after moving to New York. How far I've come.
I had often been told that sushi was an acquired taste, so I was apprehensive about that first time. Luckily, I had a single, beautiful experience at the late great Happy Kobe in Athens, Ohio. A friend of mine worked there at the time, and I trusted his judgment about what to feed me. I can't remember what types of rolls I was served that day (I want to say a Dragon Roll with crabmeat, but I could be completely fabricating that information), but I was surprised and delighted to learn that I loved sushi from the very first bite.
That said, I have very specific cravings for sushi. There's no way I could eat it every day, and if someone suggests it when I'm not in the mood for it it's basically the last thing on the planet I want to eat. But if I'm craving it, well, get out of my way. Our love affair runs hot and cold, but it's always simmering somewhere below the surface waiting for its moment in the sun.
After I'd lived in New York for a few months, I woke up one day to realize that I absolutely needed sushi in my life. Immediately. Unfortunately, I had no idea where to go to get some that wouldn't kill me. Somehow, it seemed important to verify that I wouldn't keel over after eating it. I have a vague recollection of Anthony Bourdain's dire warnings about discount sushi in Kitchen Confidential, so that probably has something to do with it as well.
Eventually, I dragged a friend to a Japanese restaurant near Union Square. She'd eaten there before and hadn't died, so I figured it was a pretty safe bet. Unfortunately, the sushi was not the best, and I was still unsatisfied. What to do?
Nothing was to be done, it turned out, until T and her roommate discovered Watawa, a Japanese restaurant on Ditmars Boulevard in Astoria, Queens. I dragged my friend R (who happens to be Japanese) to this cute little place over the summer. From delicious edamame and dumplings to the superb Pauline Roll (recommended by T), I knew I'd found a winner (and a way to satisfy my cravings). Another plus: they deliver to me.
T and I decided yesterday to enjoy some Watawa during The Office, and it turned out to be the best idea ever, as you can see below. In addition, we picked up some cupcakes from the BEST CUPCAKE PLACE EVER, also on Ditmars: Martha's Country Bakery. It will have its own post pretty soon, I promise.
So that's it. This promises to be a Sushi-riffic weekend with Miyako on deck tonight. Delicious!
Pauline Roll: Shrimp tempura inside, topped with crunchy spicy crabmeat.
Not pictured: Edamame, spring rolls, veggie tempura, Martha's cupcakes!