What is the best sushi you have ever had?
I have three answers to this question.
The single best piece of sushi I ever had was at a restaurant in Brooklyn, NY called Wasabi Restaurant. It was the special of the day, and it was a live scallop. I was sitting at the bar, ordered it, and they pulled out a literal live scallop, cut it out of its shell, and dropped it on a piece of rice. Now, I love scallops in general, so I was already pretty interested, but once I tasted it, it was amazing. I can't for the life of me remember the taste, so I am guessing it was just a very good scallop, but the consistency was like biting through a piece of soft butter. I was a very happy camper at that moment.
If we are talking about the best restaurant I have eaten in multiple times, that would be T A K A H A C H I, in the East Village. I have eaten there at least a couple dozen times, and never once had a bad experience. The only negative I can think of is the fact that I can eat WAY too much sushi in one sitting, as can my girlfriend, so we have dropped up to $200 a visit for the two of us. Obviously we only do this on very special occasions.
The third answer comes with a story, so if you don't like to listen to a long story, move on now.
In a former life I was a party and event DJ. I was working for a company that would get me gigs, so generally speaking I had little to no idea what I was walking into. I would only know the bare basics, like this is a wedding and these are the songs they want to hear, or this is for PBS and they are having a corporate party, or the best (sarcasm) was this is a Christmas party for some Wall Street execs, so they will be disinterested in the food or music, they will just get amazingly drunk as quickly as possible and then request horrible songs and fall down the stairs while trying to hop into bed with whoever is the drunkest.
One party was for a business company that had a staff that was made up of about 50% Japanese and 50% white guys. I am guessing there were some girls too, but the brain does not remember. Anyways, as a DJ, you learn pretty quickly that even though you are allowed to eat some of their food for the party, you will not be offered by the waiters bringing it out, and if there is a designated area for you to get food the line will most likely be so long that you will not be able to get food for yourself before a song ends, and food is expensive so they usually are tight with the food so it will run out. So I had a way to combat this problem, bring along my girlfriend as a "helper" which meant she would help me get me and her some food and load in and out of the place. The rest of the night she would hang out with me, and I would throw her a bit of cash at the end of the night.
This particular party was held at a Japanese hotel in NYC. The hotel had their own in house sushi chefs, and they were busy making all kinds of sushi and small dishes I had never seen before. Having recently discovered I liked sushi, I figured this was my opportunity to try all kinds I would not normally buy, IF my girlfriend could get to the table quick enough, and often enough. Like I said earlier, food at these things usually ran out very quickly. So they bring out the first batch of food, and she runs over and immediately gets me a couple plates of whatever they are serving. I was pretty unfamiliar with sushi at the time, and this was fancy high class stuff, so knowing what was what would be impossible. On top of that, when you are a hired hand, you don't ask too many questions of anyone, you just sit and do your job and hope you get a tip.
I scarf down the first couple of plates of food, and she brings over a couple more. She gets herself some food as well and we are both loving the quality of the food. Amazingly we see them bring out more food, so she goes back for more. Now, back then I was a virtual eating machine, not much would stop me, and sushi has always been something I eat a lot of. So a couple more plates appear in front of me, then a couple more. Now, keep in mind this is high end stuff. I am not eating gas station California rolls, this is the real deal.
Usually these parties last 2–4 hours, depending on a lot of things. I remember this not being a short party, which means it was at least 3 hours long. As a DJ I was contracted for X amount of time, and if they wanted me longer they would have to work out a new rate or there was an already agreed upon bonus rate. i cannot remember if I had bonus time or not, but what I do remember is that even as the party started to thin out, the food kept coming. You could see in the prep/kitchen area, and there were like 5–10 people making this food. As time went on, it did not stop. So I am continuing to eat more and more sushi, as more and more employees are leaving. But a funny thing happened during the third hour. I noticed I was starting to get itchy. Then I noticed I felt sort of swollen, and not in my stomach. And then my girlfriend said I should go to the bathroom and check my face, as she thought it looked a bit red. Sure enough, I had broken out in a rash! Seems like I was allergic to something I ate, and since it was all foods I had never had before, I have no clue what it was!
I soldiered on trough the rest of the party, and stopped eating sushi at that point, but I continued to swell and get a pretty serious rash. By the time the party was over, or at least the time they didn't need my services anymore, there were only a few party goers left. As I packed up my equipment and music, I noticed the sushi chefs were still busily preparing food and bringing it out, for who I have no clue, as it was already getting close to midnight. But I made my way home with my rash, puffy eyes, itchy throat, and swollen body tired from the night out.
As much as that sounds like the end of the story, there is one addendum I have to add. I am a person with a lot of different allergies, and food allergies are not my worst problem, but they have affected me a coupe times in the past. One specific time should have warned me about the possibilities of a seafood allergy of this sort.
One day I was peeing and I noticed the pee was a darker color than usual. Eventually I noticed that there was blood in my pee. I figured that was not a good thing, and called the emergency room to ask if it is something I should go there for, or wait to make an appointment. They said it was best to go in right away, just in case. So off I go to the emergency room. They say they suspect it is a kidney stone, and ask me if I am allergic to shellfish. I ask if they mean like crab, or shrimp, or lobster, and they say yes. I am like, nope! They say good, as they want to pump a dye in me, called IVP dye, which will help them detect a kidney stone when they x-ray me.
So I have a nurse and a doctor with me, and they start pumping me full of this dye. My first reaction is that I can feel it in my lips, they get really warm immediately. I ask them about that and they say its nothing. Then I notice intense nausea. I ask if puking is normal during this procedure, and they say no. After a few more moments I tell them to get me a bucket as I am going to puke all over them. So now I have a bucket and all hell breaks loose. I start to puke, but that is the least of my issues. I feel my lungs shutting down, literally closing up so I cannot breathe except the slightest bit. Then I notice my heart rate has easily doubled, and it feels like it's beating out of my chest and will pop out and go for a run any moment. Plus my body is expelling puke at a very fast rate. Also, unbeknownst to me, I have broken out in a full body rash, AND I burst all the blood vessels in the whites of my eyes, below the pupils. I go from having a doctor and a nurse with me to having 3 doctors and 6 nurses, all running around like chickens with their heads cut off. They start ordering more medicines, and in my mind all I am thinking is "GET THE HELL AWAY FROM ME!". They had pulled the thing out of me that was pumping in the dye, and I already felt like I would adjust on my own, I could already breathe a tiny bit better. The last thing I wanted was the doctors doing more damage.
They shoot me up with something else to combat the allergic reaction, which thankfully helps me rather than hurts me. I feel my heart rate drop, my breathing get back to semi-normal, and I know I will be OK. Of course my body feels like I have run a marathon in a few minutes, but I can deal with exhaustion. They get me off the table and into a wheelchair and decide to put me in a bed for a few hours for observation and to make sure I am ok, and while they wheel me away the doctor says for them to get me some benedryl. I start to try and talk to them, and end up gesturing wildly as even speaking at this point is near impossible. I had informed them when I showed up that I was allergic to benedryl, and had bad reactions to it in the past. It was on my chart, but since few people have bad reactions to it, they tried to give it to me. Good thing I was conscious!
I recovered, though the rash was there for a few days and the broken blood vessels in my eyes were like that for a couple weeks. I wish I had taken pics of that. Would have made for a great heavy metal album cover. I would freak out people who didn't know about it by holding the bottoms of my eyes open and rolling them up. Their reaction was always pretty amusing.
A couple weeks later I had another procedure scheduled that did NOT use dye. While I was waiting to have that done I noticed a list on the wall about the various reactions to the test with IVP dye. There was mild, moderate, bad and possibly fatal. I had every one of the reactions on the possibly fatal list, so I got to find out that I almost died while in the emergency room (though I guess there are worse places to have that kind of reaction!). They did end up seeing what they said were two small kidney stones on the x-ray.
Fast forward two years and many hospital visits later where they would not remove said kidney stones as they kept telling me how small they were and how they would pass on their own, and I end up FINALLY passing them around Christmas (best present ever). You need to keep them and bring them in to the doctor so they can analyze them, so I did. The doctor looked at them and said "you passed these? These are too big to pass, we should have operated." I was flabbergasted as they swore to me they were tiny. The doctor then asks me if I passed out when these came out, as the pain must have been horrible. Thankfully I have a very high pain tolerance, but I have been told this is as close as guys get to having kids.
In case you didn't know, kidney stones are passed through your urethra, and kidney stones are small sharp jagged rocks, basically. Imagine what pollen sometimes looks like under a microscope. Or better yet, take a look at the bigger one which my doctor let me keep!
Coincidentally, I'm agreeing with Matt Wasserman. What's weird is that I have eaten sushi all over the US. Maybe my taste sucks. But I doubt that. What is good about Shuhei is that they were making sushi before it became trendy in northeast Ohio. (Sushi on Mill, Tempe AZ comes close).
Now to be fair, every city has a "rich" suburb. Shuhei serves one of the wealthiest communities in the US: Beachwood, Pepper Pike, Chagrin Falls, Hunting Valley. If you're a billionaire, multi millionaire, professional athlete (other than LeBron, who still maintains his home near Akron: Bath Twp.), you live there. Good restaurants tend to follow wealth.
That area houses major corporate campuses for EATON, Progressive, Nationwide Insurance, University Hospitals, Cleveland Clinic, Lubrizol, and Rockwell Automation. So they've got HR market. But that is good. If you want good food, you go to Beachwood.
Now ask me about Paladar, Matt.