Monday, August 31, 2009

chuck hughes' no knead bread

Even though I watch a lot of food programming (read; A LOT), I don't have a huge desire to attempt all those TV creations. Sure, I definitely use the shows for inspiration, but mostly entertainment <--- food nerd anyone! However, when I saw Chuck Hughes' (Chuck's Day Off) attempt a no knead bread recipe my ears perked up. I was already in the middle of a few baking adventures, so I made a mental note of the recipe and dug in; hoping I wouldn't forget any steps.

Right away I realized it wasn't your typical long rise no knead, as Chuck starts with 1 tablespoon of yeast (normal recipes call for 1/4 teaspoon). Along with the yeast he adds 3 cups of warm water, 1 tbl of sugar, vinegar, salt, oil and 3 cups of all purpose flour. Here I was thinking, Whoa, Chuck..100% hydration for this..your crazy! But, this goes back to my idea of no knead, where you only use 3 cups of flour. Chuck however adds another 2 1/2 to 3 cups of whole wheat flour once the AP flour has been absorbed. Phew..not so crazy after all.

Everything sits in a bowl for 45 minutes (my no knead sits 14-18 hours), before being dumped into greased bread pans and left to bake in a 375 degree oven for 50 minutes.

The dumping of bread into the pans wasn't as easy as Chuck made it appear. The dough is easy to degas, especially with all that yeast in play, so I didn't exactly divide the dough equally. Luckily, even with my bad dividing skills, the loaves baked up nicely. At the last minute I decided to top one with sesame and the other with sugar. The taste? With such a short rise period, it doesn't develop the taste you would normally get in a no knead, but part of that is made up with the extra ingredients. I had so much bread baked this week so the loaf didn't get sliced up for a day. I'm sure it would taste great fresh out of the oven, as it makes fantastic toast. The hardy bread holds up nicely to peanut butter, jam, honey, marmalade etc. Definitely easy, and even though you rarely find bread on a cooking show, I don't know if I'll have a spot for Chuck's recipe in my repertoire.

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Sunday, August 30, 2009

pizza by request

Being the head baker and chef at the homestead, I'm often asked to make supper. Pizza was on the menu by request, which is fine by me as I get to practice my tossing skills. With the oven heating the house up with all of its 550 degrees of pizza making capabilities, the weather played nice and we had a gorgeous evening to dine al fresco (wait, did I use that term right?)

Like all my pizza now, the dough was from Peter Reinhart. Toppings included roasted chicken, caramelized onions, fresh mushroom and orange pepper, with my garden basil and oregano. It was then topped with one of those 3 cheese store blends. In and out in 5 minutes, this adds to my argument; there is a big difference between 'fast food' and 'food that's fast'.

I saved you a slice. ;)

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Friday, August 28, 2009

attack of the random bread

Sometimes I bake a loaf of bread that is so damn good I wish I could share it with you all. This is one of those examples.

Now, I must get back to this loaf. It looks lonely on the counter.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

the week that was and is - august 26th, 2009

The 26th of August and I've started to harvest carrots. My red bell pepper plant finally has one fruit, something my tabasco pepper plant still hasn't accomplished, and after 3 harvests of my lettuce plants, I think they are done!

  • Agriculture Minister John MacDonell is challenging Nova Scotians to eat only locally produced food on September, 4. "He will be joined by his Atlantic counterparts, Ronald Ouellette of New Brunswick, George Webster of Prince Edward Island and Kathy Dunderdale of Newfoundland and Labrador, who have all pledged to eat only food from the Atlantic region that day."
  • I always thought it was meat-on-a-stick, but these days everything is on a stick.
  • A vegetarian, and tofu loving, Florida resident applies for but fails to get a vanity plate.
  • What do Corn sweetener, Corn syrup, High-fructose corn syrup, Dextrose, Fructose, Glucose, Lactose, Maltose, Sucrose, Honey, Sugar, Brown sugar,Invert sugar, Molasses, Malt syrup have in common. That's right, all of them are sugars added to your goodies. It seems harder and harder to find out how much sugar is in your foods these days.
  • Even though I eat a lot of apples (2 to 3 a day), I was unaware that Honey Crisp is the reigning champ of taste. They are a delicious apple, but I'm looking forward to tasting the SweeTango; something many believe is now the best apple in the world.
  • If you missed Anthony Bourdain last week in Thailand, his blog update about Thailand is still a great read. The Montana episode this week was touching, in a different way, and seemed like more of a travel diary. I look forward to my next trip south and the Murray Bar.
  • Adam Richman (Man v. Food) was challenged to 10 increasingly spicy tuna cones in Charleston, South Carolina. As a big fan of spicy things and sushi, I think I could accomplish this task...who wants to hit up SC?
  • A little snippet about Andrew Zimmern's new show, Bizarre World, starting on September 1st.
  • Speaking of Andrew, Adam, and Anthony. A recent list of the top 10 food shows NOT about cooking includes all three. They list Chef Vs City (spot 9), a show I haven't watched yet, but it's getting ripped apart over on Chowhound.
  • Best random picture of the week. (via evilmilk)

Adios, till next week!

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

furusato japanese restaurant - edmonton, ab

furusato japanese restaurant
10012 82 ave

Wait, wasn't I just here last week. You betcha! Sushi is something I'll never get sick of, and with my father wanting to dine out for the evening, it seemed like the simplest choice.

Having to run an errand, and not knowing when he would be done, I opted to go for a ride. It seemed easier, as we just agreed to head over when ever he was done. Strangely enough, it didn't take much time at all and we arrived on Whyte 10 minutes before they open at 5. As we chatted on the sidewalk, a line started to form. A line I tell you! There are certain things I have to see to believe, and a restaurant lined up at 5Pm, is one of those thing.

Before long the doors were open and we pulled our selves up to the bar. The itamea, and general manager, Dave, remembered me from the week before and welcomed us to the bar with open arms. We ordered our tea, and it arrived with a plate of salmon. Unlike my previous visit, where I was offered a complimentary non-menu item, salmon balls, this was a plate you could ordered from their menu. Pieces of salmon, cooked in a similar teriayaki sauce, and presented with a crispy bean sprout salad. With a wink and a nod, Dave said, it's on me. A nice but unnecessary gesture, the salmon was cooked perfectly. My only complaint; I could have eaten a whole bowl of the sprouts myself. So good!

I fell back into my regular sushi routine, and ordered chirashi (scattered sashimi on rice). While not the most elaborate of presentations, that award goes to Sushi Wasabi, the bowl was quite filling. Atop a bed of rice sat tuna, salmon, octopus, red snapper, mackerel, roe, scallop, shrimp, surf clam and egg. Delicious. I switch back and forth a lot between a sashimi plate and chirashi, as I find my choices fairly limited. With so many elaborate and doctored up rolls available for those who don't necessarily enjoy fish straight up, my hankering for sashimi leaves me with only a few choices.

My father ordered a rainbow roll. How about a side look.

It was the first time I've seen a rainbow roll like this. In all my sushi eating experience around Edmonton, the sushi chef usually cuts through the entire package. Here, the roll was made and sliced, before being adorned with sashimi. It may seem like no real difference, but it looks so much better to me, and allows you to snag a big piece of fish with each piece. A definite must have at Furusato.

He followed the rainbow roll up with a spider roll (soft shell crab). This is probably one of my favorite rolls, and my father loved it.

I was feeling the need for an additional piece of sushi so I asked the itamea to prepare two pieces for me. I told him to be as creative or basic as he would like, and that it could include anything available to him. What I got was the above, and boy was it delicious. Stuffed inside this sweet tofu pouch, was (starting at the bottom) a slice of avocado, rice, smoked salmon, roe. The combination was really fantastic. I'm not a fan of smoked salmon, but this was like a mini firework of taste going off in my mouth. I even offered to trade the second piece with my father for a piece of his spider roll, but he declined. Too bad for him, lucky for me!

I asked about the new lunch hours, and things seem to be alright. It's only been a couple of weeks, but Dave mentioned people are starting to get wind. I also inquired if they are running the full menu, or just a sample of it for lunch, and he said all the same choices are available. Until the next visit..which I'm sure at this rate will be sooner than later!

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Monday, August 24, 2009

italian bread - bread baker's apprentice challenge #15

French bread - Check, Italian bread - check. When I looked ahead and saw these two breads back to back, I started to wonder what actual difference there was between the two. As I mentioned in my French bread post, these two loaves were probably the first readily available artisan breads here, which may explain why grocery store versions seem so similar. Even asking around, I couldn't find one person who could pinpoint any thing, besides maybe the shape. A trip around the grocery stores did little to solve the problem, and even better was the Google results;

  1. Italian bread is heartier....French bread has no heart.
  2. The recipe for French and Italian bread is the same.
  3. The difference is the shape. French bread is long, with rounded ends. Italian bread tends to be more round in shape
Could this be? Only one way to find out my friends, bake off the recipe and see what insights Peter can let us bread baking challengers in on.

And the difference starts right at the beginning. While the French bread utilizes a pate fermentee as its pre-ferment, the Italian bread is created with a biga pre-ferment. Besides being a firm pre-ferment, the biga is put together without salt. Peter does mention that Italian bread has come to mean a very similar bread to French in America, mostly due to bakeries accelerating the fermentation process. This accelerating, which fails to develop both the colour trapped in the starches and potential flavour, in most bakeries seems to be why many can't taste the difference.

To really prove the 'same recipe' myth wrong, the Italian bread also includes sugar, diastatic barley malt powder, and olive oil. So take that French bread; you are different!!! The two loaves I baked off were fantastic. A good crumb and a deliciously soft interior. The homestead used this bread in all circumstances and it was a success in each one; sandwiches, toast, straight up, french toast.

And really, sometimes the best way to enjoy a fresh loaf of bread is to layer on the peanut butter and pour yourself a frosty mug of milk.

So without any grain of doubt, there is a distinct difference between the French and Italian breads. The texture and taste of this Italian bread really stuck out, even more so with my side-by-side taste comparisons. While I did bake off the French recipe a few more times than the Italian to date, I think I'll be coming back to the Italian far more often in the future.

Want to know more. Check out the wonderful Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge FAQ over at Pinch My Salt. Check out beautiful samples of bread, learn how to participate, or just discover what great breads can be discovered in Peter's book.

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

peanut butter and bacon panini

A family favorite over the years; almost a comfort food, I dare say. Very simple, and I promise, very delicious. Fry up as much bacon you like until crispy, layer a hardy amount of peanut butter on fresh, homemade bread (I had roasted and crushed black sesame seeds in my loaf) and weigh it down in a hot pan. Serve right away, while the peanut butter is all nice and melty.

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Friday, August 21, 2009

lemon squares

Feeling the need to bake with lemons, I pulled out one of my mother's old cookbooks and found a lemon square recipe. The squares couldn't have been easier to put together and disappeared from the counter at a rapid pace.

Mix 1 cup of flour, 1/2 cup butter, 1/4 sugar and pinch of salt.
Press into a 9x9 pan and bake for 20 minutes at 350.
Mix 2 eggs, zest of one lemon, juice of said lemon, 1/4 tsp baking powder, 3 tbls flour.
Pour over baked crust and put it back in the 350 degree oven for 25 minutes.
Sprinkle some powdered sugar over top, and cool before cutting.

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

french bread - bread baker's apprentice challenge #14

French bread was on the docket for this week's bread baker's apprentice challenge. I've often wondered about this bread and next week's Italian bread. These two types of bread seem so similar in Canada, and were probably the first two artisan breads you could commonly find at your local grocery store.

This French bread recipe utilizes a pate fermentee, which spends 1 to 3 nights in a fridge to develop flavor. The book mentions such a pre-ferment will give most breads a quantum leap in maturity and flavour. On the day you choose to bake, you simply pull the pre-ferment out of the fridge a few hours before.

I baked this recipe off twice; once with with pate fermentee spending one night, and again with two nights in the fridge. Even out of the fridge, I noticed a difference in the pate. The longer version had risen considerably more and I could see good sized pockets of air in the dough in my plastic container.

The recipe talks about baking 3 loaves, but my crappy dividing skills left me with 4 chunks. Instead of worrying, I decided to bake off two classic logs, one crown, and one boule (I attacked the boule and one log with scissors to add some flair). On my second batch, 2/3 of the dough turned into a ring/donut shape, with the rest going to a smaller torpedo style roll.

With my oven, baking stone and water prepped, I started firing bread into the oven followed closely with hot water for my steaming pan. I really need to figure out a better way to transfer hot water into the tray as I ended up burning my fingers. *silly me, I suppose I could just wear oven mitts.

The bread was a hit. It was devoured mostly as toast, but a few PB and banana sandwiches made there way into the mix. The more I work with pre-ferments, the more I appreciate the fine art of European breads. I guess it was no surprise then to find the 2nd batch, which spent an extra night in the fridge, had developed a bit more flavor. Delicious as it was, I'm ready for Italian bread.

If you have a few minutes, why not check out the BBA flickr feed. Don't blame me if your tummy starts to rumble!

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

the week that was and is - august 19th, 2009

Short and sweet, here are your Wednesday tidbits.

  • Mentioned on Only Here for the Food earlier this month, this coming Sunday from 11 - 4 is the grand re-opening of the Italian Centre downtown 'to mark the completion of renovations that include a new housewares/kitchenware department."
  • The Italian Centre is also going to join a group of growing producers and retailers, like Wild Earth Foods, and display signage to identify products grown, raised and produced in Alberta. A program developed by Eat Local First.
  • This epic review of El Bulli has been making the rounds this week. I caught myself drooling on my keyboard as I progressed through.
  • I mentioned the new world record cupcake recently, which at 150 pounds seems pretty daunting, but the record has been smashed a 7000 pound cupcake! Straight to my thighs, ass, belly, face..oh heck straight to all of our asses!
  • How about a new limited offering from McDonald's in Japan - the Mega-Tamago.
  • It doesn't matter how they package WonderBread; the thought of that never moldy loaf always scares me.
  • Can you really turn your nose down at more ways to cook bacon. Here is a list of 100, just to get you started.
  • Anthony Bourdain was in San Francisco last week. There was a lot of talk on Chowhound (here) when people originally got word. I found it entertaining, and have always enjoyed Tony's sarcastic locavore comments. He will never please all people, and I think many missed the message...San Francisco is a great food city, with more to offer than you think. I also caught up with Monday night's Thailand show. A classic episode indeed. I think Tony does some of his best work in Asia, and I always get giddy with anticipation for street food. How I would love to walk down the street and enjoy a hot bowl of soup.
  • Man v. Food saw Adam in Las Vegas to bring down a really 6lb burrito. The more I learn about Las Vegas, regarding food, culture, atmosphere, the crazier it seems. I'll make it down one day.
  • Plenty of times in life, I sit back and consider that a backyard fire is one of the most peaceful things in the world. This past week's rendition was no different. Man + meat + fire = good.

  • Can anyone fill me in regarding this sign. It's been hanging up at my favorite Korean grocer for at least a month, but my search attempts have left me with nothing.
I think it's time I hunker down and stage a revolution, or in simplier terms; check out some fringe goodies.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

garden treats!

My first ever cucumber! Just pulled off this little (5 inch) cucumber, along with a bowl full of tumbler tomatoes. I know it's late in the year, the cucumber should have been producing quite a while back, but I can't hide the excitement. I sliced the cucumber for a roasted chicken sandwich, and it was heavenly.

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Sunday, August 16, 2009

furusato japanese restaurant - edmonton, ab

furusato japanese restaurant
10012 82 ave

Things are good when you are treated to a meal. Things are even better when you are treated to a meal of your choice, which is then only surpassed by that person suggesting we try Furusato knowing I consider it to be the best sushi shop in town (here, here). Which brings me to this post and maybe, just maybe, the best sushi experience I've had in town to date.

If there is one thing I've learned about my time at Furusato it's that seats fill up fast. Forgetting they don't take reservations on Fridays, Saturdays, or Sundays, I attempted to call in a spot as it was already past 5. With no success on the phone, I mentioned to my fellow diners we were going to have to wing it. Lucky for us, 3 seats at the sushi bar were emptying as we walked in and we assumed our front row positions.

I don't know if it was my camera or our front row seats, but the sushi chef placed a small dish of salmon balls in front of us 'on the house'. Mentioning these were not even on the menu, the salmon balls were a success. Biting a sample in half, there were obvious chunks of salmon and seemed akin to salmon tartar, rolled into (rum ball sized) balls, lightly cooked and then tossed with some teriyaki sauce. My first ever comped item. But on to our orders and the first dish up was my medium sashimi platter. A good mix of fish including tuna, salmon, scallop, mackerel, shrimp, surf clam, octopus, and snapper. Maybe I'm a sucker for fish but I love a plate of good plate of sashimi.

Next on the bar was the special sushi, an 18 piece platter. Similar to my sashimi plate it included salmon, tuna, surf clam, shrimp, clam, octopus, snapper, as well as a tekka roll, two pieces of roe and tamago (sweet egg). Everything was deemed a success.

Finally a sushi combo box (13 pieces). While offering less nigiri, it included a California cone and spicy tekka (tuna) roll. Being an amateur sushi eater, I found this a brave choice and wasn't surprised to hear the order was a little overwhelming. The cone and spicy roll went over extremely well, but the scallop and egg didn't fair so well. Egg? I know, but my fellow diner could not get past the idea of sweetened egg. Good thing there was no inari (tofu) on the plate, as I almost consider that like dessert sushi. I was the lucky recipient of both the tuna and salmon pieces.

Feeling totally content at this point, I opted to push the limits with a little luxury. Some fatty tuna (toro) and uni (sea urchin). These two delicacies are definitely my weakness. The toro melted away with no effort and that infamous acquired uni taste was exceptional.

Standing up as we left our sushi chef asked if I had visited before. I mentioned I had on many occasions before he introduced himself as the manager. We shook hands (by touching elbows) as he introduced his mother who ran the back of the show. We briefly talked about his time preparing sushi at Furusato (13 years), and how the previous itamea had recently retired.

All in all, my experience tonight was nothing short of fantastic. A great mix of conversation, food and atmosphere. If you have never dined at Furusato, now would be a good time. A new owner, who recently closed the restaurant for 10 days to complete some renovations, has kept the staff and is, in my opinion, putting out the best sushi in Edmonton.

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Saturday, August 15, 2009

zucchini chocolate chip cookies

I found myself staring at a good chunk of zucchini in my fridge and decided to throw it in some baking. Normally I would bake it into a quick bread, but felt the need for change. Not only has it been ages since I baked a batch of cookies, but I don't ever remember using zucchini in a cookie. It makes total sense, just like zucchini bread, it brings additional moisture and nutrients. Without the chocolate chips, you might almost be able to tell yourself these are good for you.

I used cinnamon and vanilla in the base for a subtle backdrop, and honey as my sweetener (something I've been experimenting with more). The chocolate chips were like icing on the cake. If anything, I might throw in some nutmeg next time to kick it up the base a bit more. Like usual, I found myself losing interest after baking off a few trays and started down the giant cookie road...giant cookies are so much fun!

Giant cookies can be difficult in my experience. Edges that are burnt and uncooked centers are two common problems, but not this time. Victory was mine..or should I say, victory was stomachs!

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Friday, August 14, 2009

peanut butter banana bacon muffins

Have you ever phased out while making a meal? You know, stiring a pot of stew and you start imaging the laundry, or maybe a sunny beach. While I was recently cooking up some bacon for breakfast, and considering what to bake at the same time. A pile of ripe banana's were slowly creeping along the table to have a conversation with me about being used up, so I knew they were down for a good time. The peanut butter jar was staring down at me from his perch in the cupboard; basically asking if he could take the banana's to baking prom. And who am I to get in the way. I agreed to their date, as long I could send a chauffeur of my choice...crispy delicious bacon! So with all participants happy about my decision, it was time to finish breakfast and start the party.

The muffins were fantastic. 4 banana's provided for a charmin soft base, while the pb added enough of a subtle after taste. I decided to sub in some bacon fat, and crumbled crisp bacon on top. Savory, sweet, and delicious; I ended up with a small army of muffins (2o) The only thing I would change next time would be to push the bacon into the batter. Some of the pieces didn't incorporate as well as I would have liked and were shaking loose out of the oven.

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

high calorie food poster

A late addition to my Wednesday info, check out this collage of information from Next Generation Food. I can't help but laugh that 4 slices of Pizza Hut pizza equally 1640 calories. I'm now going to go hide in a corner, for the countless times I've eaten even more than that.

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the week that was and is - august 12th, 2009

A few cold evenings this past week, and I've noticed a few damp car windows in the morning. Is this a sign? Should I start worrying about my vegetables?

  • Don't forget to look skyward tonight, as it's the climax of the Perseid meteor shower!! I believe you should look northeast around midnight if you want to catch a glimpse. "They can be seen all across the sky, but because of the path of Swift-Tuttle's orbit, Perseids are primarily visible in the northern hemisphere" Yeah that's us! Anyways, back to food!
  • No surprise I suppose that Julia Child's books will be getting a sales boost from the recent movie. "On Monday, a $40 hardcover of Mastering topped the charts of and Barnes &, easily outpacing a $7.99 paperback of the book that gave the film its title,"
  • A portable grocery truck, similar to an ice cream truck, has started to bring produce out to some of Detroit's poorest areas. "Others who have studied the city say people in developing countries can more easily get fresh produce."
  • Interesting thought on how some cuts of meat came to be named. I like #3 - The term filet mignon is French for “dainty fillet.” Somehow this makes eating one seem a bit less manly, although no less delicious.
  • Food labeling to the max. It sure would spice up some conversations at with your friends.
  • I find it really scary that we have such an overabundance of food in the west, and we just don't know how to deal with it; look at these thoughts out of the US, that food stamps may lead to obesity. "Every way we looked at the data, it was clear that the use of food stamps was associated with weight gain," Jay Zagorsky, co-author of the study and research scientist.
  • Sure you could set up your garden with this 'mindless mat', but I've enjoyed the experience of winging it this year. Somethings die, somethings grow. Ah life!
  • Instead of making another round of English Muffins, I decided to bake the dough off sandwich style. The results were lovely, and taster approved. Light, moist, and totally toast-able if I say so myself. Oh and yes, those are peanut butter, banana, bacon muffins in the background...delish!!

  • Food TV updates - Anthony Bourdain did a show on street food last week, and as a big fan of mystery meat, I found myself let down. It was a compilation of his adventures, great if you haven't watched everything he has done, but not enough new incite for me..and where oh where was JapaDog!
  • Man V Food started it's second season last week, and created an enjoyable first show based out of San Antonio. 3 1/2 pound cinnamon bun, 40 some inch pizza, and a crazy hot hamburger. I love this show for it's pure extravagance.

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Monday, August 10, 2009

sushi wasabi - edmonton, ab

sushi wasabi (take 3)
5714 111 Street

I stopped in recently to sample the goods from Sushi Wasabi again. While it did occupy my number one spot for some time, I've been having such a good time at Furusato that I haven't eaten here in over half a year.

Arriving around 6, we grabbed the last table in the house. Quickly reacquainted ourselves with the menu, we chatted over a fresh pot of tea. My dinning companion settled on combo 7 (I think); 2pc salmon, 2pc tuna along with a tekka roll (tuna) and salmon roll. Pieces seemed well proportioned, and there were no complaints. Although the wasabi did seem a little neon this evening.

If there is one thing I love about Sushi Wasabi, it would be the presentation in their chirashi bowl. So it almost goes without saying, if I'm in a small group, I'll be ordering this. Having sampled chirashi around the city, I'm still amazed that no one compares with what you get. Not only do you receive a decent chunk of fish, but also vegetables and 3 types of roe. Why no one else in town includes vegetable garnishes, different types of roe, or even egg (at times), is beyond me.

Things were good, the service was steady, and the restaurant stayed packed during our entire visit. Sitting near the front, I did pick up on a potential customer service issue. The mother/wife of this family fun operation has some English barriers, which is no problem in person, but when answering the phone I noticed it could come across as brash. If the conversation went beyond a basic point, she would seemingly become flustered and yell for her son to come answer the phone. Many times, just putting the phone down and walking away. I've never called, and I have a feeling she means well but it was just something I pondered throughout the night.

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