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I’m Sorry, Cod What? Day 8 (with links)

January 28, 2010

The smell of movie theater popcorn, numbingly cold wind, and stunning views of apartments far more expensive than mine and other more majestic architecture accompanied me this evening on my twilight jog around Reebok’s outdoor track. Hours ago, I thought this frozen farewell to my free week at the best gym I’ve ever tried would be the most daring and exciting topic from tonight’s endeavors. I did learn that with proper ear-warmers (which I regrettably did not have), I enjoy running despite the cold and that training for a half marathon might then be more feasible than originally thought; however, the evening had far better plans for me than a jog and a jacuzzi.

I previously intended to finally see Up in the Air with a friend, but she received a dinner invitation from mutual friends and decided to invite me to join them instead. So tonight, I had the incomparable pleasure of dining at an amazing Japanese restaurant in Williamsburg with four fellow musicians, two Israeli and two Japanese. We dined at Zenkichi, a phenomenal restaurant owned by the gracious brother of my Israeli friend and his Japanese wife. As if the restaurant weren’t accommodating enough as a default, offering to provide me with a Pescatarian version of their Omakase (a flight of chef’s recommended dishes), the owner also sent us over several dishes not included and a bottle of Kokuryu, his favorite sake.

By now I’d be very surprised if you haven’t wondered how this could possibly challenge me in the least. Perhaps you don’t know about my lifelong aversion to all fish and mushrooms (a culinary prejudice I’ve only very recently worked to overcome) or the fact that until tonight, I had never tried sashimi. Yes, tonight I really, truly, thoroughly enjoyed the several courses of tuna, the amazing yellowtail sashimi, the cod that had been slowly cooked for three days to perfection, and even the salad with four kinds of mushrooms, made separately for the Pescatarian.

Every dish tasted unique and delicately prepared, but no moment could trump the serving of Shirako. First, we had heard that just today, the New York Times and the Food and Wine Magazine praised their Shirako. Then, the owner informed us that I too could eat it but that he wouldn’t define Shirako until after we had tried it. Our Japanese friends agreed to keep it secret. Finally, our generous though slightly bashful waiter delivered the dish, including for me some vegetable tempura, assuming I might not be comfortable eating the Shirako. It was delicious. I could see why the Times praised it. Did someone say cod sperm?

Of course our conversation degenerated into bits of English, Japanese, and Hebrew (don’t be too impressed, I only speak one of these languages, though I somehow understood the Japanese word for “balls”), as we tried to understand exactly how this was possible and how fish scrotums compare to those of men. Apparently we had a tempura version of fish sperm sacs.  Understandable that the waiter suspected I might have been squeamish, but I have no regrets.

I learned tonight that some of the people I understand best speak a different first language, that I can still eat well and adventurously as a Pescatarian with shellfish allergies, and that atmosphere, friends, respect, and generosity make for as amazing a dining experience as the highest quality cuisine. Thank you Reebok Sports Club (I will miss you), my friends, Zenkichi, and the A train that took me home without the scheduled shuttle bus for a wonderful night.

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