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Las Vegas: Halloweeny sushi date with Antho

いくら軍艦寿司, Ikura gunkanzushi
Antho and I have many things in common, from our blue-tinged hair to an enthusiasm for Doctor Who and backpacking. Happily, sushi is one thing that we both greatly adore so our choice on date nights is usually quite an easy decision. We even share a profound appreciation for the glory of sea urchin! As such it makes an ideal choice for those rare nights we two get to go out and celebrate our coupleness.

A top choice for us to satiate our need for sushi in Vegas is Sushi Twister.
One of the bigger selling points for me is that the restaurant is owned and operated by Japanese staff, so I get to bust out my rusty Japanese skills and impress my guy. Winning!
Their specials board changes often, but we’re always happy when they have super white tuna!
シマアジと白まぐろ握り寿司
shima aji in the front, super white tuna behind
Shima aji’s appearance made me exceptionally happy as shima aji is traditionally considered a summer season fish in Japan and I don’t think I’ve ever encountered it in a restaurant stateside. The oily fish has a rich, supple flesh without the fishiness of other mackerel. I’m a big fan of aozakana (blue fish), and the seasonal specialties of Japanese cuisine are one of the things I miss most. 

At Sushi Twister typical All You Can Eat rules apply. Lunch garners you a 1 hour time limit, dinner an hour and a half, only order what you can eat as you’ll be charged for left overs, etc. 
We’ve yet to have leftovers. 😉

ゴマわかめ, Goma wakame
Seaweed salad is a must! I love how the seaweed maintains it’s uniquely crunchy texture in the dressing, and it gives a nice boost of healthy fiber to an otherwise white-rice heavy meal.

白まぐろ握り寿司, Shiromaguro nigirizushi
Mm, super white tuna! The sauce looks suspiciously like momoji oroshi, which is A-OK by me. Antho isn’t particularly fond of the sauce as he feels it’s too strong for the subtle fish to really shine.

They’ve decorated for the fall! 
I also find the description of the sake amusing. 

The chefs hard at work on a busy afternoon.

Maneki nyanko! Always a friendly face in any Japanese restaurant.

穴子天ぷら
Conger eel tempura. 
The crispy tempura coating compliments the tender meat inside. 
The sauce is a rich reduction of unagi tare.
エビ天!
Ebi-ten! 
Nothing especially unusually or unique about these, just your standard tasty shrimp tempura.

ダイナマイトムール貝
Baked Mussels
Always a favorite of our’s. This is one of the few dishes that my several impaired sense of smell has actually been able to pick up on! Pretty cool.

ダイナマイトほたて
Baked Scallops
We’d never actually ordered this dish until this visit. It was alright, Antho didn’t care for it. There were sautéed onions and mushrooms mixed in with the itty bitty scallops, which he felt detracted from them.
たこ、いかとほき握り寿司
From front to back: Octopus, squid and surf clam nigiri.
たこ握り寿司
The octopus nigirizushi.
I always try to order these three, as they’re light and clean with a subtle flavor and chewy bite. 
Sometimes the octopus is raw rather than pre-cooked, which is my personal preference. Still lovely!

いか握り寿司
Ika nigirizushi.
Squid is one of my favorite methods to test the legitimacy of a sushi restaurant. I always prefer places that add notches to the squid as it helps to soften the otherwise potentially too-chewy texture of the cephalopod. There are few things as unpleasant as getting a big thick rectangular slab of rubbery squid that takes forever to masticate. Sushi Twister does it right, though there was an unexpectedly large dab of wasabi on the piece Antho grabbed causing him a bit of a surprise. 

ほき握り寿司
Hoki, or surf-clam, nigirizushi. This is one of Antho’s favorite mollusks and it also happens to be quite a photogenic one with it’s vibrant pink tip.

The Halloween Roll! Once I saw it on the specials board I knew we had to try it.
Pumpkin tempura, Shrimp tempura and cucumber inside topped with shrimp and quadruple sauce!

甘エビ握り寿司
Amaebi nigirizushi, one of my favorites! The tender nearly-translucent flesh of the shrimp has the slightest bit of briny and a lot of sweet flavor to it’s succulent flesh. They removed the tails, which was a nice gesture. I always feel awkward when served sushi with the tails on, and I generally just eat it. XD Extra calcium!

At Sushi Twister they give you the option to order the sweet shrimp’s heads deep-fried. I always say yes! All the little spines become crispy while the interior of the shrimp’s head becomes a delectable burst of shrimpy intensity. Not for the faint of hearted, I suppose, but Antho and I both enjoy them!

サケ握り寿司
Salmon nigirizushi. A little more tame than deep-fried crustacean craniums, eh? 
Salmon is one of my favorite fish, period, but especially served as sushi. Mm!

The roe is always a lovely addition. Don’t they look like little Dragon Balls?

うに軍艦寿司
Uni gunkanzushi.
Ahh, sea urchin, a much maligned treat of the sea is where we capped off our meal. We were both growing quite full and had done more than our fair share of damage to the ocean’s ecology, so after this round of urchin gonads we wrapped it up and paid our bill. 
Do you enjoy sushi?
What’s your favorite? ^_^

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Oakland’s Chinatown

After taking off from the Tenderloin and checking in at our AirBnB lodging, we headed over to Oakland’s own little Chinatown! Our host Jackie recommended the area to us and we’re happy to have taken her up on the suggestion. While fairly small it comprises a fairly well-rounded community center, with banks, restaurants, medical facilities and shops all nestled tightly together.


Personally, I felt like this was a bit more authentic to my experience in Hong Kong than the larger Chinatown in San Francisco as it was a lot less tourist oriented and more for the locals. The groceries and restaurants were so much fun to explore! Right in the nostalgia. Fun fact: this was also the first time we really encountered a diagonal street crossing in the US. I’ve seen them in Asia but Antho was super excited to see one!

Talk about your lunch special…Only $3.99 and it includes dessert!

Bulk bins galore and people going about their business.

Can you recognize any of the ingredients?

This reminds me of the small fresh market I went to in Urayasu, Japan. 🙂 

Fresh wasabi root, I believe.

This butcher counter legitimately reminds me of the ones I saw in Hong Kong, right down to the signs/menu.

Black silkie chickens and geese, I believe.

Fresh seafood tanks!

Oh, those geoducks…

Frogs and turtles!

Have you ever seen a naked turtle? Well, now you have!

Ever wondered what the inside of a snapping turtle looks like? Wonder no more for your inquiry has been photographically remediated.

Leopard shark…

Big ole’ dangly mirugai, or geoducks…strange creatures. 

One of the butchers found me amusing, what with my photographing the turtles and all, so he humored me and plopped this big fella atop the table so I could marvel at the beast in all his glory. 
Live crab and lobster. Mm!

So much fruit, including mini bananas, rambutan, lychee and more.

Dried shrimp, plums, fungi and more.

All sorts of dried seafoods.

Anchovies, mussels, shrimp, squid, seaweed, etc…

Dry squid are pretty impressive looking, really. 

Sea cucumbers on the other hand never really look very appealing, huh?

Just not an attractive critter, live or dried, I’m afraid.

A bounty of tea!

A piece of petrified tree, I believe?

Fungi.

Mm, fresh roasted meats and goodies!

Cute little interior.

Tubers, gords, rhizomes, etc. The long tubers towards the bottom right are yamaimo or nagaimo, mountain yam or long yam respectively. They have a uniquely slimy texture.

Tubs and tubs of dried aromatics.

Ooey gooey glazed ribs.

Jackie recommended we check out this small bakery while down here, especially around 2pm when they rolled out their egg custard tarts. We were still in the area by then so we made sure to pop in.

So many sumptuous selections!

Antho caught me off guard while buying some of the egg tarts for us and our hosts. 

Tasty little tarts, fresh from the ovens.

Moon cakes! They have a delightfully chewy texture. 

Their cakes looks lovely, too. All of their food looked so yummy! Probably a good thing we were ballin’ on a budget. 😛

Narrow tea shop. The walls are lined with canisters full of a wide variety of (many very expensive) teas.

When I asked if we could take any photos inside the shop, the woman working eyed me suspiciously and asked for what purpose. “For memories!” we replied…she allowed us one, watching us like a hawk all the while. After perusing the rest of the shop we quickly headed out as we didn’t feel particularly welcome. 
After filling our bellies and stretching our legs, we returned to our lodging for a brief reprieve before heading out for Jack London Square. Check back tomorrow for the photos!

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San Francisco Japantown

From our hotel we were able to walk to Japantown easily as it’s roughly a mile or so away. 
Having spent several years living in Japan I was really excited to explore the area! Check out my photos below.

The tower is one of the things you notice first during approach as it’s unique shape stands out among the surrounding buildings. Designed by Yoshiro Taniguchi, the tower was a gift from the people of Osaka. Neat, huh? Find out more on Wikipedia.

We found onigiri (rice balls)!

Inspecting his selection, an unagi (savory grilled sea eel) onigiri!

Good choice!

One of my choices, along with a tuna mayo onigiri. 
The Japan Center shopping center is divided into two areas, the West Mall and the East Mall which flank the pagoda on either side. 

Daiso! A fun dollar store from Japan.

A medley of awkward not-quite-knock-off characters and references here…but you get the gist.

We’re dorks.

Found an arcade!

With a Pika-pod!

Seriously, it’s a pika…pod…

Taiko no tatsujin!!! I love this game. It’s geared towards smaller children but it’s really fun. Rhythm taiko drumming game. The sticks are as big around as hot dogs! As you play the screen is full of all sorts of fun cartoons and the music selection is silly.

We went two player on this one.

 
To give you an idea of the sheer scale of the Pikapod. 

Restaurant row, you say? Hmm…

Yay! Plastic food models! This area reminded me of some of the food courts or halls you’ll find throughout Japan. I always love me some soba, that’s for sure.

A sushi boat restaurant!

A cool crochet cthulhu mask in a shop and my merpy reflection. 😛