Standards on what makes a restaurant and its dishes good vary greatly from one person to another. Some might think that value is of utmost importance, some prefer intimate surroundings, while others will consider no factor other than the freshness of ingredients.
My wife and I have developed our own preferences and standards as to how we like certain foods, and it may or may not agree with the preferences and standards of others. As a result, we have learned to temper our expectations when we are urged by friends to visit restaurants that they liken to the second coming of El Bulli. If I can’t even agree with my parents on the definitions of a truly outstanding kaiseki, how can I expect mere casual acquaintances to share my views on the merits of a meal at a restaurant?
But whenever a friend recommends a new restaurant for my wife and I to try, we always feel compelled to try the restaurant out of our loyalty to them (as well as curiosity).
One of my wife’s friends couldn’t stop singing the praises of Momo Sushi; she insisted that we visit the restaurant for its superb sushi and sashimi. After reading online reviews, I was a bit skeptical. We nevertheless decided to try the restaurant because the friend was so adamant that we try it (also because we wanted to test drive their chirashi).
The restaurant was really busy when we visited for lunch. My wife, son, and I were lucky enough to secure their final vacant table right before the rush of lunch hour diners began pouring into the restaurant at 12:00 P.M sharp.
We looked around the tables around us for clues as to what to order. Other than the chirashi that we came to the restaurant for, we also ordered the chicken teriyaki for my son, a lunch box to share between my wife and I, and a mango roll.
The mango roll looked nice but tasted ordinary. The sauce and mango slices on top were sweet but ordinary-tasting, while the tiny fish eggs worked more as a textural component than a flavour component. The California roll base had a mostly imitation crab flavour that was typical of the Cali rolls served at local non-authentic Japanese restaurants.
The chicken teriyaki bowl was quite substantial in its portion size, and the chicken itself was not that bad. The chicken was of the deep-fried-then-drizzled-with-sauce variety, and they did a good job of frying the breading+skin to a crispy texture while retaining a little bit of the tender texture of the dark-meat chicken. The teriyaki sauce was liberally drizzled and resulted in the chicken being sweeter than I would have preferred, but not too sweet for my son to enjoy. The rice a bit too dry on the surface and a bit too mushy when bitten-into. It was definitely inferior to the shiny and bitey rice served at some of the better local Japanese places.
The lunch box was more value-for-the-money-paid than it was quality-for-the-money-paid. The tempura was well fried if not a bit greasy. The sunomono was predominantly sour. The chicken teriyaki was just the like chicken teriyaki that my son had. The sashimi pieces were sliced way too thick for them to be enjoyed in a single bite. The sushi fish was as unenjoyably thickly-sliced as the sashimi while the sushi rice simply broke apart too easily.
The thickness of the raw fish in the chirashi once again made the chirashi look like like a better deal than it really was. The fish tasted like it had just been thawed from its frozen state not too long ago, while the thickness of the raw fish slices were totally incompatible with one-bite-enjoyability. The cooked octopus as chewy and unenjoyable as some of the least enjoyable sashimi octopus I’ve had anywhere, and the rice was simply not up to snuff. This chirashi was inferior to the chirashi from Sushi Mart in every category.
Oh, and least I forget, there was also a bowl of miso soup and a salad included with the lunch box (or was it the chicken teriyaki?[or was it both?])
Both the soup and the salad were as ordinary tasting as could be. The miso soup was typical supermarket-bought miso doused with hot water, while the salad consisted of the most ordinary low-end veggies combined with factory-made-and-mass-produced Japanese salad dressing.
You can learn a lot about somebody judging solely from their restaurant recommendations. My wife and I learned that her friend who recommended Momo sushi to us definitely values large portion sizes over the textures experienced when a slice of fish is placed in the mouth. But I am not saying that the preferences of my wife and I are more discerning or superior in any way. After all, what do I know about sushi? I have never lived in Japan. My wife’s friend has.