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Mashiko, West Seattle, WA, tasted on July 13, 2005 My deep and abiding love for Nishino in Seattle has made me a bit gun-shy about trying other Japanese restaurants around town. I'm always disappointed by the competition. And usually doubly so as I think about the meal I could have had at Nishino. And unfortunately, tonight's meal at Mashiko in West Seattle was no exception.

I always say that if the food tastes great I find myself caring very little about things like service, decor, and price (within reason). That said, when the food isn't great, those things start to bug the crap out of me. Once I realized that the food at Mashiko was going to be almost entirely consistently disappointing the attitude started to bug the hell out of me. But I'm getting ahead of myself. First the food.

Basically average to below average sushi with lots of variety. The sushi spectrum usually starts on one end with hyper-traditional and goes all the way to the other end with hyper-creative. Both are good. (Nishino takes a left turn in my opinion preserving a very traditional foundation while introducing extremely creative and modern elements.) But anyway... Mashiko is closer to the creative side as they have a very large menu with all kinds of variety of sushi and other Japanese dishes. And while presentation doesn't count for much with me as long as something looks appetizing, usually the creative places at least have some flair. Not so with Mashiko. That wouldn't have been a big deal if the sushi was good. At it's worst the sushi at Mashiko was soggy. Soggy temakis. There's really nothing worse. Even I have gotten to the point in my own personal sushi making where I can make a hand roll with relatively crisp nori (seaweed). And if I can do it, they should be able to cause I suck. From my limited experience this is a sign that the rice was likely too moist and may have gotten into too much contact with the seaweed under pressure. Not good. On many of the rolls the ratios seemed off too. Too much rice, or too wide a roll. Not sure what the problem was. Though mainly it was that the food didn't have much flavor. Additionally, great sushi in my opinion is beautiful to look at. While I don't care about fancy presentation so much, this sushi looked plain sloppy. It can't help but have affected how we perceived it in our mouths. It looked like it was made by someone who didn't care or didn't have the skills to really make it perfectly. The one exception was the onion tempura roll with some tuna and creamy sauce on top. This had some nice crunch and the sauce gave it some decent flavor.

Among the non-sushi dishes the short ribs were actually quite good. Flavorful, tender. A little fatty, but they were supposed to be I think. I enjoyed them. The sauteed pea vines were also flavorful. But the stir-fried "bloodline" tuna fish (from the lean part of the fish according to our waiter) was oversauced and overcooked. The tofu curry (which I think our waiter forgot but didn't want to admit that when we reminded him) had decent flavor but was served in such huge quantity that it couldn't help but be a gloopy affair. Even without the size though it wasn't particularly memorable.

We ordered a whole variety of dishes but really almost nothing stood out, and everyone at the table kept remarking how disappointed they were. And this is when I started to notice how annoying the place was. Basically to go along with the "attitude" in their food they have some attitude in their environment and among their waitstaff. A sign at the front asked you to follow certain instructions "unless you were illiterate". I'm not so politically correct that I'm mortified on behalf of the folks who never learned to read. I am however deeply offended when people make jokes that aren't funny. This just seemed dumb. There was more on the menu where they went over the house rules including "shut up and eat". And our waiter was kind of like an overconfident skate punk. He just always had a borderline condescending answer for everything. I really almost never say a bad word about any waiter or waitress ever. I think they have incredibly hard jobs for which they get paid very little, and I would never want to be the cause of more stress for them. And in this case I think I shouldn't be because I think the waiter was projecting an image consistent with that of the rest of the establishment. It just so happens that since the food wasn't great, the swagger seemed more defensive than deserved. And to be fair to our waiter, we did sit at our table way too long and he was very nice about booting our asses out of there, which we had no problem with. They had folks waiting and it wasn't fair of us to keep hanging out for so long.

Bottom line. I feel like I may have been a touch more negative than is warranted. But I also want to explain why. At the end of our meal they gave us bumper stickers that said "sushiwhore.com". How... cool? I would whore myself out for good sushi. But I am also spoiled. When I go to a place I like or love I consistently get really enjoyable food. Mashiko is doing what hundreds of "hipster" sushi places are doing around the country. They have an attitude. They try to be creative (hey, let's wrap your sushi roll in soy paper). They have a boatload of items on the menu. Etc. And in all honestly, they're probably not even in the bottom quartile when it comes to restaurants like that. Still, that doesn't mean that if you look hard enough there isn't way better food available. And unfortunately in the case of Mashiko, better Japanese food is definitely available elsewhere.











Tastingmenu is focused on superlative restaurant experiences from two perspectives: behind the plate and behind the stove. Tastingmenu is written by Hillel (professional eater) and Dana (up-and-coming professional chef) in Seattle, Washington.

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  Garlic has long been credited with providing and prolonging physical strength and was fed to Egyptian slaves building the giant pyramids. Throughout the centuries, its medicinal claims have included cures for toothaches, consumption, open wounds and evil demons. A member of the lily family, garlic is a cousin to leeks, chives, onions and shallots. The edible bulb or "head" grows beneath the ground. This bulb is made up of sections called cloves, each encased in its own parchmentlike membrane. Today's major garlic suppliers include the United States (mainly California, Texas and Louisiana), France, Spain, Italy and Mexico. There are three major types of garlic available in the United States: the white-skinned, strongly flavored American garlic; the Mexican and Italian garlic, both of which have mauve-colored skins and a somewhat milder flavor; and the Paul Bunyanesque, white-skinned elephant garlic (which is not a true garlic, but a relative of the leek), the most mildly flavored of the three. Depending on the variety, cloves of American, Mexican and Italian garlic can range from 1/2 to 1 1/2 inches in length. Elephant garlic (grown mainly in California) has bulbs the size of a small grapefruit, with huge cloves averaging 1 ounce each. It can be purchased through mail order and in some gourmet markets. Green garlic, available occasionally in specialty produce markets, is young garlic before it begins to form cloves. It resembles a baby leek, with a long green top and white bulb, sometimes tinged with pink. The flavor of a baby plant is much softer than that of mature garlic. Fresh garlic is available year-round. Purchase firm, plump bulbs with dry skins. Avoid heads with soft or shriveled cloves, and those stored in the refrigerated section of the produce department. Store fresh garlic in an open container (away from other foods) in a cool, dark place. Properly stored, unbroken bulbs can be kept up to 8 weeks, though they will begin to dry out toward the end of that time. Once broken from the bulb, individual cloves will keep from 3 to 10 days. Garlic is usually peeled before use in recipes. Among the exceptions are roasted garlic bulbs and the famous dish, "chicken with 40 cloves of garlic," in which unpeeled garlic cloves are baked with chicken in a broth until they become sweet and butter-soft. Crushing, chopping, pressing or pureeing garlic releases more of its essential oils and provides a sharper, more assertive flavor than slicing or leaving it whole. Garlic is readily available in forms other than fresh. Dehydrated garlic flakes (sometimes referred to as instant garlic) are slices or bits of garlic that must be reconstituted before using (unless added to a liquid-based dish, such as soup or stew). When dehydrated garlic flakes are ground, the result is garlic powder. Garlic salt is garlic powder blended with salt and a moisture-absorbing agent. Garlic extract and garlic juice are derived from pressed garlic cloves. Though all of these products are convenient, they're a poor flavor substitute for the less expensive, readily available and easy-to-store fresh garlic. One unfortunate side effect of garlic is that, because its essential oils permeate the lung tissue, it remains with the body long after it's been consumed, affecting breath and even skin odor. Chewing chlorophyll tablets or fresh parsley is helpful but, unfortunately, modern-day science has yet to find the perfect antidote for residual garlic odor.  

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