Yeah, right. On Planet Dreamsville.
I am not a very forgiving person at all, but really, I try. Doesn’t trying count for anything? I try to be forgiving. I really do try, because I want to be a sweet, soft, Hello Kitty of a loving person, but that is trying to fight the wonderforce known as Mother Nature. I am just biologically and genetically a petty, unsympathetic, unforgiving, unforgetting girl who holds a grudge with a death-grip like Kenny Rogers holds onto four of a kind. I never fold ‘em. Never.
Aren’t we all supposed to forgive and forget? We’re supposed to, but I can’t. Sure, when I’m on Planet Dreamsville with everyone else who has fooled themselves into auto-Gandhi mode, I can “forgive.” I can slap a sticky sweet smile on my face and do the happy little *pat pat* ass-out hug on the outside while hissing a “Don’t worry about it. Of course I totally forgive you for accidentally spilling red wine all over the $2,000 custom-tailored white dress that fits me like a glove but is now a very expensive wine-stained dish rag! I forgive you!” But do I actually forget it? Never. I will file it away in my brain and hold onto it until my body and mind evaporate into ether. Do other people really forget? Doubtful; selective Alzheimer’s doesn’t exist.
When it comes to food, my memory and my inability to forgive and forget is my worst enemy. One horrible, gut-wrenching experience can taint my opinion black forever, no matter how deliciously apologetic it is afterwards. I had sushi at Niko Niko that repeatedly punched me in the gut for five straight days. What would Jesus do? Turn the other cheek and take it like a saint. No way. What would Sarah do? Both cheeks chilling on porcelain, I cursed Niko Niko and swore that I will never go and eat there, or any other sushi bar that advertises “half-price sushi” ever again. Never ever again.
Niko Niko is located in a tiny mini mall next to a Winchell’s donuts on the northwest corner of Westwood and National Boulevards in West Los Angeles. We were on our way to Trader Joe’s to pick up ingredients as part of a hectic tear-about-town in preparation for a bruncheon, and just happened to stumble upon Niko Niko along the way for lunch. There was a sign that screamed “Do not eat here!” It was spelled out right there in front of me, but for some reason, my Engrish must have only seen “happy hour, sushi half price” without registering the translation.
The interior was a pleasant surprise - clean, spacious, with an honest effort at modern, sleek, Asian design. It was an honest effort, but not wildly successful. We sat down at what felt like a card table with very flimsy chairs next to the window. But hey, it was a sleek card table.
Niko Niko has a menu with many of the standard Japanese foods, as well as some fusion-forward favorites like salads and creative monster rolls. Because we were in a bit of a rush, we simply made a few tick marks on the sushi scorecard and handed it back to the server. She confirmed our order with us by reciting out loud as she circled each fish, then skipped away to hand the list off to the sushi chefs. She returned less than a minute later to let us know that they were out of hirame and would we mind ordering snapper or sea bass instead? The sea bass would be fine.
It didn't take long, since there were only a few other diners in the restaurant (even with half price sushi!). The sushi was nicely presented on a rectangular plate and the server was nice enough to point and identify what each one was - albacore, ono, sea bass, unagi, and a spicy tuna roll. Everything looked fairly standard, except that the ono was very oddly "perfect." Both pieces of fish were perfect right rectangles.
I tried the ono first. Ono is a fish common in the waters of Hawaii, and is also known as wahoo. It had a mild to almost non-existent flavor that was almost completely lost to the ground ginger garnish, and the texture of the flesh was dry and grainy. I don't recall ever having eaten raw ono before, so I didn't have any basis for comparison. I simply made a mental note that I didn't like ono and that I probably wouldn't order it as sushi again. Next was the sea bass, which had a bit of the silvery skin left on. Silvery skin turns a lot of people off because of its appearance and its signal of a fishy flavored fish, but fishiness is something I love. Of course, sea bass, like most other white fleshed fish, is fairly mild, so I wasn't horribly disappointed when it tasted only one decibel up from the ono on the fishiness scale. However, I did find the flesh to be unusually fibrous.
Albacore and unagi sushi were standard, as was that spicy tuna roll. We gobbled everything up rather quickly, paid our half-price check, hopped into the car, and raced off to complete our errands for the day.
I didn't notice the rumbling until the following morning. While working alone in the early morning in my kitchen, I felt a quick sharp stab in my lower abdomen every once in a while, but shrugged them off. I had had a few drinks the night before (but after prepping ingredients, of course!) and thought the pinching was my body's normal morning-after reaction to alcohol. Don't make me blog it out loud. Okay, fine! I thought it was perhaps my regular cocktail cramping, or even *whispers* gas. I ignored it and continued scrubbing potatoes, toasting pita, and cursing while trying to peel and slice cucumbers into flat "wrappers."
By the time my family
arrived, the pinching had escalated in frequency and intensity, as if someone were repeatedly stabbing be with the shards of a broken bottle of Chardonnay. If I hadn't known better, I might have thought I was having contractions in the beginning stages of a strange immaculately conceived Alien labor. Finally, doubled over, I surrendered my paring knife, and ran for the bathroom. I'll spare us the gruesome details of what ensued.
It lasted for five days. I wasn't necessarily in unbearable pain the entire time, but every time I ate something, I would have to make a visit to the bathroom 15 to 20 minutes later. Wednesday night was the worst of it. Happily blogging away over my laptop, my hands were paralyzed mid-stroke, I started to shiver uncontrollably, and yet I was in a cold sweat. My body was a furnace, but I piled on layers and layers of clothing and blankets, unable to keep my teeth from chattering. My lips were blue, I was soaked with sweat, and my face was so pallid my skin seemed almost transparent. Niko Niko's sushi - grainy ono, fibrous sea bass, whatever it was - had made me sick for five straight days.
Forgive and forget?
Turn the other cheek?
Niko Niko Sushi
10839 National Blvd (@Westwood Blvd)
Los Angeles, CA 90064
** a year ago today, i made a gingerbread ice cream sundae with rum-molasses pineapple sauce and candied ginger **