In 1999, I traveled to Tuscany…. We dined, among other places, at a four-star restaurant in the Old City of Colle d’Val Elsa; the setting was spectacular, atop an ancient village, gazing out to the rolling hills at sunset. The service and décor were flawless. If ever I were to have a transcendental experience, this would be the place. My friends ooh’ed and aah’ed through every bite. Though I enjoyed the meal, I couldn’t muster an authentic moan of delight. I resigned myself to never having this experience.
It was not until I ate at Oishii Boston – 9 years later, that the culinary heavens opened up and shone its light on me.
Specifically, the hamachi-truffle maki sang to me. Hamachi, yellowtail in English, is thick and meaty like tuna, but creamier in texture, and is my favorite fish for sushi. Truffle has no taste, per se, but has an intoxicatingly earthy scent. It keeps drawing me in, sucking my taste-buds hoping to extract more of its aroma. In this maki, the flavors and textures come together harmoniously with smokiness from torched (“bana”) yellowtail and crunchy shrimp tempura rolled inside. The roll is topped with a nibble of caviar to give it a crunchy, salty start that opens the taste-buds for the sensations to come.
The first time I tasted this roll, I immediately ordered a second despite the $25 price tag. On another occasion, as I sat eyes closed focusing inward to the sensations in my mouth, I waved off the server (just like my father waved off the family) when she asked me how everything was mid-bite. My dining companion was so incensed by my behaviour, we never spoke again. The same waitress has served me again, and she has forgiven what we both agree is justifiable behavior. I go back again and again, never tiring of the flavor, having a petit mort every time.