Anytime I cook, I turn up the iPOD. I’m an admitted music geek, and have only 30 bazillion playlists. Some indie, some acoustic, hip-hop, singer-songwriters who inspire me, one inspired by the movie “Pirate Radio” and my favorite, “Quiet Storm” which was THE slow jam radio in Richmond back in the early 90’s. From 8pm to midnight every Sunday I studied for college classes to the dulcet tones of Gerald Levert, Luther Vandross, Regina Belle, Phyllis Hyman, of course Smokey Robinson, who opened the show with his tune of the same name.I bring this up only because for me, music defines not just moments in your life, but FOOD moments in your life. I’ll always remember I was listening to Leonard Cohen the first time I successfully baked bread. Zero 7 was playing the first time I visited my favorite restaurant, Bouchon, and I took that as a very good sign. It’s why I always include a “Cooking Soundtrack” with every recipe. Music is the frame on the photograph that is cooking a meal. You just have to have it.
It’s also why I’ll never forget the first time I visited Tokyo Rose for some much-needed sushi, they were playing perhaps the greatest list of oldies I’ve heard in a real long while. They’ve got great rolls, but I bet I go back just as much for the music as for the food.
Wooly Bully, California Dreamin’, Secret Agent Man, Peggy Sue. The Twist was playing when I returned from the bathroom, and I couldn’t resist doing a little shimmy before I sat down. I learned years ago dry martinis are PERFECT with sushi. Who knew oldies were just as terrific?
Hubby and I sat grinning, dancing in the booth, scarfing down some of the freshest, tastiest sushi I’ve ever had in Charlottesville. The portions were large, and the price was definitely right. No more dressing up and hustling down to Ten, tottering like an infant in my 4-inch heels and sitting in the lounge, pretending to be oh so bored with it all. Clubbing it up just cause we want some rolls. Now we can go to Tokyo Rose in our flip-flops and shorts. Cause fellas? It ‘twere gud.
I’m a classicist when it comes to sushi and so is The Hubby. Sometimes we’ll get adventurous and order fancy schmancy rolls (as we call them), and Tokyo Rose certainly has them in spades. The Kanudo Roll, the M16, and something called the Scorpio King. But I had eaten nothing but utility sushi* for the longest time. Since our trip to New York in April, in fact. I wanted real big slices of mackerel on rice. Of buttery uni. Of my beloved eel. Tokyo Rose even had white tuna, one of my favorites, but hard to find. At its best white tuna nigiri tastes similar to when my Nana would throw a pat of butter onto a mound of white rice, turning it all melty and making the dish into something wonderful. This was. All of it was. Excellent white tuna, good yellowtail, and luscious, buttery uni, my Hubby’s litmus test for any sushi place worth its rice. Bad uni = no return visit.
Then the server brought us dessert, a tart-n-tangy orange cut into tiny slices. Still in its rind and served with a doll-sized fork. Darling! We ate our bitty-bites of orange and danced along to Secret Agent Man. We are in love with you Tokyo Rose. You with your tasty tunes, delicious sushi, and your sassy logo of “Miss Rose” looking coyly over her shoulder in 4-inch heels. Get to know us, baby ‘cause we’re officially regulars.
*As defined by Anthony Bourdain, utility sushi is the stuff you get in most sushi restaurants and grocery stores. Tasty enough, filling, but nothing to write home about.