For someone born in the fish eating capital of India (Kolkata) and raised in an archetypical Bengali (East-Indian) family for whom, (well-cooked) fish and rice is a staple and matter of culinary pride (Bengalis truly believe and justifiably so that they conjure the finest fish curries in South Asia, second to none!), the notion of eating raw or relatively uncooked fish was utter sacrilege and well outside the realms of rational possibility.
So it was with immense trepidation that I was actually persuaded by close friends to check out sushi and sashimi at what they said was probably the safest place to embark on what candidly appeared to be a precarious undertaking. Imagine my surprise when I actually liked and savored the fine taste of well made sushi and sashimi with their flavors appropriately embellished with wasabi and ginger in soya sauce....a whole new world of fine flavors opened itself up for me!:-)
I could not help but compare and contrast the well-cooked and spiced fish curries from Eastern India that my palate was so conditioned to appreciate, with the minimalist and otherwise similar preparation imparted to the sushi and sashimi from Japan. I cannot but help attribute this stark difference in the preparation and consumption of fish to the cultural and religious differences that were perhaps prevalent in India and Japan. Hindu India, pre-British and Afghan conquest, was the fabled "land of milk and honey" with her legendary bounty of spices (pepper, cardamom, cloves, saffron, fenugreek, asafetida and many more) that the rest of the world had only heard of, that made their way into the extravagant and opulent kitchens and banquet tables of the kings and landowners and was reflected in their gastronomical orgies with utter impunity! In sharp contrast, the far smaller landscape in Buddhist Japan, barely delivered sufficient rice (the staple) and fish needed for consumption in a culture where simplicity, austerity and minimalist sustenance was the norm, reflected in their sushi, sashimi, rice wine and other icons of the Japanese culinary tradition, including the latter day "teppan-yaki" or its American incarnation, the "hibachi", reflected in the offerings of Benihana for instance (check out my previous blogpost on Benihana, if interested).
Having dwelt on the religio-cultural influences on sushi and sashimi, let me take this opportunity to introduce one of my favorite Sushi establishments in Dallas, that offers a sumptuous lunch buffet and a great a la carte dinner menu at a price point that will not break the bank!:-)
What brings me back for more:
The Isshin in Irving, is an elegant, family run establishment established by Hiro Kishida (owner and chef- a native of Sapporo, Japan and his family) who, to this day, can be seen rolling fresh sushi every day. Their lunch spread in my humble opinion, is one of the best offerings in Dallas that offers top quality sushi and an incredible variety at a very competitive price, complemented by excellent service characteristic of the Orient.
The Isshin lunch repertoire that I can never get enough of (see the photo below) comprises these favorites:
- Unagi – freshwater eel
- Hamachi – yellow tail
- Toro – fatty Tuna
- Kani – snow clam
- Sake – fresh Salmon
- Maguro – fatty Tuna
A challenge is usually getting there before the lunch crowds to secure uninhibited access to the fresh sushi from the bar as soon as it is unleashed for consumption!:-) I must also mention their well appointed Asian style salad bar as well as their offering of steak, grilled or fried chicken, dumplings and spring rolls to complement their sushi and California rolls smorgasbord, guaranteed to tickle the cockles of the epicurean heart of every sushi aficionado!:-) Their miso soups also offer an excellent way to embark on their memorable culinary adventure, that you cannot go wrong with.
Also highly recommended are their a la carte sushi and sashimi served on elegant boats that simply delight the senses and leave you yearning for more!
So the next time you are in Dallas and crave great Sushi for lunch, I would strongly urge you to check out the sushi smorgasbord at the Isshin in Irving, for what I hope, will be a memorable culinary experience that you will want to write home about, and equally importantly, thank me for!:-)
This adventure in Irving, Texas, USA begins at: The Isshin Sushi Bar and Grill, 7600 North Mac Arthur Blvd., Irving, TX 75063. Tel # (972) 506-9906. Click here for the Google Map and Directions.