For the past 3 weeks, I’ve been in an insane blur of working two jobs and moving and finishing up freelance projects. Needless to say Eating in Bed got a little neglected, and I wanted the first article up since the hiatus to be a good one. There was one very distinct evening that stood out to me throughout these past few weeks, a meal that stuck with me and I think about its awesomeness as I sit here now. It was a sushi meal, prepared in Long Beach, at Maru Maki Sushi by Chef Daniel Hohng. Chef Daniel is a Arts Institute culinary grad, he’s Korean, has 2 years of Classical French cooking under his belt and several years of Japanese cuisine under his belt. These skills all come in to play at Maru Maki.
A few years ago I saw an episode of Good Eats on Food Network where Alton Brown talks about having the sushi chef prepare you a meal, a taster platter, a surprise dinner. I’ve been to over a hundred sushi restaurants by this time in my life and I never had the guts to try this, but when I walked into Maru Maki and was greeted by staff I started to feel at ease. Immediately I ordered a cold sake, because it was $1.00 and I started chatting a little with Chef Daniel. I asked him to give me a surprise nigiri and sushi plate.
He started me with the nigiri sampler, there were four different types. The one I remember the most vividly was a thin slice of hamachi with strawberry caviar and real caviar. The fish melted, the strawberry caviar brought in an acidic sweet tartness that was instantly clashing with the salty caviar. It was brilliant the way the flavors melded and the almost absence of texture, as the sweetness subsided the hamachi showed through as the finishing flavor and I was left feeling refreshed. Sadly I ate there a little over a week ago and I can’t remember the ingredients of everything I ate, but he also presented me with a piece of citrus salmon that had the best balance of bright citrus flavor and salmon. I don’t always go for salmon as I find it a very over powering flavor, but the citrus kept the salmon at bay, Chef Daniel also blow torch seared the salmon before serving it, which gave an added layer of texture between the fire seared side and the raw side of the fish. My mouth is actually watering right now.
Next was the sushi course, by this point I was about 3 small carafes of sake deep and was sharing with chef. The restaurant itself was very cozy, I was there long enough to have two sets of patrons eat with me at the sushi bar and we all struck up conversations while enjoying our food. This speaks highly to the atmosphere of the restaurant, no one was in the mindset of “I’m eating, don’t disturb me!”, everyone was having a good time. But back to the fish, the one roll was a rice-less roll that a thin slice of tuna wrapped around a spicy tuna tartare and covered in “crunch” then drizzled with a sesame, sriracha mayo. The flavors melded beautifully, and once again I felt like I was eating something ethereal, it dissolved in my mouth as if it were some kind of lucid dream. That’s some deep stuff for sushi, I must say, but this was the first time I’ve eaten sushi without even looking twice at the soy sauce. The other sushi roll is harder to remember due to my drinking and time since eating this, but the thing that stands out in my mind was the Tobasco sauce. I’ve had Tobasco on/in sushi before, but I’ve never had it used properly. It was always over powering and taking away from the other flavors of the sushi, this was the exception. It came in fast with an instant burst of spicy hot sauce flavor that can only be attributed to Tobasco, but then it mellowed and by the time I was swallowing the Tobasco flavor was just a memory washed out by the flavor of fishy goodness.
After that I ordered the Chirashi Bowl! It’s not on the menu, but you can ask for them at any sushi place that does sashimi. It’s basically a bed of rice topped with a variety of sashimi and garnishes on top. Chef Daniel’s was, once again, high up on my list of the best I’ve eaten. All of the fish were extremely fresh, the garnishes and minute amounts of sauces kept each piece of fish its own separate entity. My favorite was the tuna with a little lemon zest and clover sprouts, I’d never thought to use clover sprouts with sushi, but it really should be more common. It has that great earthy flavor with a nice crunch and a good amount of liquid inside which helped counter tuna and lemon zest.
I will step out a limb here and say this is in my top 3 sushi experiences, if not being the number 1. I love sushi, I’ve eaten it from fast food sushi joints, I’ve eaten it from food trucks, restaurants, and I’ve made it myself. The only two places that I would put in comparison with it are Ta Ka in Savannah, GA(weird place for delicious sushi, but they know how to do it), and Sakura in Lionsville, PA(also off the beaten path, but great). I also really liked Wasabi’s in Savannah. This meal was incredible, and I don’t expect you to be as adventurous as I was, but I do expect you to go to Maru Maki if you live anywhere within 100 miles of Long Beach. I had planned on having a quick meal, getting back to work, then packing, then moving, and it really disrupted that whole process by making me spend two hours enjoying every sensation Chef Daniel’s food brought. GO HERE NOW!