Discovering something crunchy in a creamy soup, finding a long, black hair baked into pasta or sliding your teeth through a thick chunk of gristle…we’ve all experienced mishaps that will put us off a meal. It’s a horrible sensation that destroys your appetite and try as you might, it’s almost impossible to continue. Most of the time these experiences are purely accidental, but sometimes they can be creativity gone awry. I think the latter is what happened to John and I when we visited Origami last week, the new sushi restaurant on Freret Street.
We probably should have been forewarned that something would be amiss with our entire outing, considering the obnoxiously-bad cabby driver who sped at a frightening pace through the busy, after-school streets and the noisy road construction on the corner of Dufossat and Freret right outside of the restaurant.
But once inside, things improved considerably. The dining room was modern and elegant with white flower-like chandeliers and concrete floors and luckily, the walls seemed to insulate us from most of the construction noise. We were seated at a large, private booth where we looked over the hefty menus and decided what to eat. After some green tea and a couple of warm, wet towels, we made our selections, anxious to inhale some excellent rolls.
One thing I should make perfectly clear, John and I love sushi, especially the crazy thick “special” uramaki that many Japanese restaurants offer to please the American palate. It is rare when a month goes by without us placing an order at Ninja Restaurant around the corner for four or five fat, delicious rolls sporting ingredients like avocado, eel, tempura shrimp, deep fried soft shell crab and let’s not forget the hallowed “crunchies” sprinkled through a spicy crab-mayonnaise mixture. John loves sushi so much that I can easily woo him into buying it so that I won’t have to make dinner that night. It’s like his kryptonite.
We started lunch at Origami with some salads. My Poke Salad had bright red cubes of tuna, tons of sliced cucumber, avocado and seaweed tossed in a wonderfully spicy, chili ponzu sauce. John tried the Origami Salad which was mostly plain lettuce, a few sweet baby greens and your basic squid salad tossed together in a ponzu spicy mayo dressing. Both were tasty, but we both definitely preferred the Poke.
We ordered three rolls, but the first to arrive was our “experiment” roll. Let’s face it, all sushi joints sport pretty much the same array of these kinds of super-rolls, so when we try a new spot, we like to attempt their original concoctions with varying degrees of success. In this case, it was the “Italian Roll.” The menu described a mango and eel interior with layers of prosciutto and broiled cheese on the outside. “Broiled cheese?” I thought to myself . . maybe it’ll be shaved Parmesan? Knowing the castigation I would receive for ordering sushi containing any other kind of cheese besides cream, I decided to take the risk. The chef obviously liked it enough to put it on the menu, right?
In my worst nightmare, I never would have imagined that the unknown cheese would turn out to be American. Yes ladies and gentlemen, I said American cheese. Those bright orange slices are a welcome sight on a bologna sandwich, but for sushi? And I thought the roll was supposed to be Italian? Since when did plastic, processed cheese squares bring to mind the taste of Italy? Don’t even get me started on what seemed to pass as prosciutto.
John was acting unusually optimistic (maybe it’s cheddar?), I blame it on his hunger and blind love of rolls, but he dove in with a will and popped a piece into his mouth. Since I couldn’t initially gauge his reaction, I took a piece without hearing his verdict and knew immediately it was going to be difficult to swallow. At this point, lunch was basically over.
We had also ordered our favorite Rainbow Roll and a Blackjack Roll, but after a couple of unenthusiastic attempts, we just couldn’t enjoy them at all. No matter how much I rinsed my mouth with green tea or nibbles of ginger, my tongue was haunted by the flavor of the dreaded Italian.
After our server packed the other food in go-boxes, I ordered dessert in a desperate hope to salvage the meal. Sadly, the tempura-fried bananas were crunchy shells holding formless banana goo and we had no less than three different people ask us to clarify the dessert order…at least the green tea ice cream that accompanied it was nice?
Oh well, these are the events that make life interesting…right?