Fish bites man
It's time someone asked the question; what is the point of sushi? I found myself in Cape Town's Veronica & Archie Waterfront, that delightful architectural homage to all things comic, staring at a plate of salmon and tuna, and it came to me - now is the time to ask.
Salmon. "Norwegian" salmon. What is that, anyway? It's flash-frozen, farmed salmon that's basically like Rainbow battery chicken, except with less of a fish taste. I think they can call any salmon "Norwegian" if it's farmed by a man wearing a beanie.
And tuna. Sigh. It's Japanese leftover tuna - somebody collects all the bits that Japanese people spit out, force moulds it, and recycles it in Cape Town restaurants. How many times do you ever see fatty tuna on a menu?
Sure, once every six months a Japanese restaurateur dips some leftover tuna into some lard, doubles the price, and then doubles over with laughter as some unsuspecting customer oohs and ahs over his oily little purchase.
No, we all know that all fatty tuna goes straight into that hellhole of fish consumption called Japan, the country that used to be known as Nippon, but is now called Gulpon. What we don't know is that all tuna in general goes there, and what we get is compressed capenta dyed red. Mock sushi, if you will.
And by the way, let's all say sayonara to the scalloped hammerhead shark, which has declined 99% over the past 30 years in some parts of the world, and eight other sharks that are about to be added to the endangered species list.
Bad, bad, bad
It's not that sushi restaurants are bad - it's that sushi is bad. Take Willoughby's, for example. They've redecorated the place, spent millions it looks like. It's a fantastic looking Japanese restaurant, and if you eat their cooked food, they do a great job. But the point of a sushi restaurant is sushi, and that, you can't get. Well, you can get the mock sushi, but there's never any local fish, any yellowtail or red roman, or kabeljou, or even a bladdy deboned sardine.
It's not just Willoughby's, I don't want to pick on them, and in fact I urge you to eat their spider crab rolls wrapped in soybean paper. I could gobble those critters like popcorn, they're so good. But go to any sushi restaurant, and nine times out of 10, all they'll have is mock sushi.
Okay, maybe it's the fault of South Africans. I know people who claim to love sushi, and when you end up in a restaurant with them, it turns out they don't actually eat fish. Please, people, if you don't eat fish, don't eat sushi. Eat mock sushi instead, like "Norwegian" salmon.
Maybe South Africans think that tuna and farmed salmon is what sushi should be. Yum. Just add some Spur secret sauce, and you have a meal fit for a ding. (Note to editor: I do know how to spell king. So don't touch that word.)
Dings are people who imagine they've cottoned on to a cuisine - a little bell goes off in their head. "Ding! Prawns fried to a pulp and covered in butter! I LOVE PRAWNS!" No, you don't love prawns, you love butter. Or margarine, actually, depending on the restaurant.
Why can't our sushi restaurants serve decent fish? Well, obviously, the main reason is that there aren't any fish left. But leaving that aside for the moment (and modern man and woman have a wonderful capacity to leave environmental disaster aside for the moment), why can't they buy the odd local fish from those klippies-crazed fishermen I keep seeing landing their wares?
I suspect it's because they're too lazy. If dumb ol' South Africans want their mock sushi, why waste your energy on those few clients who foolishly believe that fish should contain at least a hint of fish.
Incredibly, as I write this, Heidi, one of the women working at Visi, has just shouted across from their offices to ask why I'm working so late. I'm writing a column about how horrible sushi is, I tell her.
"Oh, except at Willoughby's," she says. "The salmon roses there are divine." Tsk, Heidi. And you work for South Africa's top design magazine. You've let me down.
Thanks to Chris for this great article. I just wonder if people around the world (except Japan) have the same problem?