Monday, May 07, 2007

Riceless sushi

I count my lucky stars that I live in Los Angeles -- home to every weird diet there is (grapefruit diet, cabbage soup diet, high colonics). Because of this important factor, when I make a food allergy request at a restaurant, hardly anyone bats an eye! They've heard it all before, and with more attitude, definitely.

One of the FAQ key strategies for eating out is to try and frequent the same restaurant often -- that way the staff gets used to your requests, and once they remember them (and YOU), often goes out of their way to remember your "usuals" when you return.

I frequent Chaya Venice, which is a Japanese fusion chain. They have a terrific sushi happy hour (I know, it's so LA, isn't it?) where the special menu sushi is less than half price from 5 p.m. - 7 p.m. every night. The DRINKS are $10-$12 each, but since I don't drink, it works out extra great for me. On the special menu I order a few favorites, spicy tuna tartar (like spicy tuna roll, but designed to be served without rice), and albacore salad served on a bed of mizuna (an Asian non-lettuce). It's thrilling to have good Asian food without having to pick the rice off of everything. I usually try and order some sort of sashimi, but barring that, I order a hand roll with no rice! Because of the cone shape, it's fairly easy for the sushi chef to make, and for you to eat. And in the wake of the no-carb craze, most places don't even flinch at this request.

Be creative! Obviously if you have fish or soy allergies, this strategy is not a good one, but for those avoiding rice, it opens up a whole new world of choices. A trick I learned from another patron who avoids soy sauce is to mix your wasabi with water. So that you still get the spicy taste, without soy. Clever, yes?

This picture is the spicy tuna tartare, albacore salad, and a lovely plate of monkfish liver slices, which is nicknamed "the pate of the sea". It's an acquired taste if you don't like liver, but when it's fresh it's like buttah, delicate and tender. This had scallions, a little bit of some sort of roe, and a light ponzu-type sauce.

To recap, do frequent restaurants of high quality and staffed with professional, understanding people who will accommodate your needs. These kind of people know they'll win your loyalty, you'll get safe food, and you will ultimately share your goodies when you bring your friends. Everybody wins. Yay.

Chaya Venice
110 Navy Street
Venice, CA
310 396 1179

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