Saturday, June 16, 2012

Sam's Sushi & Snapshots

Friday night, we were hungry. Tired of the routine fast food fix, Josh and I craved sushi last night. We knew just the place that would satisfy our sudden onset of stomach growling. Battling rush hour traffic wasn’t appealing to either Hodge-podge member, but was necessary if we decided to venture out to the best sushi bar in town. Local weather had foretold a 20% chance of rain, but dark clouds outside our window suggested that storms would prove predictions untrue. Was our dinner selection worth venturing outside the safety and dryness of our home? YES. Was being caught in a sudden downpour worth the savory bites of sushi-ness we’d kept protected from rain by shielding our morsels as we ran miles to our car? YES. Only one kind of sushi could calm our shivering bodies and dry our dripping rain-soaked clothes- Sam’s Sushi, in downtown Nashville.

Thunder sounded as a ticking time bomb that would eventually explode over the city. At that point, Josh and I had just located a parking spot…about 2 miles from Sam’s. I tossed paperwork and empty Diet coke bottles around as I dug through our car for an umbrella. “I don’t see one, Gina,” my husband said in an ‘oh well’ manner that I found irritating. His carefree disposition prevailed even with threatening lightning strikes and looming clouds overhead that were burdened with the rain they held. “It’s right here, Josh.” I’d located our umbrella instantly, despite its tricky bright blue contrast against the car’s light grey interior. Though its location and distinctness were obvious, I resisted the urge to tell Josh how much better women are at finding things…well, sort of. Now prepared for any storm (or so I thought), we trekked onward with our bellies still grumbling. I decided to distract myself from the worrying possibility of torrential downpours by taking some pictures along our way. (Storms turn me into a scared little ninny.) Two carriages passed by as I nervously waited to cross the street. “It’ll be okay,” Josh reassured me as he continued with, “There’s only a 20% chance of rain today.” I scoffed disbelievingly at my husband as I kept clicking Mr. Stylus. (he’s my non-consistent, unreliable camera, remember?) This time, Stylus performed accordingly...

At last, we arrived at our destination. Sam’s Sushi is fantastic, friends. However, one must commit to a brief training session before entering Sam’s doors. There is a code of conduct he expects from patrons that should be explained to first-timers. A list of rules should probably be posted inside our sushi bar, though I would never tell Sam this. Upon arrival, one is normally greeted with a “Have you been here before?” inquiry from Sam. A one man wonder, this sushi bar owner may be misinterpreted as curt or even rude with his directness. I advise that you always answer politely with a “yes” but only if you have successfully completed your pre-visit training course. One must not lie to Sam…he WILL know. Your customer conduct and restaurant knowledge WILL be tested. You will fail…it’s okay. Don’t take it personally- Sam has that effect on many who dare to sample the best sushi EVER. When you walk in, sit the hell down and wait until you are noticed. If this instruction offends you, I’m afraid you are not adequately prepared to dine here. If dining-in, you are permitted to sit at one of Sam’s tables. If ordering take-out, you must sit in one of the chairs closest the bar. Josh and I were quickly corrected by Sam, who instructed us to leave our table and wait in chairs for our to-go sushi. We willingly complied with smiles on our faces, for we do not take anything personally that Sam says…and we always follow his orders. One must never be in a hurry here since Sam’s creation of perfect sushi is an art that takes time. Never, ever…freakin’ EVER…try to tip Sam. Just take my word for it, kiddos- it is not in your best interest to additionally compensate our artist. Sam will be offended and, quite possibly, angered by your attempts to hand him a few extra bucks. ONE MUST NOT MAKE SAM ANGRY. Basically, those are the rules. For complete Sam’s Sushi code of conduct, you must take the training course previously mentioned. I’m fairly sure I’m still learning all the ins and outs. I’ve heard some people refer to Sam as the Sushi Nazi, a throwback to Seinfield’s soup Nazi character. I’ve seen Sam close his restaurant doors when his small bar fills to capacity, permitting service only to those lucky folks who managed to squeeze inside. I’ve seen sensitive customers become offended when Sam corrects their behavior. Their loss- should have studied first. I see why some people label Sam with the name sushi Nazi, but I think the people who do this have affection for him. Sam gave Josh and I a napkin with our last name, Hodge, written in Japanese characters. He laughs and jokes with us now when we go to visit his bar. I’ve never seen Sam laugh harder than when he said, “Your last name is Hodge-ey? In my country, that means shame. (cue silly Sam giggles here) He’s an interesting and incredibly talented man, that Sam. As always, he outperformed all other restaurants to deliver beautifully-crafted bites of cream cheese crab, spicy salmon, and California rolls at an unbeatable price. You should probably go there to fully understand the awesome uniqueness of Sam’s sushi, near Printer’s Alley. Tell Sam the Hodges (translates to: Shames) said hello!

 When we finally arrived home last night, I looked into our bathroom mirror at a monster. Mascara stained my face, leaving my eyes with a sunken and ghoulish stare. We got drenched. I’m talking soaked to the bone, hair-dripping, still sopping with water, after-shower-looking sort of drenched. My flip-flop had broken, as had my bright blue umbrella. I finally gave up fighting the sideways slanted rainfall while Josh and I scurried the 2-miles back to our car- Sam’s sushi in-hand. Winds ripped between tall buildings as I ran shoeless down streets while second-guessing hygienic quality of accumulated pools and puddles that washed over my bare feet. I felt like Mary Poppins when my umbrella caught a breeze that seemed promising of flight launch.

My husband laughed like a child all the way back to our car and I stomped along grumpily until I finally accepted our helpless situation. Passersby giggled at us for we were two little drenched puppies. One pup giddily scampered along, unshielded from rainfall, with obvious glee. The other pup tried to hide from formidable circumstances, dodging into parking garages with unwillingness to travel onward. Happy puppy helped his helpless companion by boldly challenging her to enjoy their experience…and so she did.

This blog post is dedicated to my Joshy, who made our Friday night date more memorable than any other. Also, this is dedicated to Sam, who is the undefeated all-time champion of hand-crafted creations of unsurpassed deliciousness of sushi.

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