Can a Meat-and-Potatoes Man Sink His Teeth into Sushi?
Stacey Roseen scores points for trying to entice her husband into liking sushi and seaweed. The couple recently dined at Sushi Thaime.
Squeezed inconspicuously between a driving school and a bakery, Sushi Thaime looks on the outside like every other Asian carryout restaurant this side of Chinatown. But inside, the décor is chic-Asian, with a stylish, urban feel that lets you imagine you might be at any trendy little dining spot in the big city.
It was here that I set out to prove to my "meat-and-potatoes" husband, Jim, that I could find something on this restaurant's menu to his liking.
We started with an appetizer of edamame – young, boiled soybeans still in the pod. Edamame resembles a French green bean, so naturally Jim stabbed it with a fork and placed the whole pod into his mouth.
Edamame pods are fuzzy and fibrous and are not supposed to be eaten. After I explained proper edamame technique (squeezing the pod with your teeth until the beans "pop" out into your mouth), Jim tried again. The results were only slightly better.
"It's like eating cold peas," said the man with the discerning taste. We weren't off to a great start.
Next came the salad. I held off as long as I could, but I had to tell Jim the bright green mound of Silly String on his plate was actually seaweed, tossed with a light and tangy sesame-vinegar dressing.
"You can eat that?" Jim asked incredulously while poking at it with a chopstick, presumably to make sure it was dead.
"Of course," I answered. "It's good for you."
That statement was nearly the death knell for my little experiment. Jim's face scrunched up into an "ewwww" expression like the one I'd seen on our son when he was 8 months old and trying pureed spinach for the first time. This wasn't going well. Better try the sushi before the man lost his courage. I asked our server, Ben, for recommendations and he rattled off 15 items so fast it sounded like one long word. I settled on four maki rolls:
1. Dragon Roll — freshwater eel, avocado, cream cheese and scallions. The only way I pulled this off was by emphasizing the word "dragon," which I hoped would make Jim think of manly things like knights and chain maille.
2. California roll — avocado, crab and cucumber. Jim is a fan of the Beach Boys. Maybe the subliminal suggestion would influence his appetite. (Unfortunately, Brian Wilson would be singing California Girls in my head for the next two hours.)
3. Unagi — broiled eel with avocado. For this item, I applied the "Don't ask, don't tell" policy. As long as he wasn't asking what was in it, I wasn't about to tell him.
4. Ebi tempura roll — tempura shrimp, cucumber, avocado with mayo. I explained to Jim that tempura meant it was battered and deep-fried. This was by far the safest choice.
Jim picked up his chopsticks and reached for the unagi. I gave him mental points for not trying to spear it. He drowned the extra-large size piece in soy sauce and somehow managed, per my instruction, to fit the entire thing into his mouth. He chewed slowly and tried to swallow. I could see the shudder travel down his body in a giant wave. It's the texture of the raw fish that usually separates the men from the maki.
The crunchier California roll went down a little easier; our first success. Next came the shrimp tempura, which was breaded and cooked and therefore not too terribly shocking to Jim's sensitive palate. The Dragon Roll was last. The eel would test Jim's culinary constitution, but the cream cheese might be enough to get him through. It went down without incident.
"Can we eat now?" he asked.
I realized right then and there that Confucius was right when he said, "Everything has its beauty but not everyone sees it."
I asked Ben for a dinner menu and Jim ordered Korean beef short ribs and grilled steak teriyaki. He cleaned his plate and asked for dessert.
Ben brought out a plate of Chinese donuts.
"This place is great," Jim said through a mouthful of powdered sugar. "We'll have to come back sometime for dinner."
The Basics: Sushi Thaime,
4959 W. 95th St., Oak Lawn;
708-0425-8228; website: www.sushithaime.com
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday; 3:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday.
Cuisine: Sushi, Chinese, Japanese, Thai.
Price Range: $9-$15 entrees; $1 sushi and $4 maki lunch specials.