Thursday, June 14, 2012

Sabi Sushi–worth the wait?

Guest blogger: Nikki E. Mooki aka the Mrs ;-)
A bit of background about my sushi experiences: I had only ever tasted it once in Johannesburg and was left with a vague memory. And then we were fortunate enough to vacation in Japan. Eating sushi in Kyoto left a lasting impression. I also had a rather memorable experience in Stockholm (tiny place near one of the SonyEricsson offices). The only challenge for me, in Norway, is finding a decent place to fulfill the sushi craving in Stavanger and also convincing my not so sushi loving husband to come along. Note: I’m far from being a connoisseur and don’t eat sushi that often.
sabi_sushiRumours abounded about a new sushi place opening in Pedersgata. The local paper Aftenbladet peaked our excitement at the upcoming sushi hot spot. Although skeptical to the location, we were intrigued by the Japanese anime style wall art which could be seen during construction. Once Sabi Sushi in Pedersgata finally opened, I was deterred by the waiting time (friends quoted 60 minute waiting time and limited seating) and a reluctant partner. So we never went. And then I saw from a friend, who had been to the opening night, that they had opened a branch in Forus. Thank the gods, I thought – now only a short walk/drive away. (Un)fortunately for me, my husband travels substantially so a most opportune moment presented itself in May 2012. (photo on the right Whale meat nigiri, May 2012). I took a short drive to the Sabi Sushi in Forus, ordered nr 26 with minimal salmon (9 pieces of assorted sashimi, 5 pieces of assorted nigiri and 8 pieces salmon maki with spicy creamy wasabi ) and patiently waited. I was even asked if I like whale meat and I responded (in a whisper) “yes, I don’t mind it all”. Once I got home I was more than satisfied with the whole experience. Excellent fresh flavor – no dubious ‘fish’ odours or watery consistency. They even adjusted the salmon content. The wasabi was almost mousse-like and not intent on leaving me in a spasms of ‘hot stuff’ gasps. The ginger was mouthwatering with no vinegary straight from the bottle after taste. Not sure what soya they use but it didn’t leave me parched with swollen feet, as others have. And tasting raw whale meat was a delectable first for me. The chopsticks were a bit dime store but did the job required. Overall, I was beaming and wanting to return.

sabi_sushi2And return I did, in June 2012. Not quite the same experience. Almost the same scenario – no hubby, just had a long work day and a great grueling workout and trying to avoid junk food/cooking. I started by stopping by the Sabi Sushi in Stavanger. Free parking was an issue and being 200m from a sex shop makes one (some of us at least!) weary. Yes, the seating is limited – don’t expect a belt and multiple chefs. It didn’t take long to be informed that there was a 20 minute wait. Thinking I would save time, I drove off to Forus instead. Upon ordering, I was informed that they too had a 20 minute wait. I figured it was worth it and beats a hot dog at the petrol station. I ordered nr 26 again and specified that I wanted little salmon – the waitress even asked if I wanted no salmon at all. 30 minutes passed. People came and went with their orders. I figured some people were smart enough to order ahead but I found it strange that there was such a long wait at 8pm on a Wednesday. What do I know – maybe a lot of us had a similar day to the one I had? The waitress informed a customer (who had ordered after me) that her order wouldn’t be long. I stopped the same waitress mid-step as she walked past me and enquired about my order. She reviewed my receipt and then asked the chef and he replied that it would be done soon. She relayed this message back to me. It’s an open plan kitchen so one can hear/see the chefs. Some other customers came and went – another one waiting an extra 10 minutes for her pre-ordered take away. I know it was 10 minutes because the woman waiting in the car came in and asked her why they were waiting 10 minutes when everything had already been ordered. They looked about as happy as I was. The restaurant itself is larger than the one in town, with dining space and room for take away customers to wait. I believe they even had a mini-chambre seperat (no dividing door though). And finally, after 45 minutes, I got my dinner. I don’t do take away that often, in general, but then I have cardinal rules: keep the receipt and check the order before driving away. I checked my paper bag of goodies to find better looking chopsticks and one predominant colour in my tray of munchies. Salmon – lots of it. I went back inside and explained my dilemma. The best they could do was replace some of the nigiri and sashimi. I then voiced my disappointment to the waitress: I had specified ‘minimal salmon’ when I ordered and had been informed it would take 20 minutes. What I got was 90% salmon (the 9 sashimi is supposed to be assorted; the 5 nigiri was also supposed to be assorted) and a 45 minute wait. The best they could was try to remember me next time. I’ll refrain from commenting on the actual meal as that part was tainted by the ordering/waiting experience. The extra whale meat was welcome.
Looking back, I should probably have asked the Stavanger branch if I could place an order through them for pick up in Forus; or even just called in my order ahead of arriving in Forus (it’s a 15min drive from town). Even then I would have had another 25minutes to wait, perhaps? And if it’s an issue that customers wish to change out certain items then customers should be informed that it’s not possible and/or have alternatives pointed out.

Conclusion: remember that even though it’s worth it, be prepared to wait; call in your order or order online or their in-store system; ask for recommendations if you’re not a fan of a certain type of fish.
Large mixed platter, June 2012 – see picture further up: from left: 8 ura maki salmon; 6 mixed nigiri; 9 pieces salmon & sterling halibut sashimi mix (picture taken after I got home – no before pics were taken)

Nikki – trip reports and pictures

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Dinner and drinks with a view at Tango Terrasse & Grill

photo 1I have been to the restaurant Tango a couple of times before and it is located basically on the waterfront on the Straen side of the harbor area. Downstairs there is a nice restaurant which serves a set menu daily as far as I know and a champagne lunch on Saturdays but there is also a bar here that serves drinks (of course) but also a bit of food. Check this old review if you want to read my experience from a champagne lunch a few years back.

photo 5Last year there a new edition to the place came along: a rooftop terrace called Tango Terrasse & Grill! There are not that many of them in town so that is why it is worth mentioning Winking smile In the end of May I went there to check it out but you should note that it is only open if weather permits it so check the weather forecast in advance. The day I went there the weather was nice but as usual in Stavanger there was a cold draft – but fear not, they have compensated by installing heaters and they provide blankets to the guests Smile

photo 2You get to the terrace by taking the lift up from the main lobby on the ground floor and once you get up there you will notice the great view that you get of the Stavanger harbor. 
The menu on the rooftop terrace has been adapted to the location and hence they have a different menu here compared to the set menu in the restaurant – the bar also has a separate menu. I doubt it that many people come to the terrace for the food – they had a 3-4 small dishes (starters) and two main dishes: grilled cod or grilled pork neck. Both of the main dishes were about 250 Norwegian Kroner (about 40 USD). The drink menu was also limited but they did have a few options of wine by the glass – each bottle of red was from 425 Kroner to 565 kroner (70 USD to 90 USD). Note that you can also get a more extensive drink menu by getting the menu from the bar downstairs.

The food itself was prepared on the grill on the terrace which is great – I love to see that the food is prepared fresh on the grill! The portion was on the small side (I guess some would say tiny if they are used to large American portions) but it was just right. The meat was pretty tender and it was served with potatoes and cabbage if I’m not mistaken.

photo 4Tango Terasse & Grill is a beautiful place to hang out when the weather behaves which does not happen that often in Stavanger I’m afraid. But if you are lucky with the weather make sure to get there early and grab a table by the edge and enjoy the view while you are sipping on a glass of bubbles or some wine. And if you get hungry you can get a snack – the menu is limited but the food was good in my opinion and that also fits in with my impression of the food served in the restaurant and bar downstairs. Check out more information about the restaurant on the restaurant homepage

Gard – trip reports and pictures

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