- Who: Alana and Chris
- What: Hunger
- When: Dinner time
- Where: Boulder, Colorado
- Why: Worked out
- How: Via the Taurus
(Basically a review of Japango)
What a weird and pointless way to start what I want to say. So it’s Tuesday night, we just did some cardio (I swam 1650 yards, ask for the workout if interested, and she did the elliptical and bike) and then a get-back-into-shape-kinda lower body workout. Now Fred (Alana’s cousin [Megan]’s boyfriend from New Jersey) had mentioned that Japango has an all-you-can-eat-sushi night every Tuesday. Wait. Hold up one second. Did you just say all-you-can-eat SUSHI? Here in Boulder? Landlocked Colorado? Intriguing.
One of my absolute favorite things in the world and my favorite post workout meal… conveniently after our first night back in a real gym. I forced Alana to go (she didn’t put up much of a fight). So we jump in the car in our workout clothes and drive over to Pearl and Broadway, park the car for free since it’s past 7 p.m. and find the restaurant. We enter at about 9:05 and we know that is closes at 10:00, but that won’t be a problem… we’ve never had problems with all you can eat places closing early. (!)
As we’re greeted, relatively quickly for the small staff and decent sized crowd, we ask about the deal. What’s the deal? Well, in fact, it is $29.99…! What?! Thirty bucks? Oh man, have we been spoiled having it for way cheaper in New Jersey, but it’s worth it, or so we tell ourselves. The hostess continues, you can have all these hand rolls, these sushi, these special rolls, and these dishes from the kitchen. Cool. Not that we have ever been to a place that doesn’t include non-sushi items, but we started taking it for granted and to have it taken away now would be really heart-breaking. So we’re seated in a TINY table that we knew would NOT be able to fit all our food, but we didn’t bother to have it changed. The nice waitress comes, we order waters, and look at the menus/checklists. We start tallying stuff off, Alana orders a red wine sangria, we hand in the checklists knowing that we might only get one round’s worth of food because we showed up so late, and we wait for the kitchen stuff to come. (That’s right, I said stuff, so you can replace it with any word you feel is more intelligent because I love being not-intelligent sometimes)
We start with some house salads with ginger dressing. They’re big, and the greens are dark and there’s spinach! But the sauce is weak, tastes more like ranch than ginger. Bummer, I eat it all. So does she. Next, we get tuna salad! A bowl of the same greens… with three pieces of tiny seared tuna on top. But the sauce is amazing and has a nice zing to it, so naturally, I eat it all, and finish hers. Alana ordered me seaweed salad; how nice of her. And they even included three kinds of seaweed. It was good; they didn’t make it too spicy like other places often do! Next is the “tuna steak” or six-or-so pieces of the same tuna in the salad, but in more of a teriyaki sauce and it is lick the plate good! She ordered spicy calamari, which I can’t eat, and it was VERY spicy so she finished it all. She also got mussels, which were like cheesy clams casino and Alana had all three. I love cheese, but when it’s time for sushi night, cheese better stay out of the way. So far, it’s on track to be a good investment, but now the moments of truth are about to begin. (By the way, the sangria was very iced-down, very juiced down, very weak, etc. Didn’t last long but tasted good… but not worth six bucks).
Okay so, here’s my issue. I read in the Boulder Daily (I think that’s what it’s called) that Japango’s all you can eat sushi is world famous! It said the Daily Camera named it best sushi in 2010 and 2011, AND best Asian in 2010. And now I become a food snob. This was garbage. I should post a video rant because I can’t put it in text. Did they only try one place and not require that it had to be good…. or even decent? Best sushi? I’ve had tuna from my college’s cafeteria at 1 a.m., 16 hours after it was delivered from the sushi restaurant in downtown Manhattan, that was fresher than this tuna. And I didn’t just try a few things. I tried EVERYTHING (just about). Even the quail eggs. The squid, octopus, scallops, red clam, tuna, salmon, smoked salmon, white tuna, yellowtail, white fish, halibut, mackerel, etc. And to top it off, their orders are a two-piece minimum, so I got to taste two of everything. We also had eel hand rolls, tuna hand rolls, avocado roll, the Las Vegas roll, the New Orleans roll, and the Boulder roll. You can see for yourself, in the picture, what we ordered. I’m rambling, which is how I present my rants because I don’t like to prepare arguments all the time. Let’s continue.
Now, Alana does not like wasabi. Or horseradish. Anything along those lines. I know that a sushi chef does sometime have the tendency to smear some wasabi paste in between the rice and the fish, but in all-you-can-eat? With this horrible quality of fish? Are you trying that hard to mask the not fresh flavor of the fish with something so strong?
I eat sushi like this: I take the piece of sushi and put it right in my mouth. No soy sauce, no wasabi, no ginger. Why? Because that is how it’s supposed to be done. The chef should prepare a fresh piece of fish and properly cook and vinegar his rice, potentially brushing a special mixture of soy sauce and seasonings on top to compliment the flavor of the fish. Not kill it. Now I could care less what you do with your maki, hand rolls, special rolls, sashimi. I put whatever on all of those too. But sushi is sacred, the relationship between the rice and fish is crucial, and Alana doesn’t like wasabi, so don’t assume all fifty pieces of sushi should have it without asking!
I mean, you’re clearly not a real sushi chef if you’re willing to serve fish that bad! I could give you a grade of how fresh each type listed above was, but it’s not worth it. Some was fresh, some was kinda fresh, some wasn’t fresh at all. The hand rolls were okay but obviously someone didn’t rush to get them to us because the nori was soggy by the time I got it. (I always eat the handrolls first to prevent this soggy effect). The avocado rolls were ALL rice and no veggie. The specialty rolls were awful. Now, my number one rule of all-you-can-eat sushi is don’t get specialty rolls. They fill you up so you can’t eat the good stuff. These tasted like nothing. And they had a ton of great ingredients in them, on paper. But they weren’t fresh or prepared right and as a result I soaked it in soy sauce to eat it. Alana had white tuna, some avocado roll and some New Orleans roll. I ate everything else, or tried to.
Now, getting to the end. We knew that you get charged 50 cents for every piece left on the plate. I have NEVER been charged extra, but there’s a first time for everything. We got charged ten dollars, for 20 extra pieces. It was that bad. I wasn’t even full but I could not punish my stomach, who is so nice to me, by shoveling in more fish that was not fresh. I felt bad and was willing to pay. BUT we had fun! We had fun making fun of the guy behind us that was worshiping everything they put on his plate. Jiro Ono would have whooped that guy bad. The bill came and it was 30 for each of us, 6 for the drink, 6 for tax, and 10 for the extra sushi we did not eat. We gave the waitress, who was very good, a twenty percent tip of 16 dollars, and took our bag of leftovers home. (They let you bring the leftovers home, which they should because you paid for it.) And they sat in the fridge, and we threw them out the next morning. I felt horrible about it, but it was really bad. Now, could it be like this all the time? There’s no way! If it got those awards from the Camera, it must have it’s good days, but we’re never going back. And for me to not go to the only all you can eat sushi place where we live is a huge deal! Why’s that? Here’s why:
I have had sushi in the middle of the Atlantic, in Bermuda, in Peru, in South Korea, on top of a mountain in South Korea, in New York, in Los Angeles, in Miami, and tons of places in between. I’ve had all you can eat in three continents. In our last months in Jersey, we had it AT LEAST once a WEEK! We went to three places usually: Arigato in North Haledon (THE BEST!), Sushi X-1 in Ridgewood (PRETTY COOL!), and Gen in Ridgewood (Not bad!), and they cost us 20/22/20 per person. They offer more kitchen goods and sushi, free desserts, and the fish is fresh, most of the time! (LOOK AT THE PICS AT THE BOTTOM)
It must be that here in Boulder it’s hard and expensive to get fresh fish, which we understand! But if it’s not fresh, DON’T SERVE IT! Are you going to serve a raw filet at a steak house? I would hope not. It could get you in trouble. I wish the all-you-can-eat sushi crew was there to help us out. Dan Liwanag, the first person I had all you can eat sushi with, Scott Reiners, the co-founder of weekly all you can eat night, Allan Wu, aka Master Wusabi, who gets us the freshest fish by talking to waitresses in their native tongues, Scott Polhemus, the wind tunnel when it comes to downing Japanese alcohol and food in a way that would please a shogun, and Dr. Capitani for starting the original “sushi night.” (Adam and Aedan, future members of the crew, I salute you!)
We want to keep this tradition alive, but if Japango is all that Boulder can offer, that tradition will die soon. We will have to try other places and not get all you can eat to see who has the best in Boulder.
- Service: 4/5
- Decor: 2/5
- Music: 1/5
- Kitchen food: 2/5
- Sushi: 1/5
- Price value: 2/5
- X factor: 0/5* (No slices of oranges or pineapple!!!)
- Overall: 12/30 (Maybe give it a chance… maybe… one time)
UPDATE: My weekly contest! Whoever can submit the best Japanese dining experience will be sent a special prize related to this topic. I don’t care if you’re in Malaysia or Philadelphia, I’ll get it to you for your efforts and dedication!
PREVIEW: I’ll be bashing the Boulder Daily Paper’s review of pizza. Obviously whoever wrote it and compared certain pizza to New York style isn’t from New York!
Thanks for reading! If you made it this far you get to use this free joke I stole from Alana who stole it from Twitter…
How come the T-Rex couldn’t shake hands?
Because it was dead!
(Oh, and here is the appendix, a graveyard of past, and better, all you can eat sushi nights with the individuals listed above and some extras who I apologize for not including, like Brit!)