My husband introduced me to sushi nearly 20 years ago and because Shige was always his favorite sushi chef over at Tsuru (now Sono Bana) on Orchard, he was happy to follow him when he opened Shige. I was happy to follow them both.
As tiny, wet snowflakes drifted out of the sky, my sister-in-law the Teacher and I left our beloved husbands at home and snagged the last empty table in Shige on a busy Saturday night. We warmed our hands on ceramic glasses of hot, loamy green tea while we joked with our sweet waitress about love and marriage as she placed our soup and salad on the table. We ordered Shige special deluxe for two ($24.95), an assortment of sushi, nigiri and sashimi with sides of salad and miso soup. Unlike places like Sushi Nozawa in Los Angeles where chef Nozawa decides what diners will eat (rumor has it ordering a California roll gets you kicked out with the unceremonious equivalent of "No sushi for you!"), Shige creates his sushi masterpieces with a more collaborative bent. Diners are allowed a few predilections such as the addition of a Sriracha-mayonnaise dipping sauce or a roll free of tobiko (flying-fish roe). Our waitress asked if we had any particular dislikes so I requested no squid or octopus (ika, tako) in our entree. I slurped up the lava-hot miso while the Teacher finished off her salad, soaked in a savory sesame-based dressing and eyeballed mine. I highly anticipated our appetizer of tuna tataki ($10.95)—slices of rare tuna often slightly seared on one side dressed with kaiware sprouts, a generous portion of green onions and a simple sauce—but it was a bit fishy and a bit disappointing. The slight miss was quickly forgotten when our shared entree arrived, served on a large wooden boat. Before us sat six pieces of tuna roll (tekka maki) and a few pieces each of yellowtail (hamachi) and tuna nigiri; surf clam (hokkigai), hamachi and tekka sashimi; and two pieces of yellowtail nigiri with a small leaf of Japanese mint between the fish and the rice. That one was a big hit with us both. The leaf had the frosty taste of familiar mint crossed with an inkling of what fresh grass smells like and added a crisp flavor and texture to the cushiony fish. It was a delectable combination. The pieces all came in multiples of two, so sharing was easy, and if one of us didn't like something, that much more was left for the other. The only time during the meal I wished the Teacher would have been a little squeamish was in regard to the two pieces of roe sushi. A short column of seaweed with a ball of rice at the bottom was filled to overflowing with bright orange tobiko, one of my favorite parts of a sushi experience. I scooped bits of the roe off the top of my allotted piece and spread it across the sashimi, spending an inordinate amount of time perfecting my chopstick skills in trying to capture every rogue orb. The Teacher deftly plucked her piece off her plate and popped it in her mouth without the slightest hesitation. I will order it a la carte next time.
I gladly wrapped up the leftovers and took them home. I love sushi for breakfast like some people love cold pizza. To be nice, I halfheartedly offered the leftovers to my husband who, to my delight, declined. His generosity was further appreciated the next morning as I finished off ice cold pieces of pink tuna dipped in a wasabi soy. I'm so pleased that Shige the restaurant has not become another downtown statistic. And as Shige the owner continues to create the fine food that has kept him in business for so many years, hopefully it never will.
—Amy Atkins thinks the words breakfast, lunch and dinner are just suggestions.