Monday, February 11, 2008

Making it happen.

There’s a sushi place that opened up within walking distance from my house last summer. Aside from being super convenient, the place is fabulous. The fish is always fresh and the quality is unrivaled. It’s not the fanciest place, and there’s not much flash, but when I get the craving, I invariably find myself there. They don’t have a liquor license, so the place is BYOB, which is actually pretty cool, since I’ve found myself trying out different types of sake that I pick up either from Cost Plus, or the local “fancy” grocery store. Last Tuesday, I walked there, but forgot my sake in my refrigerator. I ducked out to go get it, and Koji, the sushi chef was out back for a “smoke” break. I’ll leave it to you to figure out the quotation marks. I laughed as I caught the unmistakable scent, since I’d describe Koji as demure, if that adjective can be applied to a male, and I’d never really said much more than a couple of things to him. As I jogged past him, I commented that I’d forgotten my sake. “Bring me back some vodka!” he called after me. I knew he was joking, but when I got home, I half-filled a plastic juice tumbler with Ketel One from the Costco-sized bottle in my freezer, and took it back with me. I gave Koji the vodka, and was delighted when a couple of chef’s choices came my way gratis. Among them was some delicious toro nigiri. When the check came, it was surprisingly less than I had expected.

Last night, I had the sushi craving again, so I went to the fancy grocery store to pick up a bottle of sake. As I was in the liquor aisle, I noticed that they had a sale on Rain vodka. I’d never tried it, but it was regularly $24 for a bottle, and selling for $17. In light of the “access and cachet” moment I’d had at Robertson’s on Friday, I decided to try an experiment. I bought the vodka, intent on giving it as a gift to Koji. I even bought one of those fancy little wine carriers so it would look gift wrapped. Let me tell you . . . after I got there and presented the bottle to him, as far as access and cachet goes, it was indescribable.

Koji came from around the bar, shook my hand and bowed, thanked me repeatedly, and told me that he was going to do something special for me. One of the waitresses opened the bottle on the spot and poured him a long draught of the hooch. She also brought me a sake cup full of it for my enjoyment as I waited for a table to open up. Served neat, I was pretty impressed with the smoothness of the Rain.

I paid close attention to my order, since I was sort of experimenting. I ordered some yellowtail, some snapper, a Vegas roll, and a California roll. When my order came out, Koji had doubled all my orders, and had included some toro sashimi, and a couple of other morsels that I’d never tried or seen. He also included some pickled wasabi. I actually struggled to eat it all . . . I was literally gorging myself on sushi. When I finally threw in the towel, I was spent. The vodka and the sake had also gone to my head a little and I was glad that I’d walked to the place. I asked for the check, and when the waitress brought it to me, I couldn’t help but chuckle. $31. I glanced at the sushi-menu just to gauge the net worth of what I’d been served. By my estimates, it was about $75 worth of sushi. The toro sashimi by itself would have been $20 if I had ordered it.

Sometimes, if you actually know somebody, or if you’re a regular at a place, greasing them a $20 bill can come across a little gauche. For those folks, the access and cachet requires thoughtfulness. Thoughtfulness always pays off.

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