Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Sometimes it's all about Having Fun at the Table

About a bazillion years ago I joined or created accounts to websites of all kinds just because it was such a strange world of opportunity.  One of those sites was MeetUps. The site has gone through a truly dazzling number of incarnations in the intervening years and suddenly a few months ago I began to receive emails about Albany meetups. Last week as I was absentmindedly nosing around the site I ran into the Albany Sushi MeetUp and something made me sign up for their upcoming event. I never do things like this. Well, I mean except that time I flew out to Denver to meet up with my 35 closest net friends that I had never met in person, but you know what I'm saying.

It was a sushi dinner at Asian Tea House in East Greenbush.  Basically all you can eat sushi in a private room with a whole bunch of other people who really like sushi. Just the promise of sheer enthusiasm was enough to sweep me into the spirit.  You all know how much of a drag it is to try to eat with people who are obsessed with how much they are not going to eat, or people who are squeamish about half of what is on the menu.  It's simply no fun.  Well, this promised to be a fun night full of delicious fish and rice for a fabulous discount to be consumed with all the warmhearted fellowship of sushi lovers.

All promises were delivered with wasabi and ginger.

We were shepherded into the private dining room in the back of the Asian Tea House after assembling at the bar and ordering our various cocktails, wine and beer, with cheery introductions. Our evening's host had made sure that we would get a good selection of appetizers and sushi, foregoing individual orders.  With 15 in our party trying to order individually would be a logistics disaster for the kitchen.  Two of the ATH staff made sure we had tea and condiments and then the platters began to arrive. As you can imagine at a Capital Region sushi dinner there were very good conversationalists, so as the talk became lively and people were taking photos and newbies were telling their stories, we began to nibble and relish the culinary offerings.

A lovely fragrant and tasty bowl of hot and sour soup was our beginning.  I don't usually eat this soup after many disappointments, but the ATH version was delicious. After platters of crab rangoons, "sushi pizza" and spicy fried wontons came platters of sushi rolls. The chefs draw scrollwork and abstract designs on the platters to make it an artful presentation, which I appreciate. I like the visual aspect of the sushi as much as anything. The talk among the group was just loud enough to make it impossible to hear the names of all the rolls, but we got a very good sampling from their menu.

The conversation took a back seat to a contemplative silence as everyone began to absorb the flavor combinations of the rolls. Then came gentle moans that generally signify "yummy".  My favorite is one of their house specialities called Kiss of Fire, with a delicate slice of jalapeno embellishing the top of each piece of the roll. I'll confess that I was not able to actually eat the jalapeno slice, but managed to make sure that enough of the juice provided a wonderful bright spicy flavor to the roll. The conversation level rose again as people wanted to praise or ask questions or generally fight over select the remaining pieces.  After the roll platters were empty the platters of nigiri and sashimi began to arrive and everyone began to settle in to the realization that there was PLENTY OF SUSHI. The strategizing dissipated. New rounds of conversation, jokes and general conviviality began.

Oh my.

Although my sushi intake remained modest, the experience  was very much enhanced by the company - I was in a sushi swoon and suddenly it was past my bed time. The Albany Sushi MeetUp page soon was filled with photos and comments about the evening - mostly "It was GREAT!!!!!" I agree.  What a pleasant and uplifting way to spend an evening at table.  I'm really looking forward to the next one.

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