Eats, Chews and Leaves: Doing the Japanese food emoji proud


Martlet readers who know me IRL will be well aware of my technology obsessions. (By the way, “IRL” is online-speak for “in real life”.) Digital communication fascinates me. My latest fixation? The Apple emoji app. Most iPhone users understand the mystique and excitement that surrounds these miniature pictographs. Originating from Japan, a large number of Japanese food emojis are included in the app, and I needed a reason to use them. A sushi dinner at Sen Zushi solved my emoji problem.

Ironically, as soon as we took our seats, the friend who joined me for dinner announced, “I’m off sushi right now.” I’d like to believe she overcame her aversion to raw fish in order to spend time with me.

We split the assorted tempura ($9.95) for an appetizer, which included prawns, white fish, bell pepper, onion, zucchini and sweet potato. We left not a trace behind due to the delicate, crispy batter. I found the white fish an unexpected addition — unexpected, yet welcome.

My friend ordered the ginger pork meal: pan-fried pork over rice with miso soup and salad ($9.45). Wanting to maximize my emoji options, I picked the kitsune udon ($5.95), vegetable roll ($5.50) and a few individual nigiri ($1.75–$2.25).

The vegetable roll caught my eye with its unusual fillings, including kanpyo, yamagobo and takuwan. Kanpyo is a dried calabash gourd with a texture similar to avocado and slightly sweet taste. Yamagobo, or pickled burdock root, is both slightly crunchy and tangy due to the pickling process. Pickled daikon radish, or takuwan, is known to aid digestion. These three vegetables, along with lettuce, cucumber and avocado, elevated the vegetable roll, which can sometimes be boring.

The udon soup received a simple preparation: a light broth with udon noodles, crowned with tofu previously marinated in a sweet sauce. Flavour accompaniments come alongside, and I made use of the scallion, freshly grated ginger and soy sauce.

I caved and used a fork and spoon to eat, while my friend made fast work of her rice dish with only chopsticks. For those who also dislike raw things, the ginger pork may be for you.

If you prefer things on the fresh side, the ebi (cooked prawn) and sake (raw wild salmon) tasted of the sea and did not have that suspicious, fishy smell often associated with Westernized sushi.

Setting-wise, Sen Zushi nails the sushi experience. A bustling bar area allows diners to watch the sushi being prepared. I had no complaints about service, even with every table full on a busy Thursday. I may be dating myself here, but the overall ambience reminded me of the sushi restaurant in Monsters, Inc.

As we departed, the head sushi chef called out a goodbye, and I hit send on a Tweet filled with sushi emojis.