Monday, November 22, 2010
When I was a teenager this was a place called The Rack Shack, an unremarkable but tasty barbecue joint serving decent barbecue sandwiches, mediocre fries drenched with hot sauce, and cheap pitchers of beer. Nobody ever asked for ID. By the time I was 21, The Rack Shack was a frequent stop for me: an appetizer, two sandwiches and a pitcher of beer cost less than twenty bucks.
Then it became Ari-Ya, a sushi restaurant beloved by a friend of mine who worked nearby. I would often meet her at the sushi bar, where she ate dinner and I drank beer. One night there was something on the plate called a "fire roll," drenched in a sauce that I instantly recognized as sriracha. I took a bite. It was amazing, a sweat-inducing burst of flavors both new and familiar. I was in love with sushi.
(A few weeks later my mom saw me eating sushi and asked what I was doing. I said "Oh, yeah... I love sushi now." She just shook her head and said "I wish your grandmother were alive to see this.")
After a few years Ari-Ya closed. The ending saddened everyone but surprised no one. The service was the worst in Pasadena. One of my final nights eating there, my brother and I waited more than an hour for our food. Finally I asked where it was.
"Oh, was that yours?" a particularly air-headed waitress responded. "We couldn't remember who ordered it so we threw it away."
I took the bottle of soy sauce off the table and said "I am keeping this because you wasted my time." I do not know why that made me feel better but it did. My brother and I ducked next door to Lucky Baldwin's and had fish & chips. I kept the soy sauce on the table next to my food. ("When did we start putting soy sauce on the tables?" a confused waitress asked.)
Ari-Ya gave way to Tani, a restaurant which, without exaggeration, took months of constant construction to open. This became even more amusing on my first visit to the new restaurant: it looked almost exactly the same as the old. Tani's prices were much higher but there was no denying that their food was great. Elizabeth and I ate there on our first anniversary of being a couple. My friend Tracie bought me dinner there on my 30th birthday. Even my parents loved the place, and my dad is someone who literally just said to me the other day "I don't really like any restaurant food."
But, in what you've probably noticed is a constant pattern for this location, Tani closed, too. In came Blue Fish, a similar restaurant with a location in Montrose that I had heard about for years but never visited. I decided I would get around to eating at this new Old Town location one day, but was not in any hurry.
More than a month ago I gave my friend Murph a ride to the airport one morning, and he insisted he take me to lunch for the ride. We had talked about going to Green Street Tavern, and indeed I met him at his house the other morning with the intention of going there, but it was a very nice day out and I suggested we try Blue Fish. (I knew he loved the place.)
We took seats on the back patio - we were the only people sitting there - and ordered some drinks. It was a Friday and we both had the afternoon off. I ordered a Sapporo and Murph ordered a Nigori saki.
While I do not like Blue Fish as much as I liked Tani - I imagine there will be precious few Japanese places I will ever like as much as I did Tani, for a variety of reasons - I still thought it was very good, and the lunch special was a great bargain. I am sure I will return.
Posted by JustinM at 10:33 AM