Wasn’t all that long ago that East Nashville was something of a sushi desert. These days, though, we have some great options serving sushi newbies and diehards alike, with more on the way.
Although Riverside Village’s Watanabe isn’t exclusively a sushi stop (they serve ramen, bibimbap and lots of other fine Asian fare), they’re a favorite East Side sushi destination for lots of reasons, not the least of those being their consistent freshness and creative flavors. Another mark of a great neighborhood sushi space: a willingness to point you in the right direction to help further your sushi love.
Watanabe operations manager Steve Beckman knows a few things about sushi and, being a kind and friendly neighbor, is more than willing to share his knowledge. Are you still something of a sushi newbie? A traditionally conservative eater with a desire to branch out? Sushi lover looking to explore more? Beckman abides. Here, he offers some quick tips for growing your sushi love:
Sushi tips from Watanabe’s Steve Beckman
A few tips to take you from someone who just started eating sushi to a sushi expert.
So you've tried the crunchy shrimp, California roll or a vegetarian roll and you're ready to make the leap to trying rolls with raw fish or just the fish itself, but don't know the best way to go about it. The easiest way would be to order a tuna appetizer. It’s lightly seared, so it is mostly raw and comes with eel sauce, one of the common sauces used for dipping sushi. (It’s made with soy and sugar, so it’s essentially a sweet soy sauce.) Tuna is a heartier meat — not as oily as other fish — so it isn't as fishy, in smell or taste. Some say a good piece of tuna tastes a lot like a rare steak.
Further expanding your education and experience
So now you've tried the tuna and you like it, you're ready to expand your palate. What do you do next? If you're eating at Watanabe I would tell you to sit at the sushi bar. Here you can see all the sushi being made, you can ask questions and the sushi chefs will let you sample small pieces at a discounted rate. The advantage here is that you can try small pieces of a lot of different items and not be committed to a whole roll or an order of sashimi.
Picking perfect pairings
You've sat at the sushi bar a few times and you have educated yourself on the types of fish and seafood that are offered and how they match up with the vegetables they’re paired with. Now it’s time to pair it with sake or wine. I'm not a big sake drinker so I almost always get a glass of wine with my sushi. For the spicy rolls I'll order a nice Riesling or Gewurztraminer. If I'm having a roll with crab or fish — the green goddess (lump crab, avocado, cucumber, tempura, cilantro topped with green onions, lime) or a salmon roll are perfect examples — I'll choose between a Sauvignon Blanc, a Pinot Grigio or a unoaked Chardonnay. The heartier rolls, like the red dragon (spicy tuna, unagi, avocado inside, topped with unagi, tuna, tobiko, unagi sauce), call for a nice pinot noir or cabernet sauvignon.
Lastly, don't be afraid to try different things — you may surprise yourself.
A bonus tip from The East Nashvillian
As frequent Watanabe-goers, we’d be remiss if we didn’t share our favorite tip for broadening sushi experience. Tuesdays, Watanabe hosts an extended happy hour (4:30 to 10 p.m.) that includes half-price sushi rolls with the purchase of an entree, combo sushi or roll. It’s a fine excuse for grabbing some friends and testing a pile of new flavors.
Watanabe Restaurant and Sushi Bar is located at 1400 McGavock Pike in Riverside Village. Hours are 11 to 10 Monday through Thursday; 11 to 11 Friday; 4 to 11 Saturday; and 4 to 10 Sunday. For more, visit the Watanabe website.