Food and Travel: Is sushi ‘mushy’?

I WAS amazed, reading a restaurant review by another foodie in another weekly paper, at a bald statement: There’s no Japanese restaurant in Harare.

Fair enough, I suppose, there’s no  standalone dedicated Nipponese eatery, but Shillah, Connaught Road, does –– or did — a wide range of Japanese grub, along with the Korean cuisine in which it specialises, Chinese, Thai and other Oriental “fusion” food and Western dishes.
Korea was, of course, a Japanese colony until the atomic bomb granted the troubled peninsula and much of the Eastern Hemisphere instant independence. That other odd little Korean restaurant, Actor, also serves Japanese dishes. Does the King’s Table still exist? (The signage is rapidly fading.)
Teppan-Yaki is a Japanese restaurant-within-a-restaurant (Komba Hari Grill) at Rainbow Towers.
I was tutt-tutting about the opposition’s generalisations, when suddenly I mused: “Did Teppan-Yaki survive Komba Hari’s refurb?”
Closed for “a month” (Zimbo time) to tart up the place, Komba Hari was actually shut nearly three months and I hadn’t been back since a “soft” re-launch four weeks earlier.
Yes, it was still there: two Komba Hari 16-seater “open square” eating stations are painted distinctive glossy black, there is Japanese lettering above these areas and punters were actually shovelling sushi down collective gullets as I nosed around.
I admit I really love Japanese food….sadly it doesn’t like me. I’ve tried it at least a couple of dozen times here and in South Africa, in London, the Canary Islands, Kenya, Jordan, Florida, the Caribbean, Scotland, Mauritius and on board international cruise liners.
I always thoroughly enjoyed it, as have various companions. They’ve been as right as rain in the Kalahari, but on each occasion, about four hours later, I was agonisingly “talking to Hughie” on the great white telephone.
I’m candidly not all that keen on regurgitating raw fish, so when Rainbow Towers’ deputy general manager (rooms), Nyasha Muza, urged me to order sushi-maki rolls with nigiriri mix, miso soup (the Japanese also have it for breakfast!) seafood tempura or Tokyo-style hashed beef, I shuddered, plonked myself firmly down in the grill room bit and ordered chef’s special vegetable soup, then three lamb chops (cutlets really).
Nyasha had the same.  They were griddled right in front of us: part of the “theatre” of dining-out, by chef Marko, who did an excellent job; except he forgot mint sauce.
Executive chef Eliot flew into action. Rainbow Towers grow all their own herbs. A handful of fresh menthe was plucked from the ground, washed, roughly chopped, sprinkled with sugar, splashed with boiling water and vinegar and served in about three minutes flat.  You’re supposed to make it an hour or so before cooking lamb or mutton, but it was perfectly acceptable. (Well… better than nothing!)
The nicely grilled chops: meat done medium-well, fat crisp and delicious, came with chips, steamed al dente vegetables and chopped mushrooms ($14). They also cook great steaks which, with a choice of rich sauces, cost $16 and-–– again — are cooked before your hungry eyes.
My colleague ate sushi at Hifa, where she went apparently each one of its six days. I admire her stamina. I was in and out in two hours flat, during which time I felt very uncomfortable as scores of pairs of eyes weighed up the approximate value of my Fuji and Canon cameras, Tissot chronometer and Nokia mobile.
I was glad “Charlotte” wrote about sushi Hifa-style. Investigating whether Rainbow Towers still present it at their two Eastern Stations, serving 32 covers (equivalent of a boutique restaurant) got me thinking that I had an RTG accommodation voucher in my desk diary, soon to expire.
As I no longer have TV (and rarely Zesa!) and was keen to see the brilliant BBC coverage of the British general election results that night, why not take a suite and watch it in luxury?
Why not, indeed!
I scarcely closed my peepers all night, much to the bemusement of a friend who’d asked me to explain the intricacies of real democracy at work to her!  (Honestly!)
I was too knackered to really enjoy the fabulous breakfast spread in the Harvest Garden buffet restaurant next day and wasn’t at all looking forward to presiding at the monthly lunch of Greendale Good Food & Wine Appreciation Society at Cascais.
However, a couple of chilled glasses of a crisp South African white wine I’d previously never tried, before a lovely prawn cocktail and Portuguese steak, egg and chips were a real pick-me-up.
 I could have sat through another 10-hour cliff-hanging session as exit polls, swingometers, “swig-ometers” and actual results read out by returning officers often straight out of Monty Python contradicted each other.
Anyway…it was a hung parliament.
 Pity we can’t hang a few members of ours!

dustym@zimind.co.zw

Dusty Miller