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|October 23-29, 2008
• For Cubans, ‘leche’ is love
A brief look at milk’s role in Cuban history
by Maricel E. Presilla
Yaki Maki strikes the right sushi balance
by Clay Fong
It has been a quest fraught with frustration, disappointment and chewy seaweed. From the shores of Lake Tahoe to Vancouver’s trendy West End, I have spent years seeking an elusive culinary Eldorado, my efforts thwarted by indifferent fish and surly service. What is the object of my obsession, you may ask? It’s the all-you-can-eat sushi restaurant that strikes the right balance between price, quality and atmosphere.
My hunt led me to Boulder’s Yaki Maki. It’s a compact downtown venue with a hip look and feel that separates it from traditionally styled Japanese restaurants. Despite the modernity, it’s still a welcoming place, although the room was a touch warm during a recent lunch visit. My colleagues Carin, Alan and I decided to sample the $13.95 all-you-can-eat sushi lunch which costs a still-reasonable $18.95 at dinnertime and on the weekends.
There’s a few understandable house rules governing this special, and these primarily serve to discourage folks from wasting food. As our server explained, each diner can order 10 pieces of sushi, one large roll and an entrée and appetizer selection each round. Once customers make headway on this round, they may order another.
We started with a full contingent of appetizers consisting of tempura, edamame and gyoza. While the tempura still lent itself to my oft-voiced complaint with respect to heavy breading, it was still lighter and better than most. Although they had a touch of grease, the gyoza dumplings were crisp with a delicate fried skin and satisfyingly meaty flavor. The lightly salted edamame soybeans were as good as you’ll find, with a pleasingly plump appearance and buttery taste. Given the quality and generous portion of this appetizer, you’d be hard pressed to find something comparable for less than $7 elsewhere.
Next up came the sushi rolls. Carin especially enjoyed the simple but fresh-tasting California roll. We were less impressed by the J.B. roll, the deep fried version of this entry-level sushi favorite. The batter overwhelmed the delicate flavors of seafood and avocado, and the fried seaweed wrapper gave this roll a disconcerting resemblance to a whole fish. Fortunately, the rainbow roll more than made up for this selection by providing a colorful and fresh-tasting wrapper of assorted raw fish and avocado.
On the herbivorous side, the vegetarian sushi rolls were unsurprising affairs stuffed with avocado and asparagus. What stood out, however, was the quality of these fillings — in other restaurants, vegetarian sushi sometimes seems nothing more than a hastily thrown together afterthought. The avocado was creamy and ripe and the asparagus stalks were pleasingly crisp. The pieces of seafood sushi, including shrimp, tuna, salmon, unagi (eel) and hamachi (yellowtail), were all perfectly fine. While the slices of fish may not have possessed fresh-from-a-Tokyo-fish-market quality, they were still artfully presented and an excellent value for the price. One could do worse than a meal consisting strictly of these morsels and a frosty beverage.
While my exploration of all-you-can-eat sushi establishments may be a lifelong voyage, I can happily report that Yaki Maki is a worthwhile destination. If you’re expecting the ultimate expression of Japanese cuisine at a premium price, this probably isn’t the place for you. But if you’re looking for a spot to enjoy a down-to-earth meal with good friends after work, it’s definitely worth seeking out.
1175 Walnut St., Boulder, 720-974-0388
Clay’s obscurity corner
The California roll
Legend has it that the California roll originated in Los Angeles, perhaps as early as the 1970s. It would appear this So-Cal creation was an attempt to make a traditional toro, or tuna, roll more palatable to Western appetites unaccustomed to such ingredients as raw tuna and nori seaweed. So out went the tuna in favor of the presumably more user-friendly and texturally similar avocado. While the seaweed remained, it was camouflaged under the sushi rice (inside-out style) rather than serving as an exterior wrapper. Other regional variations followed, such as the Philadelphia roll, which substitutes cream cheese for the avocado.
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