Lannae's Food and Travel

I hope you like my food and travel blog.

August 31, 2009

Want to be Watenabe

yellowtail sashimi on shiso and diakon

We are definitely learning our way around Nashville better. Like, Haywood Lane is the same one on Nolensville Rd as is the one that crosses I24. Trinity Lane is the same one from Clarksville Pike on the west side of town as it is the one crossing Gallatin Pike in East Nashville. And, Murfreesboro Rd starts nearly in downtown Nashville, goes right by the Nashville Airport and the Smyrna Airport and then straight into Murfreesboro. So, to my surprise, McGavock Pike over by Opryland Hotel is the one of the same that crosses Gallatin Pike in East Nashville. Opryland, the Nashville Airport, Haywood Lane in Antioch all always seemed so far away, but I know better now by driving the surface roads and understanding how the streets and road of Nashville are not so mysterious, and these places are not so far away, as long stay off the highways. So it goes, we have gone to Inglewood, from west to east on Trinity Lane, to try Watenabe's Restaurant in the trendy Riverside Village strip mall. Really, East Nashville and downtown are not that far apart.

As the story goes, there is a "Boston seafood" restaurant in East Nashville that started a sushi bar. The "Boston seafood" part was really bad, and anyone from coastal New England all have said how bad the seafood is there. We all felt a bit burned by this place. Early on, this place was valet parking in my friend's private parking lot, and we showed up at my friend's place asking them what they were doing. They valet was telling us to leave if weren't eating at this joint, and it was fun to tell them to leave the private property that did not belong to the bad restaurant. The parking all got straightened out with an agreement, and the bad seafood cooking restaurant opened a sushi bar.

The sushi bar chef is a young guy named Watenabe from Japan and he made his way to Nashville as a banjo player. Watenabe loves that s**t-kicking country music (as he said to M, and Watenabe was pointing to one of his shoes), and he really wanted to be a s**t-kicking country music banjo player in the heart of Nashville, the land of s**t-kicking country music. As for most people that come to Nashville thinking they are going to be s**t-kicking country music stars, it did not work out for Watenabe in that way. Instead, he became a permanent resident and became a kick-ass sushi at the sushi bar associate with the bad "Boston seafood" restaurant. When M went to visit our friends with the private parking lot across the way, and wanted sushi, they would see if Watenabe was working, and then got some kick-ass sushi. But, if Watenabe was not working, never mind, it was anything else but that place.

Now, that "Boston Seafood" restaurant bankrolled and opened Watenabe, the kick-ass sushi bar where Watenabe can run the sushi show.

the Watenabe bar

We have gone to Watenabe's for sushi and sashimi only. It reminds me of the sushi I had in Boston 30 years ago, when and where sushi was an art form, and the ingredients mattered. The ubiquitous California roll is not generic at Watenabe's. The California roll is made with real lump crab meat, not that particle-board fake crab stick. The salmon roe is from Alaskan salmon, not from the world market. Salmon fishing in Alaska is highly regulated to protect the salmon supply. It is becoming harder and harder to find salmon roe in the market because of the demand for salmon eggs. There was a piece on NPR last month about Russian fisherman over salmon to satisfy a Russian and world market demand for the salty orange salmon eggs, and how it is possible that the Russians over fishing may cause the extinction of wild salmon. For some recreational fisherman who used to use salmon eggs as bait are probably wondering why people would pay $10/oz of salmon eggs in a restaurant. At anyrate, Watenabe's salmon roe comes from the USA regulated salmon industry. I really like that shiso that the sashimi is served on. I have not had any shiso in Nashville before, so it is really refeshing, and I love that flavor. I remember shiso from my favorite sushi bar in Boston, where they used shiso leaves to decorate and separate the various nigiri on the plank. We also have tried the fried rice, and it was tasty. It is a bit pricey in relative terms to any other Asian restaurant in Nashville, but it seemed to be just a bit better than anywhere else, and way better than the horrible Chinese takeout places.

I will say that Watenabe's is priced right in my opinion, but that also means some of the sushi may cost more than what Nashville is used to. But, the ingredients are so much better and real at Watenabe's as opposed to other sushi bars in Nashville. I am not surprised at the cost of some of the fish he sells, and it is rightfully so.

I like the decor of Watenabe too. One side has circular high back red leather booths like an old fancy steak house would have, like the original Brown Derby had in the big band and the original I Love Lucy days. These booths are contrasted with really stark regular tables painted black with an urban hip bar and sushi bar. It is a cool place to go. I also like the wide range of patrons. There are people who look like my grandmom, young hipsters, bow-tie wearing professor types, my farmer friends, and me. Watenabe seems to be able to appeal to a wide range of people.

Last thing, a bit of really smart advice from our friendly waitress about online shopping. Her tip is to get a pre-paid credit card and fill it with an amount you need to make an online purchase. The pre-paid card is not attached to anything bank account. If the online purchase or the pre-paid card gets hacked, there isn't anything to hack because there is no money on the card, and no credit limit on the card to hack. She is a smart one!

Watanabe on Urbanspoon


At 9/1/09, 9:09 AM, Blogger BP said...

Lannae, the McGavock Pike in East Nashville / Inglewood *used* to be connected to the McGavock Pike at Opryland via a ferry across the river. But the ferry closed many years ago, so technically they are not connected anymore. There are still some remnants of the ferry operations if you drive all the way down to the river on either side.

At 9/1/09, 8:33 PM, Blogger Lannae said...

I wish there was a ferry still! How cool would that be? On Google Earth, I did see the McGavock Ferry landing remnants. When did the ferry end?

At 9/5/09, 5:43 PM, Blogger DG Strong said...

The late 60s, when the Briley Parkway bridge over the river opened.


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