Cafe Society

Bursting Sheehan's Bubble

A condensed version of Justin Warner's letter about Jason Sheehan's talents -- or lack thereof -- is published in the June 5 letters column. But the entire letter was so tasty that we present it here, uncut and unedited: Jason Sheehan:

I write in regards to my disgust of your pseudo-review of Sushi Katsuya, 2222 South Havana Street.

Although my compositional skills are inhibited by lack of secondary education, I will attempt, line by line, to articulate said disgust.

On second thought, I will recall my 12th grade English class lecture on proper composition and sum up my opinions in the opening statements, only to reiterate them in the closing paragraphs: your pseudo-review of Sushi Katsuya manifests your persona as a self-aggrandizing, pretentious, foodie-poseur.

I question firstly, as to what gives you a "kind of sixth sense, a kind of diviner's wisdom for separating the dangerously sepulchral from the merely quiet, calm and composed." As much as a slow restaurant may indicate the quality of the food it serves, a slow restaurant may as much indicate the kind of patrons it serves, primarily, and in your case, sir, the ignorant. 'Below the belt', you may cry, but read on, and I will serve a quick slice of enlightenment, with the "grace of a Balinese dancer."

Did you know, for example, that irashaimase is the customary greeting at practically all places of business in Japan? That's right, even at McDonald's. Everyone in Japan greets customers in unison. Whether it's raining or not. It's what the Japanese do. It's culture -- something not easily learned from "Saturday afternoon Kung-fu movies." Your defense of Sushi Katsuya's sluggish evening cannot be defended by this simple courtesy. It's like employees at Wal-mart wearing a "How may I help you?" vest.

I will now attempt to produce a compliment for you, Mr. Sheehan. I admire your smelling of the miso soup. As anyone who writes about food should know, the olfactory sensation is closely linked to the sensation of taste. I appreciate your masked encouragement (albeit completely and ridiculously pretentiously written) to smell their food. However, I would have appreciated your dog-shaking-rabbit paragraph devoted to something more intelligent than yourself and your other-worldly ability to appreciate food. With a fork.

In a crowded alt-weekly, sir, nobody notices such self-gratification. In an empty one, everyone does.

Compliments aside, I was left hungry for an answer as to what makes tofu "of good quality" impart sweatiness (wtf?) to miso soup. Generally, if tofu is of good quality, hiyayakko is in order, a true test of good tofu. If only your review came with katsuoboshi, negi, and a bit of shoga.

My attention is now drawn to the following paragraph, where you seem to think that Japanese restaurants, particularly sushi bars, are a method of self-alignment and purification -- "where food walks naked, where flavors are allowed to come out and play without distraction." Had you been so adventurous to taste saba, uni, or shirako (I can be pretentious, too!), you may have found yourself in a tumult of flavor, screaming taste-defying, synesthetic words like "sea-nuts" or "fish-cream" or "that first low-tide during summer camp in Maine." Taste, unlike your synopsis of sushi, is anything but spare and simple.

In the same paragraph, you write that sushi is served with the "absolute minimum of human contact." To this, I simply refer you to a Wikipedia query of "Tsukiji Fish Market" and for further reading, The Sushi Economy by Sasha Issenberg. Although my mentioning of these sources may seem high-brow and borderline elitist, I am not the one inflicting my opinion on the public.

I am not in the least bit concerned with the idea that I have a good hunch that you had, and until this day, have no idea what sort of tea you consumed. Buds? In green tea? Or were you served ginseng tea? Or maybe oolong? As long as it was served in an "earthenware cup" it must be authentic.

This notion of your possible consumption of unauthentic tea has broken open a scab of festering criticism. If authenticity is your bag, why did you not pay any respects to the ability of Japan's westward (no pun intended) neighbor to synthesize such Nipponesque delights?

Does a Korean-owned and operated restaurant really transport you to your "own little bubble of Japan"? As you are a self-proclaimed (at least forty words of proclamation) know-nothing about Japan, I am curious as to how you could possibly decipher J-pop from K-pop aside from a keystroke's difference.

These trivial cultural differences aside, we can at least bond over the glory that is tamago. You are indeed correct that true sushi-snobs will try tamago to determine the skill of a chef. However, it is not because tamago is a "less-sought-after ingredient" (ingredient??). Saba, which requires a complex marinating process, along with ikura, and anago all require a chef's input to make them ready for the public. The skill behind tamago (again, unlike your review) is in its construction. Tamago must be sieved and strained (egg-by-egg [a rotten one ruining the whole batch]), sweetened, beaten, and then poured micron-by-micron into a hot square pan, tended to, and folded some twenty times before a log of the omelet/custard (as you referred) can be served.

Or one could take the Sheehan approach: find it on the internet (pre-fabbed and frozen in tamago's case) and sell it to the masses.

I despise also your promoting of wasabi usage. Ponzu anyone? Snow crab is dull. That's why it's on the Chinese buffet. A mustard-agent like wasabi is simply not the answer to kani's dullness. Perhaps a little ponzu would do you good, Mr. Sheehan. Down another pint, like a real meat-eatin', culturally-unaware American. Do a sake-bomb while you're at it. Say "need more fish" in broken English. Bombard yourself with Godzilla movies and pure hedonism. Swallow 'til you burst.

And when you burst, Hong Young and I'll be right there, laughing at your presumed freshness of frozen ama-ebi (even at Sushi Den) and your rampant consumption of toro which was actually escolar, or super-white tuna, commonly sold at Korean sushi restaurants.

As you burst, sir, I am sure the by-product of escolar consumption, keriorhoea (another Wikipedia query for you), will bleed on to the next "café" page of Westurd, er, Westword.

Consider me, Jason, as the hazmat team for your oily pools of text. You have taken up an entire page of Denver's premier alt-weekly with nothing other than self-promotion as an alleged connoisseur, rambling on about soup-smelling, burner-touching, whiskey drinking, and drug-usage. I clearly see how that turned out.

I anxiously await your response to this sophomoric criticism of your freshmanic review of Sushi Katsuya.

With All Due Respect,

Justin M. Warner Citizen, Denver

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