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Best of 2001: Best Way To Judge A New Sushi Bar

Get there at the start of the dinner hour (when many French and American chefs go for a bite before heading for their own restaurants), and sit at the counter. Early arrivals tend to get more personalized service and fresher fish. Inspect the seafood: Is it covered (or at least wrapped) and kept cold -- or has it been gathering flies since the lunch hour? If the latter, leave immediately! Start with an order of uni (sea-urchin roe). Its flavor gives away its age: It starts out a bit briny, like a very mild oyster. After about 12 hours the brininess intensifies -- it's still edible, but no longer ethereal. After that, an iodine note grows ever more prominent until the uni turns bitter, rusty-tasting, and potentially indigestible. The second "tester's choice" is a scallop hand roll. Not only are over-the-hill raw scallops gross-tasting, but poorer grades are preserved in a phosphate "brine" that gives them an opaque white color, a mushy texture, and a sheath of filmy white liquid. Small "bay" scallops may exhibit similar adulteration; many are actually low-grade large scallops, sold chopped. Top-quality scallops suitable for a sushi counter taste clean and sweet and have a translucent ivory or pinkish color; they may be tender or firm but not mushy or slimy. Their quality and freshness will be as evident in a hand roll as on a nigiri, but the former will also let you assess the chef's skill and palate when you taste the mayonnaise-hot-sauce blend -- and when you lift the roll to start eating. If the cone unravels, your chef's an apprentice.

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Get there at the start of the dinner hour (when many French and American chefs go for a bite before heading for their own restaurants), and sit at the counter. Early arrivals tend to get more personalized service and fresher fish. Inspect the seafood: Is it covered (or at least wrapped) and kept cold -- or has it been gathering flies since the lunch hour? If the latter, leave immediately! Start with an order of uni (sea-urchin roe). Its flavor gives away its age: It starts out a bit briny, like a very mild oyster. After about 12 hours the brininess intensifies -- it's still edible, but no longer ethereal. After that, an iodine note grows ever more prominent until the uni turns bitter, rusty-tasting, and potentially indigestible. The second "tester's choice" is a scallop hand roll. Not only are over-the-hill raw scallops gross-tasting, but poorer grades are preserved in a phosphate "brine" that gives them an opaque white color, a mushy texture, and a sheath of filmy white liquid. Small "bay" scallops may exhibit similar adulteration; many are actually low-grade large scallops, sold chopped. Top-quality scallops suitable for a sushi counter taste clean and sweet and have a translucent ivory or pinkish color; they may be tender or firm but not mushy or slimy. Their quality and freshness will be as evident in a hand roll as on a nigiri, but the former will also let you assess the chef's skill and palate when you taste the mayonnaise-hot-sauce blend -- and when you lift the roll to start eating. If the cone unravels, your chef's an apprentice.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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