Sushi Nabe of Kyoto
110 River St. (Next to Coolidge Park)
By 3:00pm on Day 2 of our Chattanooga trip we (me, Warren, Satchel, 4, and Jiro, 2) were exhausted. Beyond exhausted. And we needed some good food--burgers, pizza, chicken tenders, and burritos simply would not do. We needed Japanese food. As luck would have it, we discovered a cool local place on the Coolidge Park side of the river while driving around. (Jiro had fallen asleep in the car after the Raccoon Mountain Caverns.) Warren pulled in and instructed me to grab a menu.
The door was locked and a sign said they didn’t open for dinner until 5:00pm. Posted next to the door was a menu and an article from a local paper proclaiming the owner of the restaurant winner of a local “Iron Chef” competition. After conforming that they had all of our favorites on the menu plus a wide array of sushi, I went back to the car to report.
We decided to return to the hotel, rest, and then walk/ride the water taxi over in a couple of hours. It was a fine plan in theory. Of course, once we were back in the room Jiro was wide awake and he and Satchel were bouncing off the walls. Even though Warren and I were both in fetal positions on our respective double beds, we rallied and decided to take the kids to the (enormous two building) Aquarium (that takes at least two and a half hours to tour) before dinner.
Once we were done with the Aquarium, the monkeys wanted to play in the water outside the Aquarium for awhile. I was bordering on severely cranky and started taking deep breaths to avoid freaking out. It was almost dusk and the water taxis don’t run after dark. “I don’t think I can deal with either walking over the bridge to eat or walking back in the dark,” I said to Warren.
“Do you want to just go to Sekisui?” he asked.
Even though I could pretty much see Sekisui from where I was standing I whined, “No, I want to go to the cool local place across the river.”
“Then let’s just go get the car,” he said.
That’s my guy!
We arrived at Sushi Nabe of Kyoto around 7pm, ready to pig out. We walked in and politely waited in the bar area for the host(ess). There was another family standing in the waiting area. After a few minutes, a man came over and told the family that he needed to clean a table and it would be about fifteen minutes. Fifteen minutes to clean a table. Ordinarily that would be a deal breaker for me and I would have high-tailed it out of there. But not today.
The family calmly took a seat in the waiting area, as did Warren and Satchel. I stood there with Jiro and watched as the man started cleaning off a table in a completely empty section with 4 or 5 already clean tables. I looked at the bartender in the hopes of engaging him in a discussion about getting my family a table, but he was busy getting a “to go” order and didn’t acknowledge my presence. I went back to staring at the host. He too acted as though I simply did not exist. It was insane.
I looked around the restaurant for someone else, but only saw one waitress bustling around the back. I went into full death stare mode and Jiro started squirming and yelping. (Warren was busy pretending he didn’t know who I was.) The host motioned to the other family (of 4) and they went to sit down at the table (for 8) that the host cleared. Jiro and I stood there in disbelief as he took their drink orders.
I was pissed. Warren was scared that I was going to make a scene. Satchel looked at me and said, “I’m getting too hungry!”
That was it.
Jiro and I walked over to the drink station and waited for the host/waiter to notice us. Again we were ignored. With tears welling up in my eyes (I cry when I get mad), I said, “Excuse me, but could we please have a table? We’ve been waiting for twenty minutes and my children are hungry.” I was talking like a malnourished woman in the line for food at a refugee camp.
With utter surprise the dude said, “Oh I didn’t see you.”
I’ve been standing in plain sight holding a squirming/yelping monkey giving you the death stare for twenty minutes and you didn’t see me!!
He went over to the bartender who was cleaning dishes and said something to him. Then a few minutes later the bartender came over to seat us. I know he saw us standing there the whole time. “Sorry, we’re short-handed tonight,” he said totally unapologetically.
“Is it going to take a long time to get served too?” I asked not so nicely. (I needed to be prepared.)
“Uh, it shouldn’t,” he said.
“Is there a manager or someone I could talk to?” I asked, not satisfied with his level of concern for me and my family.
“The owner, Mr. Watanabe, is in the kitchen,” he said.
“Well, I need to talk to someone,” I said as he led us towards a booth in the very back corner of the restaurant.
“You are sitting next to Jiro,” I informed Warren as I settled in next to Satchel.
Moments later a very sweet and apologetic waitress (Mrs. Watanabe?) came over to give us our menus. After a quick glance I noted the $4.75 edamame and said, “Can we get two miso soups for the boys with no green onions?” She nodded and sped off towards the kitchen.
Warren and I figured out what we wanted to order and did our best to pretend like everything was okay. There was butcher paper covering the tablecloth, so I took the "sushi ordering pencil" and started drawing lines for Satchel to practice his letters. Warren joined in and drew pictures for Jiro.
The waitress came back with the soup (topped with green onions) and took the rest of our order. I decided to let it go and set about taking out the green onions and replacing them with a couple of ice cubes to cool it off for immediate consumption. Warren followed my lead and prepped Jiro’s. The soup had about three miniscule pieces of tofu in it and hardly any seaweed. I took another deep breath and prepared myself for a disappointing dining experience.
Jiro, who was unphased by our mistreatment, pulled the straw out of his water and inserted it in his soup bowl. I tried to stop him, but it didn’t seem to be doing any harm. Soon Satchel was drinking his soup through his straw and we were all smiling. The waitress came rushing over with more soup and said, “I’m sorry! I forgot about the green onion!”
“It’s okay,” I said. And it was.
Moments later the waitress reappeared with a giant fried sushi roll “compliments of Mr. Watanabe” and placed it on the table. There is nothing I like more than kissing up in the form of free food. It was extremely yummy (although at this point anything would have tasted good) and the monkeys barely let Warren and I have any of it.
When the waitress came back, we had Satchel all primed. When she asked if we liked the roll, Satchel smiled and said, “Oishi.” (I don’t know the proper spelling, but this means “delicious” in Japanese.) The waitress was totally floored and a little excited, I think.
Now that both monkeys had a little food in their stomachs they were getting a bit restless. I engaged Satchel in some chopstick practice in which he picked up the discarded green onions and errant grains of rice and relocated them elsewhere on the table. Warren had Jiro singing “Happy Birthday” for a bit, but he was determined to break free of his highchair and wreak havoc. Warren then instituted some reverse psychology to see if he could keep him contained. “Don’t put your seatbelt on!” he said in a stern voice. “Don’t do it!” he repeated as Jiro giggled and did his best to put it back on. Satchel was totally perplexed by this and required a lengthy explanation which was okay since it kept him occupied until the food came.
Warren ordered the Matsuri bento which had chicken teriyaki, salmon, rice, sweet potato tempura, shrimp tempura, and a California roll. It was plenty for him and the monkeys to share. I got a spicy tuna roll, a Chattanooga roll with fried snapper, and a caterpillar roll. My sushi was good, probably not as good as Sekisui, but good. I was actually a little jealous of Warren’s feast. Jiro ate most of Warren’s California roll and Satchel wolfed down the chicken and salmon.
Our meal ended with the usual chorus of “I need to pee,” and “I need to poop,” while Warren slowly finished his dinner. Once “we broke the seal” and got up to go to the restroom, Jiro flung his sandals off and made a mad dash through the restaurant just to make sure our dining experience ended on a sour note.
I put Warren back in charge of Jiro and the check and begrudgingly locked myself in a one seater restroom with Satchel and his toxic fumes. When we re-emerged I found Warren and Mrs. Watanabe having a pleasant conversation in the foyer. “My mom’s name is Keiko too,” he was saying and she smiled and nodded (and practically bowed) before him.