With our first Generation X president in the White House, it seems time to note the official changing of the culinary guard as well: Good-enough Italian, your time has passed! It is now officially the era of good-enough Japanese.
Italian, of course, was the preferred cuisine of baby boomers, who elevated it over French, the favorite of the Greatest Generation. Why Italian? It is ingredient-driven, inexpensive and informal. It was also perceived as healthy when the conventional wisdom ran that eating more pasta and olive oil was the healthiest choice. So why have the Gen-Xers and Millennials chosen Japanese? It’s sociable. It comes with fun drinking rituals. And it’s perceived as healthy now that the conventional wisdom runs that eating fish is the healthiest choice. Of course, the craze for Italian ushered in all sorts of Italian spots that were perfectly respectable, but never better than that, so much so that in the late ’90s, I made the critical decision to stop reviewing them, judging that it was about as valuable to readers as a 1,200-word treatise on the value of slicing bread before consuming it.
I may soon have to make the same decision about Japanese places, if the splashy new Tiger Sushi 2 is any guide. There’s plenty to like about Tiger Sushi. It’s as stylish as a nightclub, with glassy walls and an undulating bar. And the sushi is adequate in every way; it’s fresh enough and creative enough, if never remarkable. My favorite dish was their novel white tuna tataki, with slices of white tuna and vegetables dressed with togarashi, the Japanese red pepper, and spice blend. An argument could be made that the Tiger Sushi people take the creativity a step too far in dishes like flour tacos filled with rare seared ahi tuna, fresh mozzarella, cilantro, and two sorts of sour cream dipping sauces. But I knew what I was ordering so it serves me right. Another argument could be made that people who think sushi is always healthy should take a hard look at Tiger Sushi’s specialty rolls: Deep-fried shrimp tempura and mayonnaise star in many of them. So, sushi connoisseurs will likely stay on their beaten paths (Origami, Sushi Tango), and Gen-Xers and Millennials seeking a stylish, fun, date-worthy night out with their preferred cuisine will like Tiger Sushi, and I will spend the rest of the year eyeing tots in local playgrounds, thinking: What will you bring to us, wee children? Good-enough Turkish?