The Cuisine Scene
Sayaka Japanese Restaurant
I can celebrate now; I’ve taken the ‘Rites of Passage’ for the sophisticated cuisine. I’ve consumed raw fish.
While I doubt I’ll ever crave sushi like some of my friends, at least when I accompany them, I won’t embarrass myself trying to order something palatable.
This new wealth of knowledge comes from two sources: my son, Roger Bowman, and the manager of Sayaka Japanese Restaurant in Colton. While we have several sushi restaurants in Yucaipa, I selected a larger restaurant that would offer a large variety of dishes so I could try several. And, in case I didn’t care for any of the selections, I wanted something else readily available so I wouldn’t have to slip out and hit a MacDonald’s drive-thru.
Sayaka Japanese Restaurant was an excellent choice. Located off I-215 South and Mt Vernon Ave, the outside garden and small fountains hinted at an enjoyable evening. Once inside, a lighted entryway led to the dining area of our choice, including regular dining, a full bar with backlighting, a sushi bar, a banquet room, and even a walkway to a teppan-grill room.
Manager Minako Hofmann greeted Roger and me and asked our preference for the evening. As much as I love the tappan-yaki grill tables - teppan is Japanese for iron plate, and yaki means grilled – I preferred one of the regular dining rooms with a table large enough to sample several dishes. Our location couldn’t have been better – the large sushi bar was close enough that we could observe the chefs preparing various dishes. What a treat.
Minako sent two drinks to our table, and since I’m not that familiar with exotic drinks, I asked Roger. He said one reminded him of a mango-passionfruit and the other, a pomegranite martini. I tasted both and loved the slightly sweet, slightly tart and fruity mango.
He’s been a sushi connoisseur for years and made suggestions to try for dinner, and Minako, knowing I didn’t have a clue about sushi, sent several dishes to our table.
Roger said the word ‘sushi’ means vinegared rice, which evolved from a centuries-old Japanese custom of eating dried fish with rice preserved in vinegar. Today in its various forms, sushi is considered an art form as well as a social occasion.
The most common forms are the rolls consisting of a fish – usually a choice of tuna, salmon, eel, etc – vegetables, and rice rolled in a seaweed outer layer and sliced. A side of wasabi is also served, a green dab of what’s been called a Japanese horseradish that adds a hot spiciness to the sushi. It looked a bit like guacomole, only more firm, but Roger cautioned against trying too large a sample as it’s extremely hot. But unlike other hot sauces, he said, the heat doesn’t linger. Instead, it’s a burst of fire and flavor, but then it dissipates. Also included is a helping of pickled ginger, which most use as a palate cleanser.
The California roll is a popular Americanized sushi, Roger said, made with avocado, rice, crab, and cucumbers, but that evening we tried some other varieties. We had their Winter Roll made of stuffed cucumber chunks filled with tuna, carrot, mayo, yellowtail, salmon, seabass, and crab, all ‘cooked’ in citrus juices.
Then two servers, dressed in red kimonos, appeared bearing huge platters filled with more rolls, each enough for two. One was spicy tuna, which turned out to be my favorite, topped with avocado and a spicy sauce, and the other platter held a Las Vegas roll with an outer layer that had been fried to a crunch. One of the ingredients was diced eel, not my favorite, but the roll also had cream cheese, avocado wrapped with seaweed, so I could try it. Green mint sprigs garnished each slice.
Then he ordered a dish with rice in finger shapes topped with filets of raw fish. We had a deep red tuna, salmon, which was orange with white marbling, and pink yellowtail. He used chopsticks to lift one piece to show me the rice underneath. After trying chopsticks and dropping everthing I picked up, I went back to my fork. No wonder the Japanese are slim people.
Wrapped in seaweed as a side, were smelt eggs and salmon roe. I couldn’t imagine eating what I’d previously considered fish bait, but Roger loved them and encouraged me to try them. For the texture experience, he said. I bypassed the red salmon roe and tried a pinch of the smaller orangey smelt eggs and was pleasantly surprised. They were salty, but not too much, crunchy, and provided a sudden burst of moisture. Not bad.
After dinner, we joined several others at the sushi bar and watched Miguel, a sushi chef who has been at Sayaka for twenty years, fill orders and was amazed at how quickly he assembled a roll. Then he shucked some fresh oysters and dabbed several sauces on them and presented them to a lucky diner.
When we left, I felt quite proud of myself and realized I’d totally enjoyed the experience. Thank goodness Roger had the time to accompany me as I would’ve been lost without his guidence. While I doubt I’ll ever crave sushi – for me, cravings are about chocolate – now I can go to a Japanese restaurant and order just as if I'd been eating sushi all my life. Sometimes teasing isn’t so bad; it got me to finally try raw fish.
Perhaps one day I’ll try green tea or tempura ice cream. But not today.
Lunch – 5 days, Monday-Friday 11am to 2pm
Dinner – 7 days, Sunday-Thursday 5:30pm to 9:30pm
Friday & Saturday, 5:30pm to 10:30pm
Offering traditional Japanese cuisine, combination dinners, tempura, children’s, and more
Prices for sushi range to $15.00
Sayaka Japanese Restaurant
1060 S Mt Vernon Ave, Colton, CA 92324