after dinner sneeze

a lot of g says, t says

Battle Sushi: Sagami vs. Fat Salmon

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t says:  I love the classic battle between old and new.  Obi-wan vs. Vader.  Vader vs. Luke.  Ents vs. Orcs/goblins.  It’s so much fun!  Which is why when g and I happened to go on a sushi-splurge one weekend, eating at two fancier-than-normal sushi joints on a whim, I couldn’t help but think about playing up the “Old vs. New” idea …

Sagami  September 2012, Friday Dinner, Party of 2.  Sagami is a very old sushi joint.  How old?  I have no idea – I’m far too lazy to google it.  I can tell you, however, that sr and ha went there on their 2nd date in 1979.  So yea – Sagami’s pretty old.  BUT, I can also tell you that in 2012, they’re still packed on a Friday night – we only got in because we had a reservation.  So clearly, if we had to use “institution” to describe a restaurant, we’d totally use it here …

Now even though Sagami’s pretty old, don’t think that they’ve actually made the place look nice or anything – it’s on the bottom floor (more like a basement) of a house in Collingswood.  The sign is small.  The parking is limited.  The ceilings are low.  The lights are low.  The seats are few.  This is not a place with a “fine dining” experience – this is “we-have-sushi-if-you-want-it-come-on-in-but-if-you-want-anything-else-you’ll-be-sad”.  For example, as we sat, I wondered if there was any chance that the table I was sitting at could have been from 1979.

no frills, just sushi (and some other items on the menu)

g and I weren’t expecting something super-fancy, but we were shocked that ha would have continued to see sr after a date here – not because of the food or service or anything – just because ha seems like she’s a “fancy” kinda girl.  Of course, Sagami was probably pretty hip/happening back then, so maybe it was all about “the cool” (ha likes to be “cool”, too).

So let’s talk food …


The lights were so low that we had to use the flash.  Of course, this drew unnecessary attention to us, so g got embarassed.  I proceeded to take more pictures, feeling that if the first one didn’t look good, then clearly by repeating the identical set of steps without changing any positioning, it’d get better.  It didn’t.  Blast.  g’s chirashi was actually quite good.  She didn’t like the egg (even after I told her that in “Jiro Dreams of Sushi”, the making of the egg is a very advanced skill in the art of sushi), but everything else she felt was quite good.  A very fresh-tasting/smelling fish, nicely seasoned rice.  And that’s it.

assortment of rolls and a couple nigiri

I felt the same way with my dish – it was all very solid sushi, with a freshness that I don’t know I’ve had in Philly until spending some big bucks at Zama or Morimoto.  Maybe it’s all the turnover they have?  But it wasn’t just that – even the rice:fish ratio in the rolls/nigiri was well-done.

We left Sagami quite impressed with their fish.  Sure it’s tiny and dark and kinda-weird-that-you’re-eating-in-a-basement, but who cares if the food is good?  I’m surprised sr and ha haven’t come back for some kind of anniversary!

Oh … and did we mention … it’s BYO.  (It’s kinda moot because you have to drive there, but it’s still a nice bonus!)

Fat Salmon  September 2012, Monday Dinner, Party of 3.  So g, bw, and I chose to go to Fat Salmon after hearing about its accolade of “Best of Philly Sushi”.  We’d see about that …

deconstructed tuna dumplings

We started with “tuna dumplings”, not realizing that they were not quite “dumplings”.  It was more like an amuse bouche, but too big for a single bite (g says:  so I guess that’s not an amuse bouche …)  back to t: Touche.  The flavors were a fun mix of spicy tuna (I imagine it’s togarashi aoili and tuna) and all the flavors you’d associate with a normal dumpling and a twist of ?jalapeno?.  That said, I kind of wished we had a normal dumpling.  Call me old-fashioned, but if something’s not a dumpling, then one should refrain from calling it a “dumpling”.


rolls and nigiri (and dramatic lighting)

This time I went with the chirashi and g went with the nigiri and rolls.  Fat Salmon surely wins points for presentation – the dishes looked beautiful.  The fish looked far more attractive than they did at Sagami – the cuts were more precise and the color was more vivid (or maybe it was because we had more light?).  I buckled up and got ready for a ride … but in the end, I couldn’t quite give it the thumbs-up over Sagami – I couldn’t quite figure out why.  But then g hit in on the head: Sagami had a little edge in terms of the taste of the fish.  It’s not that Fat Salmon’s tasted bad – it wasn’t at all bad!  But there was something about Sagami’s fish that tasted a little more vivid – not “fishy”, but the salmon tasted more salmon-y, and the hamachi was more hamachi-y.  I’m not sure if it had something to do with the way the fish was stored or what day of the week we went on (Friday for Sagami vs. Monday for Fat Salmon), it fell just a little short of the Collingswood Hero.  bw appeared content with his sushi, agreeing that while not the best he’s ever had, it was respectable and a step up from local sushi joints (e.g. Tsuki Sushi).

So I guess Sagami’s the winner.  They must have figured out “good fish + good price = success” and have stuck with it ever since.  I guess the next time we visit d, we’ll have to drop on by Sagami!


Written by afterdinnersneeze

21 September 2012 at 12:13am

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