Trust Me!

Sometimes you have a meal that is more than just a nourishment for your body — it’s an experience in itself. What makes these meals special could be any combination of the following factors: the quality and deliciousness of the food, the company you eat with, the place where you eat, the person who prepared the food, or perhaps the unique circumstance and experience you have while eating.

While planning for our trip, my brother said that there was one experience he wanted to share with me on his last night in Los Angeles before moving to the East Coast for good: having sushi at a restaurant he (and many Angelinos) considered as the best in LA, a place called Sushi Nozawa. This place was known for its sushi chef, Mr. Nozawa, who had been preparing sushi for more than 40 years serving only the best he could find at the market at any given day. Mr. Nozawa was also nicknamed ‘the sushi nazi’ by some because he implemented a very strict rule of dining at his establishment. His motto was ‘trust me’ — you’re supposed to trust him to prepare the meal for you and eat your meal in the manner that he suggested as the way to consume the food (e.g. don’t ask for extra soy sauce, wasabi, etc.). And while dining at his place, you should turn off your cell phone to focus on the dining experience. But in return, you would experience among the best sushi dinner anywhere.

My brother had been there once, and hearing his description about it, I was quite excited to go for this dinner. We went to the restaurant… and found that it was closed for that night. We’re quite disappointed. As we tried to figure out an alternative, my brother remembered that there was another restaurant in Santa Monica that was similar to Sushi Nozawa as the chef was supposedly a disciple of the master chef. Thanks to Google, we were able to locate the restaurant. It’s called Sasabune.

We drove to Santa Monica and found Sasabune. As we entered the restaurant, the host mentioned that the place only served sushi omakase (‘chef’s choice), and it didn’t have dishes like california roll, tempura, or other dishes you might expect at a typical Japanese restaurant in the US. We’re okay with that, and after starting with typical green tea and miso soup, we had our sushi omakase, served a couple of pieces at a time. There were twelve courses altogether, and every single one of them came out amazing. The fish were so fresh and clean tasting; we could tell this was a first rate sushi experience. It was easily the best sushi meal I had ever had in my life.

We didn’t get a chance to eat at Nozawa, and earlier this year, Sushi Nozawa closed its doors and it’s now succeeded by a new chain run by Mr. Nozawa’s son called Sugarfish that took the Nozawa’s philosophy and quality standard to a more modern concept. But I’m glad we ended up at Sasabune that seemed to carry the same spirit and served equally high quality of meals.

I took the photo below just before we started our omakase meal. The chopstick cover had a nice description of what sushi is, and the tag line similar to Nozawa’s: trust me!

Trust me!

Coast-to-Coast Road Trip

A while ago I wrote a blog post about Route 66, based on a road trip that I did with my brother three years ago. For the next series of blog posts, I’ll write about our experience doing this ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ trip.

When my brother asked me if I would be interested in doing a road trip with him from California to New York, it didn’t take me long to say yes. I had done long road trips in the US before, including some with my brother, but the thought of doing a coast-to-coast trip across the continent sounded intriguing, and I think it would be one of those that we would remember for the rest of our lives. We wanted it to be a good, lasting memory, so we tried to be planned accordingly to make the best use of our trip time.

The main reason for the trip was my brother’s relocation from Santa Monica, CA, to New York City. He had some belongings that couldn’t be easily transported coast-to-coast without paying significant shipping cost, so he thought it would be more cost effective to rent a car for one-way trip, load it up with his belongings, and drive it across the country. Given the long distance, he didn’t want to do it alone.

Since my brother was very busy with the logistics for getting things wrapped up in California before he officially moved for good, he asked me to plan out the trip. I always enjoyed the planning aspect of the trip, so I agreed to take on the task.

The first decision we needed to make was the route we would take for this road trip. The start and end points of the trip were fixed, and we also had a time constraint. My brother had just started with his new work position, so he didn’t have much vacation time that he could take. More over, he had to be back in New York City for an event. Altogether, we had about maximum 6 days time to complete the trip. Considering the distance and safe traveling time, we pretty much had to take one of the direct routes between the two end points without much detours.

Even with the constraints above, we still had decision to make in terms of the route to take. There were several possible routes we could take that would meet the travel time criterion. I used a book by Jamie Jensen called Road Trip USA that was quite helpful in providing overview of the major routes across the country. We decided to take one that is roughly tracing the famous ‘Mother Road,’ Route 66, and then finish out with a route that was pretty familiar to me in the Midwest / Mid-Atlantic area. For the Route 66 part, there were also several books I read to learn about places along the route to decide roughly where we would stop.

Beyond the route planning, we made rough arrangements to meet some people we knew who lived in the places that we passed during this trip. But other than that, we left everything else open as we wanted to keep the trip somewhat flexible.

We ended up going around 3,300 miles over 16 states in five days. The map below shows the route and the stops that we took along the way.

Coast to coast route