Sushi in Omaha, Nebraska? Why yes! (08/31/03)

Last updated 9/1/03                                                                                                                                                 Russian translation

After living for 3 years in the cosmopolitan, civilized, always-up-to-the-latest-fashion Bay Area, we finally tried sushi for the first time ever in the state of Nebraska, and loved every little piece of it. Now we can go back home and join the sushi crowd. Funny how travelling extends one's horizons... Are any of you faithful readers marvelling at the fact that they got sushi in Omaha? Well, there's a lot more to the town than you could possibly expect after reading a visitor's guide to Nebraska that praises the state on being "nation's largest processor of chicken eggs" and the most central state in the U.S. (Kearny, Nebraska is located at equal distance from San Francisco and Boston). It was our luck to have an old family friend living in Omaha because he was able to show us the  most unexpected treasures of the city, including, of course, the sushi. Thank you Ashley!!! Also on the list are the Strategic Air Command center, a brand-spanking-new and very beautiful Hindu temple, Warren Buffet's office, ConAgra Foods' world headquarters and lively nightlife. Read on for details (we didn't take any pictures, so here's a long story to make up for the lack of visual effects).

Speaking of nightlife -- be sure to come to Nebraska with a driver's license or your passport if you're planning on hitting the bars, they don't expect out-of-state ID cards for some incomprehensible legal reason. Out-of-state driver's license is fine though; basically, if they let you drive in their state, they also let you drink, but non-drivers better stay sober. Very strange and faintly amusing, once you get over the initial shock of being treated like a juvenile delinquent. (No, no, I'm not sore over this, honest.)

I imagine the Strategic Air Command (SAC) center to be an underground bunker with enourmous facilities to hide all of U.S. government and their grandmother from nuclear fallout, voters' rage at the state of economy, media attention to the politicians' perpetual lies, or any other such misfortune.  Of course you cannot visit the SAC or even get anywhere close, so for all I know, it might look like the abandoned place where our potential future governor Arnold tried to stop the 3d world war from happening in his latest flop "Terminator III". There is a museum of SAC history somewhere in Nebraska but we didn't go there so I have no facts to relate, just insinuations. People say that the strong military presence around Omaha creates jobs and technological advancement (broadband Internet connections are easy to come by), so I guess it's doing some good.

Besides the military, quite a few other powers reside in Omaha, mostly economical ones. Warren Buffet, the second richest man in the world after the Shah of Iran, runs his gigantic financial empire from an unimposing office building in downtown Omaha where his employees take up only 2 floors, with the rest of the facilities being occupied by a local TV station. Puneet ventured an opinion that such modesty in spending money allowed Buffet to get obscenely rich in the first place, but I suspect that wealth of his calibre is not made from pennies saved... I would be more likely to guess that Buffet either does not want to attract attention to his person and corporate operations, or has cheapskate tendencies. Omaha-based "world headquarters" of ConAgra Foods, the company that owns most brands of frozen foods, are much more impressive. According to Ashley, the concentration of a few giant corporations in Omaha brought big money to the city and created a large stratum of "new riches" who are happy to buy modern art pieces and eat sushi. We'll leave the thorny subject of art alone, but sing loud praise to sushi.

I am now a convinced believer that sushi is just about the most perfect food in the world. It is esthetically pleasing, healthy, fun to eat and very, very tasty! I found raw fish to be highly palatable, especially in combination with soy sauce, ginger slices and a little wasabi (very little! careful with the stuff, it's the sort of horseradish that can clear your sinuses with a single swift kick). This style of serving fish is called nagiri if I'm not mistaken; I haven't quite figured out the difference between nagiri and sashimi. Now, sushi looks like what you'd expect: little rolls of sticky rice, treated raw fish or other seafood, potentially some guacamole (a must in California rolls) and a seaweed wrapper. Interestingly, the rice can be either on the inside of the wrap or on the outside, and it doesn't fall off. Magic! Depending on the kind of fish in your sushi, it can taste quite differently (unless you dip it in soy sauce with wasabi, at which point all sushi taste of the sauce). We tried California rolls which represent the blandest, most unoffensive to a Westerner sort of sushi, as well as Unagi Maki (sushi with eel inside), Rainbow rolls with two types of fish of different color (tuna and salmon, I think), sashimi-style tuna and something that figures on my restaurant receipt as "NW Ahi", whatever that means. All of the dishes were simply divine. I've fallen in love with sushi and do not intend to ever fall out of it. Once again, my undying gratitude to Ashley who initiated me into sushi - oh, and eating with chopsticks, too! Ashley, do come visit us in Berkeley and we'll be sure to check out the best sushi places in the Bay Area.


No pictures -- the camera and us needed a day away from each other.