I have a tip for hosts and hostesses at more “upscale” restaurants (meaning Applebee’s and Cracker Barrel employees can stop reading now). When it comes to seating, if a well-dressed (little black Calvin Klein dress, flat fronts and long sleeve crisp cotton) couple comes in with a reservation, seat them close. Chances are it’s a date.
Many eateries embrace the “bench-twofer” architecture; one long plush, continuous bench hugging an entire wall with one chair placed at the opposite side of tiny table (rectangular yet, less elbow room but packs them in). A space saver and certainly doable for a friendly night out or first date while computing boundaries, but in a mostly empty dining room at 7:30 p.m. on a Tuesday night we felt far apart. We like to sit close. Yes we are that couple that sits on the same side of the booth or catty corner at a four top. We share food, we hold hands. Yes we are that couple, especially when out for a lovely and lingering evening, bottle of wine and bill (most likely) in triple digits. A couple who came in after was seated at a four top. Asked our accommodating server if we could do the same, and they obliged (oddly enough, 15 minutes or so later a group of four young ladies moved from a too large for proper chat half moon booth as well).
Read your client, use your room.
Because Sushi Sasa you had me at hello. Sushi is a favorite, and sushi done right a near religious experience. Sasa has a local cult following and deservedly so. Fresh ingredients, inspired rolls and an impressive wine list. Our server recommended a Bieler Pere et Fils Rose' (50% Syrah, 30% Grenache, 20% CabSaiv). Strawberry and watermelon in a dry, slightly acidic blush, it paired perfectly with the sweet and delicate Ochazuke starter (green tea broth rice soup with pickles, seaweed and crispy baked konbu cured salmon). Less soup and more comfort food, it's good all the way down to your belly and into your toes, like the feeling after a slow and wonderful kiss.
We ate through the Fire Fry Roll (spicy tuna and shrimp tempura), basic flavors and humble middle child of a night that included the Salmon Tartare (creamy salmon, Japanese mayo, capers, black pepper, avocado, tobiko and sturgeon caviar). The caviar was an exquisite, wonderful popping finish to creamy texture, caper bite and peppery touches. Last the Poki Hama, a Hawaiian style roll (chopped yellowtail, cucumber, toasted pine nuts, granny smith apple, kaiware sprouts, soy based poki sauce, wasabi tobiko and kochijan sauce.) Never had it before, want it again. Salty (more so than expected but no overly so), with a sweet crunch of apple and cucumber and friendly melding of sauces.
When the kitchen prepared Smoked Salmon sashimi instead of the traditional (and requested) sushi, our server happily brought a second order on the house. Both were divine. It’s a personal quest to find good–no great–smoked salmon; at worst it can be overpowering, like liquid smoke from a bottle. But Sasa’s is firm fleshed, buttery under your teeth and leaves just a breeze of smoke in the back of the throat. I declare it the best.