Dinner for two.
G. messages me to say that she was coming for a visit and would I be available for dinner one night, and could we have Japanese food. I am always available for dinner, particularly if it gives me an excuse to go to Nishino, where I never venture alone. I head over to the university district to pick her up, and realize that it has been over a year since we last saw one another. Our friendship has been always been an intermittent one, linked mainly by our parents, who were friends at university, and now she lives in Austin. But as always conversation comes easily as we talk about when we last saw each other, and everything that has happened since.
Nishino is nearly empty when we walk in, only a few tables and seats at the sushi bar are occupied. But it appears that all the tables are booked for later, and instead we take two seats at the sushi counter. Usually I come here with my family, and my father does all the ordering. With the choices left up to me, I am lost. We start with ikura sushi, made with bright orange salmon eggs, each about the size of a pomegranate seed. I eat mine in one bite, and feel the eggs pop in my mouth, clean and fresh and a little salty. We order at random, hamachi (yellowtail tuna), kampachi (another kind of tuna), and unagi (grilled eel). We order amaebi, the big sweet shrimp whose bodies are served raw, the heads deep-fried and served on the side.
We turn our attention to the main menu and order "dynamite," a dish of sautéed scallops, geoduck, and mushrooms, covered with mayonnaise and broiled until browned. I order the grilled hamachi kama, tuna collars, lengths of bone filled with rich, fatty meat. G. has become the kind of person who takes pictures of her food, and I turn the plate to get the best angle of the crisply broiled fished arranged artfully atop the cabbage salad. The restaurant is now busy, with hopeful diners waiting patiently just inside the door, every table occupied, every seat at the counter taken. It is a Tuesday night, even, and Nishino has been around for a long time, over ten years now. I am amazed at their longevity, but at the same time, not surprised. Their food is consistently excellent, occasional new additions breathing life to a menu of favorites. For nearly fifteen years this has been one of my favorite restaurants, and its place in my heart has never wavered.
We are nearly full, but there is still dessert to consider. I had meant to head back over to Trophy and buy some cupcakes, but there wasn't time. I suggest crêpes, and G. agrees. We drive home and walk down to 611 Supreme, about ten minutes from my apartment. Inside it is quiet and dimly lit. I waver between the chocolate-mousse-filled crêpe that I usually order, or the Nutella-filled one that beckons. G. can't decide either, and at last I choose the Nutella-filled one, while she goes for la Pomme Nord, filled with fresh apples. We share our respective desserts, mine filled with the chocolate-hazelnut warmth of Nutella and the coolness of vanilla ice cream, hers bursting with crisp, cinnamon-dusted apple slices and caramel sauce and more vanilla ice cream. It is so good I want more, but I have to stop.
Somehow we wind up at QFC so G. can buy breakfast things for the rest of her visit. It occurs to me later that dinner with her always ends with us standing in the cereal aisle of QFC at 9:30 pm while she debates over Cocoa Pebbles versus Rice Krispies and pajama-clad students shuffle by with baskets of Pop-Tarts and potato chips.