By Chris LaMorte
April 12, 2005
Holy mackerel! When we cast the net for our next Reader Review Team, the Sushi Scouts, we knew we'd get a big response. But, lordy people, we didn't expect you'd describe yourselves in such, uh, raw terms.
Sushi tramps. Sushi gigolos. Sushi sluts. Yep, nearly a full 2 percent of you (we were flooded with more than 700 entries) felt one of those terms best described your relationship with raw fish. OK, we get it: You have a real fish fetish!
But pity us: Eating a pound of wasabi (which, by the way, more than one applicant claims to have done) would've been easier than narrowing the field down to just the five passionate people who'll serve as your surrogate stomachs over the coming weeks.
But we did it! The quintet below will be your personal gastronauts. They'll scope out bargains, find secret spots, and help you navigate between magnificent maki and inedible ungari. Plus, you'll have the chance to tell 'em where to go. Come back next week as they check out one of the city's quirkiest sushi spots. Until then, meet the Sushi Scouts:
The hard roller: Vinny Juan
Occupation: Collections team leader/ hip-hop MC
Favorite roll: If oysters are sensual, spider rolls must be gonzo pornography. Craziest raw food experience: I'm sure I put a lot of things in my mouth as a child (boogers, bugs, scab flakes), but the last dish that made me worry was Kitfo: Ethiopian-style raw ground beef mixed with salt and chili. Delicious.
What I bring to the table: I focus on key culinary elements: freshness, hand and knife work, harmony of flavors and presentation. I aim to share this with skittish souls scared off by sashimi, so that they can discover that sushi is damn good eats. Pass the fugu!
The bargain hunter: Julie Carlson
Neighborhood: Old Town
Sushi experience: I'm part of a self-described Sushi Sisterhood with two of my sushi-loving girlfriends.
Craziest raw food experience: Live shrimp. The eyeballs were moving and the body was twitching when I was digging a fork into the center of its body. I tried to avoid eye contact.
What I bring to the table: A good eye for value. When I go out, I want to feel like I'm getting my money's worth. I do not want to spend $15-plus on one maki roll, unless it's extremely good and loaded with lots of fresh, delicious and creative ingredients.
The omnivore: Will Lin
Occupation: Grad student
Neighborhood: Hyde Park
Sushi experience: When I hear about sushi, I transform into a drooling Homer Simpson: Mmm Wa-sa-bi
Craziest raw food experience: Eating raw beef in midst of the mad cow scare. As a scientist-in-training, I like to experiment.
What I bring to the table: While sushi hypnotizes my senses and fine motor skills, I'll provide unbiased reasons to enhance one's appreciation for sushi, sans breaking the bank. As long as you don't buy sushi from a car trunk, you can find budget-friendly restaurants that will marvel your senses.
The sometime sushi eater: Heather Carper
Occupation: Administrative assistant
Neighborhood: Albany Park
Sushi experience: I generally stick to maki and items easily recognizable/pronounceable. I don't have tons of experience with sushi, but I'm open to trying new things (but if I have to try sea urchin again I'll run screaming from the room).
Favorite sushi spot: A good man and a good sushi joint are hard to find. I haven't found "The One" yet, but I haven't given up trying.
What I bring to the table: I look for the hidden gem, someplace non-trendy and comfortable, innovative and interesting, but not so in demand I have no chance of getting in there. My goal is to increase my knowledge of sushi (and chopsticks) and learn the subtle difference between "new taste experience" and "impending severe gastro-intestinal distress." I leave you with this haiku: Man, haiku is hard/Sushi is good any time/More unagi please.
The new guy: Vinny Capozzi
Sushi experience: I'm not some sort of a sushi slut, but sushi is like sex. If it's enjoyed too often or not whole-heartedly, its value is greatly compromised.
Craziest raw food experience: Raw sausage. Nothing repulses people more than watching me shove chunks of uncooked pork in my mouth.
What I bring to the table: Being fairly new to Chicago, I've made every effort to immerse myself in the city's world of food. I have a strong ability to distinguish quality from mediocrity wrapped in fancy decor and trendy music. While no sushi expert, I'm confident I can help casual sushi eaters make sense of the scene.
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