I’ve been away on and off for the last few weeks, hence the sporadic blogging, but I’m finally back, hungry and ready for (culinary) action. And during these recent weeks, I have mostly been craving rice and raw fish. Given that my experience of sushi in this particular corner of the planet has, to date, not been particularly positive, I find this is a problematic craving to have: from the tasty but generally mediocre rolls and nigiri at Sakura Sushi (even if they do float round the bar on a flotilla of tiny ships) to the downright offensive at Nordsee (what was I thinking?), I have been thus far been extremely disappointed. I can’t claim to be any kind of a sushi expert: despite Japan having been #1 on my travel list for as long as I can remember, I’ve never actually been; however I have been treated to some incredible sushi in London and let’s face it, it doesn’t take a genius to know if a plate of food is good and fresh. So, despite past local experience lending an air of weighty trepidation to my sushi hunt, I’m not one to ignore a food craving: sushi-hunting I went.
My first stop was Jing Jing Sushi Bar at Frankfurt Flughafen Fernbahnhof, which I happened upon whilst changing trains on my way to London in September. I find it incredibly hard to find anything to eat on the go in Germany (see: wheat intolerance) and therefore, despite the fact that the enormous restaurant was largely empty, I wandered in to see what I could find. The staff were incredibly friendly and, having picked my box of sashimi and sushi rolls (below) from the counter, it was garnished and tied very neatly into a bag to take away. It was a huge portion but a good selection of vegetarian, fish and crab rolls, fish and octopus nigiri and chicken katsu rolls, and I must say it was all quite tasty – even if I’ve since discovered they do lunchtime all-you-can-eat sushi buffet, which has put me right off going back again. But I suppose if you’re passing through the Fernbahnhof and need a light bite on your way through, I wouldn’t, well, not recommend it: Jing Jing’s sushi box is alright.
Somewhat overexcited by this find, on my return to Wiesbaden a week later I made a terrible, terrible mistake. I arrived home very late on a Sunday evening with no time to prepare my lunch for work the next day and thus in a moment of wild, sleep-deprived panic the following morning, I grabbed a Matsu Sushi Box “Nakano” from my local Rewe City. Well, I suppose if I can warn just one person off ever doing the same, I suppose the hellish experience of my eating the contents of that box may have been worth it. Gloopy rice; slimy, flaccid fish; tasteless ginger; and a sachet of wasabi that looked like something you’d squeeze out of an infected, radioactive wound: I can barely bring myself to look at the photo I took (below)(and how depressing a lunch photo is that anyway – inedible sushi at my desk?!), let alone write any more about it.
Happily, phase I of my sushi hunt came to a pleasing conclusion thanks to my lovely friend Z, who invited me out for an after-work bite to eat at Buddhas in Mainz. I’d never heard of the place and, as a blank white, rather uninviting-looking building tucked down Kleine Langgasse, I had probably walked past it a hundred times without even realising it was there. Inside, Buddhas is much more friendly yet modern and simple, with white walls, great heavy wooden tables and even greater, heavier stools for sitting on; it’s all considerably less glamorous and shiny than it looks on their website, but you can see they put a bit of thought into decorating the place and I suppose it’s probably just a bit worn.
The minor negatives first: Buddhas plays some pretty terrible music, though thankfully at a very low level; and there’s an smoking sign on the front door, nobody lit up whilst we were there and actually, it didn’t smell much like anybody ever does. These two things only point, however, to Buddhas being a friendly and relaxed sort of a restaurant, and what probably matters more is that the two chaps waiting the steadily-filling tables provided excellent service: prompt, smiley and unobtrusive.
Z ordered a medium sushi box (12,90€) with an extra scallop nigiri (Hotategai Nigiri, 2 pieces for 4,90€) and I got confused looking at so many pictures of raw fish and rice and ended up choosing a random selection of rolls and nigiri (shown above). Our food turned up very carefully presented on large, dark, square plates and we both got stuck in, sipping all the while from large mugs of very hot jasmin tea (1,40€). I will admit I was unimpressed by my rather flavourless salmon nigiri (Shake nigiri, 2 pieces for 3,30€) but my sushi rolls were tasty (4 for 4,10€) and the eel nigiri (Unagi Nigiri, 2 pieces for 4,90€) was extremely moreish indeed.
Z finished off her meal with Daifuku Yomogi Mochi (above, 4,50€), two little glutinous rice cakes filled with red bean paste that came neatly quartered and covered in coconut sauce. They were polished off pretty swiftly, which rather speaks for itself. Nice one, Buddhas.
I wouldn’t say that Phase I of my Rhein Main sushi search came to an end because I had satisfied my cravings, rather that I sort of ran out of steam. However, I did learn two important things from my small exploration: firstly, and most importantly of all, to never, ever again buy sushi from a German supermarket; but also to not completely give up hope. So, if anybody has any recommendations for places to find good, fresh sushi in this area I would sincerely love to hear them, because when my cravings resurface, I’ll be raring to embark on Sushi Hunt Phase II.
Jing Jing Asia: Atrium Ebene 5 West Fernbahnhof, The Square am Flughafen
Natsu Sushi, Rewe (at your own risk)
Buddhas Bar | Sushi: Kleine Langgasse 2, 55116 MainzRewe Matsu Sushi Box