Many recent emigrants from other cities may be surprised to learn that, 95-degree days notwithstanding, we have been enjoying a moderate pre-summer this year. I hesitate to talk about “spring.”
Any longtime Nashville resident knows that, around here, spring lasts for approximately four hours, 25 minutes and 37 seconds. Just long enough for every tree, bush and shrub to burst into full bloom and for the pollen count to soar from 0 to 1 gazillion. The spontaneous combustion that we natives jokingly refer to as “springtime” came late this year, and, for the most part, the stifling heat and the soggy humidity are staying away. What a tease, fooling us into thinking that maybe this year, it won’t be so bad.
That’s why I’m already digging through my recipe file in search of dinners that require no cooking. The file is a holdover from the seven yearsand that would include seven summersduring which Mr. Wonderful and I lived, without air-conditioning, in a lovely Victorian home in East Nashville. Those were the years when we told ourselves that all those windows would provide excellent cross-ventilation. We told ourselves that with a few well-directed fans, we’d be just fine. We also told ourselves that if we subscribed to Popular Mechanics we would surely win the Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes.
Even though we are now entering our third summer in a blissfully climate-controlled home, I still find that the sultry season requires an oven cool-down in my kitchen. So I begin experimenting with foodscold soups, entrée salads, pastas. Stove-top cooking is OK, but only for 10 minutesthe amount of time it takes to boil a pot of penne.
When we lived in the East Nashville hot house, we frequently sought relief by eating out, and, more often than not on those hot nights, we chose sushi. This was both a matter of tastein my view, sushi is just right for summertime eatingand of convenience. Restaurants were almost nonexistent in our neighborhood across the Cumberland River, but in those days Koto Sushi Bar was just a short hop over the Shelby Street Bridge.
Until less than two years ago, there were no sushi restaurants in the Belmont-Green Hills area, which is my neighborhood now. As far as I’m concerned, that’s almost as perplexing as the fact that there is still no Gap in The Mall at Green Hills.
So it’s not at all surprising that nearly since the moment Shintomi opened its doors on Bandywood, it has been packed with yellowtail fans. Several recent visits have reinforced my impression that Shintomi more than deserves its legion of fans.
When you go to an ethnic restaurant, it’s always encouraging to find ethnic people dining there. During my recent visits to Shintomi, about half the tables were occupied by Eurasian diners. On all three visits, I couldn’t help but notice a large contingent of music-bizzers and celebrities. This crowd can usually be counted on to know its sushi.
The first several pages of Shintomi’s extensive menu are in Japanese. Midway through, the text switches to English. Comparing the numbers on the two sections of the menu, it’s clear that there are differences. For instance, the Japanese version offers No.118 and No. 119 for $2.95 each, while the English version skips from No.117 to No.120. Hmmm. It might be fun to order No.118 sometime, just to see what I get.
In the meanwhile, Jan and I started with No. 175, the grilled rainbow trout, and No. 199, the chrysanthemum leaf tempura. The trout was served whole, complete with head and eyeballs, but once we got past the aesthetics, it was tasty and fun to eat with chopsticks. In fact, I think that’s how I’ll eat all my grilled fish from now on. The tempura was light and crunchy, even though we were a little disappointed that we got the chrysanthemum stalks and not the flowers. We should have read the menu more closely
Steve and I sampled the gyoza, tasty versions of the traditional pan-fried dumplings, but a little bit greasier than I prefer. We really loved No.127, gyu negima, the bulb and partial stalk of green onions wrapped in thinly sliced, marinated cooked beef. It was a big winner and is destined to become a regular choice on our future Shintomi visits.
Shintomi’s high volume of business accounts, at least in part, for the freshness of the sashimi and the sushi. Prices are certainly in line with other sushi restaurants, but Shintomi’s fish seems to be of especially high quality. Portions are generous, but we would have liked more of the pickled ginger garnish, which was very stingily doled out.
Another of Shintomi’s attractions is its menu of special rolls14 varieties listed and described on a charming little table card. The Rainbow Roll had been highly recommended and looks just like it sounds. Inside are crabstick, smelt roe and cucumber; draped colorfully over the outside are strips of tuna, yellowtail, salmon, white fillet and avocado. It makes for quite a mouthful, it’s very filling, and it’s priced right ($6.85 for six pieces). With a couple pieces of sashimi added, it would make a satisfying light meal.
The Dynamite Roll was another favoriteyellowtail, tuna, smelt roe, burdock, a little mayo, and a sinus-clearing blast of wasabi. We really liked the spicy Shintomi Roll (shrimp tempura and avocado, $5.80) and the spicy Indian Roll (boiled shrimp and avocado, $5.50). Jan was completely turned off by the visual aspects of the Spider Roll, so I got to eat the whole thingsmelt roe, avocado and fried softshell crab with the claws sticking out at odd angles.
The weirdest thing we tried was the Summertime Roll, which is fried. Is this a Southern thing? It begins as a regulation rollcrabstick, salmon, avocado, shrimp, smelt roe and white filletbut then it is dipped in tempura batter and deep-fried. It is huge, and it probably adds thousands of calories to what is otherwise a pretty healthy food choicemaybe that explains why it’s so popular in Nashville.
In addition to sashimi and sushi, Shintomi offers tempura, teriyaki, soba and udon noodles, and several intriguing options such as the Shintomi Specialgreen tea on grilled salmon, salmon roe and pickled plum.
Sounds like too much cooking to me.
Shintomi is located at 2184 Bandywood Dr. in Green Hills (386-3022). All major credit cards accepted.
Baguettes in the night
Provence, the bakery and cafe in Hillsboro Village, has announced new weekend hours for the summer: 7 a.m.-11 p.m. Fridays; 8 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturdays; and 8 a.m.-10 p.m. Sundays.