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Eels on Wheels

I've always liked school, but I especially enjoyed last Tuesday's Sushi School at Hime. The intent of these monthly food-and-sake classes is to push our palates beyond the ho-hum salmon and tuna rolls that can be found anywhere. This month's lesson was on anago, also known as conger eel. Eel is one of my faves so I was pleased that we were in for a four-course meal that featured anago baked, deep-fried, steamed and sushi-style.

"Class" was held at a table by the bar, and we even got to meet the guys that source the fish. Our syllabus, entitled "Eel 101" came complete with photos and captions educating us on how to fillet an eel--which involves spiking the eel through its eye (I have the picture to prove it), cleaning out its organs and removing the head and spine. Fortunately it wasn't a hands-on lesson, unless you count eating and drinking.


Yaki anago mizoresu                                                    Anago tempura

Anago chawan mushi                                                    Eel nigiri sampler

The first course was yaki anago mizoresu, baked anago and daikon radish served with salmon roe. The second course was anago tempura with two different salts for a flavor comparison. Anago chawan mushi was the third, and most unique, course. It was a warm Japanese egg custard topped with steamed anago with a heavy miso-flavored broth. Finally the nigiri sampler was like a wine flight; we were able to taste the difference between fresh unagi that they make in-house and store-bought unagi, among other things.

At the end of the meal, the shy but talented executive chef Kunihiro Kinda, who used to spearfish for his dinner back in Japan, came out to answer our questions. And while I thought there might be a pop-quiz or something, we all graduated with honors.

While school's not for everyone, dinner at Hime ought to be. If you go, I recommend the tuna tartare, the sashimi sampler and the freshly prepared unagi (of course).