Yo! Sushi Schools The Blue Collar Foodie

As I get older there are more and more things that I miss from my youth.  Besides the fact that a hangover that used to last 2 hours, now lasts two days, and in the morning, my bones and my cereal sound like they are having a conversation as they both snap, crackle, and pop.  One such component of my youth that I never thought I would miss is oddly enough school.

I am now almost certain that time travel will not be invented during my life time, because as I just wrote that sentence, a 6 year old with a scraggly bowl cut and a 15 year old rocking JNCOs and a chain wallet didn’t just appear in a DeLorean and take turns kicking my shins.

It is not actually school that I miss, but the learning that accompanied it, because let’s be honest only like 42 people in the history of mankind actually liked high school when they were there.  This perpetual thirst for knowledge is very similar to my thirst for beer on a Thursday night, as in, it is very hard to quell.  Shut up, maybe you have a problem!

Since I still haven’t truly decided what I want to be when I “grow up”, I have yet to choose a Master’s program that I can truly torture my brain with, and so I seek education in unconventional places.  Not to mention, my current chosen path to knowledge is a hell of a lot cheaper than going to grad school.

This time around, my never ending quest for knowledge steered me in the direction of another thing I miss from my youth, The Mall!  That is right, I grew up in Northern New Jersey in the 1990’s, which means that I was a Mall Rat.  Not just any Mall Rat mind you, but a Garden State Plaza Mall Rat; GSP Represent!  Back in my day, the mall you called your home was important and any other rat from any other mall wasn’t even welcome in your hack circle.

01yosushi

Sorry, I veered off course there for a minute.  Anyway, back to my journey.  The interwebs informed me that at my former stomping ground, an eatery that I have written about once before, Yo! Sushi, was now offering a two-hour comprehensive Sushi School.  I was interested, I was intrigued, I was… concerned about the cost.  I subdued my excitement, while I clicked some links and skimmed some sites, all the while worrying that this class might be out of my price range.  Then I saw it.

Our work station for the night.

Our work station for the night.

How much is Yo! Sushi charging for this class you ask?  $30 for a single student and $49 for a pair of pupils.  This is not my first time dabbling in the dark arts of back alley cooking classes, so I know what some of them cost.  I once took a wine class in the city and even with a Groupon it cost me $45 bucks a person, and I left more sober than a 15 year old trying to buy booze with a fake ID that was made with MS Paint and an Ink Jet printer.  The how and why Yo! Sushi is pulling off this price point matters not, I only know they are, and I was in!

Here Fishy, Fishy, Fishy!

Here Fishy, Fishy, Fishy!

Here is how this class works.  Each Sushi master in training is provided their own rolling mat, gloves, recipe cards and ingredients, and a YO! Sushi head chef will walk you through the process of creating all different types of Sushi.  The syllabus includes, making sushi rice; cutting fresh fish; and mastering the best techniques for rolling maki, mini iso and hand rolls.  As the late great Billy Mays used to say, “But wait there is more!” once all dishes are completed, students will leave with their rolls, along with a recipe book, a certificate, and a special discount voucher for their next visit.  Not to mention if you are as my wife lovingly puts it, a competitive jerk, after you learn your new skills you can put them to the test against the rest of the class by participating in the Yo! Sushi Rolling Challenge.  The winner gets a $10 gift card, a spot on the in-store leader board, a shout-out on the Yo! Sushi Instagram page, and best all BRAGGIN’ RIGHTS!

Go Fish!

Go Fish!

Sounds great, right?!  I am not going to lie, I was skeptical too.  Even more so when our Sushi Chef came out to the table and introduced himself to us.  His name was Stuart, and he was definitely not from Japan.  He was actually from Scotland as we learned once he began to speak to us.  However, after about three minutes into the class we realized it was not the nationality of the chef that mattered, but the passion that he brings to the cutting board.

Say hello to Stuart internets!

Stuart; Internets   …   Internets; Stuart

Stuart not only knew his stuff, but to use an often uttered 90’s colloquialism, he had the mad phat skills to pay the bills.  As he waxed poetic about the history of not only Yo! Sushi but Sushi in general, he demonstrated an array of knife skills that would make a samurai weep.  He went on to explain how to choose the fish you use, how to prepare it, and he also shared the secrets to the most important element of any great Sushi, the mystical rice.  Within the first 15 minutes of the course, Stuart’s extensive knowledge, skills, charisma, and overall teaching method had quelled my hesitation about the class, and I was excited to get my hands dirty.

“Wisdom is not a product of schooling but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it.” -Albert Einstein

“Wisdom is not a product of schooling but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it.” -Albert Einstein

As if Stuart read my mind, he began doling out the ingredients for our first roll. Stuart guided the class through each and every step of the process, making sure that our Sushi somewhat resembled the masterpieces that he was creating.  This was no easy task, because my hands were meant for catching footballs and carrying heavy things, not for Sushi making, but somehow he made it work.

Hands off my Sushi! Get it... Cause it is a Hand Roll... Come on, everyone appreciates a Dad Joke!

Hands off my Sushi! Get it… Cause it is a Hand Roll… Come on, everyone appreciates a good Dad Joke!

Each and every type of Sushi that we created not only came with instructions but also a brief history lesson or anecdote that made the class that much more enjoyable.  Throughout the class, you could tell Stuart was not using a script from a corporate Power Point, he was simply talking to us, while he was teaching us.  He even added some war stories from the Kitchen which are always fun to hear.

Rollin' with my Homies!

Rollin’ with my Homies!

As we were jumping from Sushi type to Sushi type, Stuart stressed that this class was not simply about learning how to make the Sushi that we were preparing today but gaining a skill set that will allows us to use our imagination in the kitchen.  After the completion of this course, you could follow the recipes on the cards that Yo! Sushi provides, or you can use any ingredients you can think of to make whatever concoction your heart desires.  Once you “perfect” the art of slicin’, dicin’, and rollin’, the world of Sushi is yours to explore.

Much to learn you still have…my old padawan. … This is just the beginning! – Yoda

Much to learn you still have…my old padawan. … This is just the beginning! – Yoda

As we made our last roll, Stuart collected all of our creations and began to cut them.    As he went through the cutting procedure for each style he described the theory behind each cut.  I am not going to lie, while he was doing this, I got a serious case of knife envy.  I don’t have crappy knives mind you, but compared to the hardware Stuart was wielding, I might as well be brandishing a shiv that I fashioned out of a toothbrush.

Now that is a doggie bag!

As promised, our extremely fresh and somewhat amateurishly made Sushi was cut, boxed, and ready to go at the end of the class, thanks to Yo! Sushi and Head Chef Stuart Foster.  As we prepared to leave, we discussed the implantation of this new found culinary skill.  Imagine instead of pigs in a blanket and pizza bagels decorating your dining room table at your next gathering, an assortment of freshly made Sushi.  The best part is, you don’t have to be a master Sushi Chef to pull this off, the effort alone is going to get you plastered on every Instagram, Facebook, and Snap Chat in the house.

That is some fine ass fish!

That is some fine ass fish!

When all was said and done, Kat and I left Yo! Sushi with head full of knowledge and a bag full of Sushi, ready to put our newly acquired skills to good use.  If you are a foodie who enjoys putzing around the kitchen, this is a great way to bolster your culinary aptitude, while not spending a gill and a fin.  Furthermore, if you have someone special in your life who shares your passion for all things palatable, you would be hard pressed to find a better date night that would offer more bang for your buck.

Green Dragon Brings World Class Sushi Back To Fair Lawn

As a local restaurant slowly becomes your go to spot, it is comparable to a blossoming friendship. At first you stick to the basics, small talk is tantamount to the rudimentary menu items, but as the relationship continues, a sense of trust develops and gradually, this new friend, errrrrr… eatery can do no wrong. In other words you have rocked every item on the menu and have never been disappointed.

Sadly, much like some of your most memorable BFF’s, these local haunts relocate without notice. No matter the reason, taxes, rent, or the necessity for more space, at first you feel optimistic. What is a thirty minute drive among friends after all? Unfortunately, as many a bumper sticker from the 1980’s communicated, “Shit Happens,” and as we all know Life Happens as well. Your visits become less frequent and excuses are flung around like excrement at a monkey preserve.

Most of the time, this is where the story ends, however recently, I was able to rekindle a foodie friendship with an amazing Chef that happened to move right back into my hometown. The restaurant I am referring to is Green Dragon and the amazing culinary mind behind there cuisine is Chef Huarong Chen A.K.A. Ken. This kids is the story of How I Met Your Sushi Chef. Ba Bum Bum Bum Bum Ba Ba Ba Baaaaaaa…

One of the first places I reviewed as The Blue Collar Foodie was the amazing Six Happiness that was located on Morlot Avenue, in Fair Lawn New Jersey. One of the reasons I fell in love with this seemingly ordinary, yet extraordinary, Chinese Take-Out joint, was the addition of Chef Ken, who was churning out some of the most intriguing and remarkable Sushi I have ever eaten. We are talking NYC good people!

Ye Olde Six Happiness

Ye Olde Six Happiness

Sadly, Six Happiness went through some changes and the original staff moved to Lodi under the name of Taste of Asian, located at 122 Essex Street in Lodi, and the food at the Fair Lawn location was never the same. To add insult to injury, Chef Ken disappeared from my life for quite some time and I was forced to eat sub-par sushi like a common street vagrant. I know… I know… First world problems, but still a problem none the less.

Thinking I had tasted Chef Ken’s epic oceanic goodness for the last time, I tried to put it out of my mind. That is until I walked into Green Dragon for the first time! In my head, Chef Ken jumped over the counter in slow motion and ran towards me, Bay Watch style, as I threw chairs and tables out of my way as I ran to him even slower. As we met in the middle of the restaurant we embraced in the greatest man hug of all time, the man hug between the foodie and the long lost Chef. In all reality, we saw each other from across the restaurant, and gave each other the obligatory standard manly greeting, the nod of acknowledgement,  but that doesn’t seem like a good ending to this anecdote at all, so we will just say the first version happened and forget about the boring truth.

Green Dragon recently opened its doors at 19-01 Fair Lawn Avenue in Fair Lawn New Jersey in place of Dish Eatery. Even though it is always unfortunate to see a new-ish restaurant like Dish close its doors, I was extremely happy to see that a Sushi and Chinese Restaurant was moving back to Fair Lawn. This happiness turned to unbridled jubilation when I saw that it was Chef Ken at the helm.

I Heart Dragons of any color.

I Heart Dragons of any color.

This establishment ain’t your normal Chinese Food take-out spot though, this is a sit-down restaurant with a fair amount of tables and a pretty extensive menu. They of course have the elementary Chinese food fare that we all crave from time to time, but they also offer specialties like Duck Fried Rice, a Bento Box, and the aforementioned Sushi.

Welcome to Green Dragon, your table to waiting.

Welcome to Green Dragon, your table to waiting.

The first time I visited Green Dragon I phoned in an order for normal, everyday Chinese Food and picked it up because that is what Kat and I were craving.  However, after seeing Chef Ken behind the Sushi counter I knew we were coming back. A few short days later, Kat and I returned to Green Dragon to experience a sit down meal at this somewhat new eatery and… Spoiler alert, we were not disappointed.

When we were seated our delightful waitress brought us a couple of glasses of water as well as a portion of Crispy Chinese Noodles complete with a side of duck sauce. *Note, I scoured the internets to find what these scrumptious little fried crunchy strips of amazeballs are actually called and came up with the utterly unimaginative designation you see above.* However, whatever you call them, they are always welcome on my table and never unappreciated.

Crispy Fried Strips Of Amazeballs

Crispy Fried Strips Of Amazeballs

Kat and I then began the constantly slothful and arduous task of ordering something from a menu that is new to us. With only a small amount of hemming and hawing Kat and I were able to come up with what we thought was a solid selection. I ordered the Shrimp Teriyaki Bento Box which comes with a garden salad, shrimp shumai, haru maki, rice, and normally a California Roll, which I paid extra to bench, and replaced it with a spicy tuna. Kat decided on the Fried Tofu and invited a Peanut Avocado Roll to the party as its plus one.

The only reason I order a salad at a Chinese Restaurant is the heavenly ginger dressing that tops the roughage. With an almost paste like consistency, this dressing is what really separates this salad from that of an ordinary pizzeria salad. Simple and fresh components make up the body of this garden salad and the ginger dressing adds a much needed flair to make it worth the nod, instead of any soup on the menu.

If they bottled this stuff I would eat it for days.

If they bottled this stuff I would eat it for days.

After our salads were devoured our entrees hit the table and Kat’s looked magical. The crispy outside of the fried tofu was the perfect complement of the warm silky inside, and when paired with the tangy sauce, this dish was spot on. Not to mention the vegetables that were served with it were fresh and had a distinct bite to them, which is always a bonus when dealing with steamed vegetables.

#AnyFriedTastesBetter #Don'tJudgeMe #TofuIsHealthyRight

#AnythingFriedTastesBetter #Don’tJudgeMe #TofuIsHealthyRight

As for my Bento Box, it what everything I wanted and more. For one thing the reason why I love Bento Boxes is not only the glutenous amount of food that is provided, but the variety as well. This box was no magnificent! (TWSS) Each element that graced this dish was undeniably tastier than the last… Until of course I took a bite of something else. The only problem I had with this wonderful meal was which bite would be my last… It was the Sushi… I freaking love that stuff. In fact, as I write this I am now realizing that I have to have more tonight.  *Edit:  I did in fact go to green dragon after writing this, and it was glorious.*

Anything with the word box in it still makes me chuckle.

Anything with the word box in it still makes me chuckle.

Speaking of Sushi, Kat’s was not half bad either, I mean for being fake Sushi and not containing any seafood at all. The presentation though was beautiful and the sushi rice was cooked expertly. Take that California, we know how to eat Avocado too and we have four seasons! HA! NEW JERSEY 1 – CALIFORNIA 0

Even Fake Sushi is better than no Sushi.

Even Fake Sushi is better than no Sushi.

In case you just looked at the Food Porn and failed to read any of the words that seeped out of my brain and landed firmly on the interwebs, I highly recommend hitting up Green Dragon. Not only is it my new Sushi spot, but it is also my new Chinese Restaurant too.

Green Dragon Asian Cuisine Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato