Someone, somewhere – I can’t remember whom nor can I find the quote – once said that our lives are like novels, and while we may experience them intensely in the moment, as time passes we just remember flashes of characters and events and scenes. This depressed me when I first heard it, but ultimately forgetting is as much of a survival mechanism as anything else, for individuals as much as for cultures: those who remain bogged down in the past, whether past successes or previous traumas, can never live in the long now. Like certain medical conditions, perfect memory is less fun than it’s cracked up to be.
I was thinking about this the other day: I was walking down Pitt Street in the city and for reasons known only to my subconscious I was reminded of a story I’d been made to read by a teacher when I was no more than seven. In an early feint towards official multiculturalism, it told the story of a girl who’s invited to dinner at her Japanese friend’s house, has no idea what she’s eating but loves every bite, and has her mind both blown and broadened when she finds out it was octopus!
Well, fast forward three decades, the novel life of the Prick is no longer set in Manhattan but Sydney, and here we are with three boys aged 5, 7, and 10 fighting over the last bit of takoyaki – deep-fried octopus balls – at our new favourite neighbourhood Japanese, Higashi. Octopus? Exotic? Forget it, Dad, bring on the sea urchin and fugu!
Every suburb should have a restaurant like Higashi, and our only disappointment is that it took us two years to discover the place. For a while we had been going to Sushi Bar Rashai, but found it dingy – dingier than a sushi restaurant should be, though perhaps its location nestled amongst the brothels and bridal boutiques of Parramatta Road should be taken into account – to say nothing of startlingly pricey for what we got.
Higashi is another kettle of fish – or should I say slab of sashimi? – entirely. We teed off with some starters, learning quickly that the chef in that big open kitchen has a deft touch with the deep fryer. The aforementioned takoyaki, sprinkled liberally with bonito flakes, were pure umami in the best way. Fried calamari wee light, clean, and most of all, tender. Gyoza, served with a gently sweet and spicy dressing, were simple joys.
Mrs Prick didn’t feel like sushi, so went the chicken katsu and udon noodles, which were served in a broth that was as subtle as it was multi-layered, a far cry and an unexpected but nice change from the heavy-hitting tonkotsu broths one normally encounters.
Oh, and did I mention sushi? The Little Pricks and myself ordered two of the twenty-piece planks to start and came back for more. Again, the light touch, the balance: these were not the massive nigiri one too often receives in restaurants, a product of (sorry to say) the Americanisation of sushi where everything is up-sized and each piece is a negotiation. Each morsel fit the rule that it should be small enough to be consumed easily in one bite, without a fist-sized ball of rice to get in the way. Most were raw, but many were gently torched and dressed with a bit of sauce and roe. Lovely.
Almost as lovely, in fact, as the bill, which without tempting the owners into raising prices, was very affordable indeed. If they were to change anything, the Prick would like to see Higashi get a beer and wine license: the green tea was lovely, but as summer approaches a cool glass of otokoyama would be lovelier. One hopes the authorities responsible don’t knock them back for fear of over-served patrons masu-ing one another.