Tuesday, September 21, 2010

I Have a Confession

I wasn’t really hungry.

It was about noon and we had just finished our walk through Old Sacramento and were headed to the Railroad Museum. Knowing the ways of men and trains, I knew that would be no half hour sprint past the giant locomotives. No. This would be an extended journey. So, I say to Chuck: “I need a snack. Right now.”

So I drew a bead on a place we had passed earlier. Since I have forgotten the name, I’ll just call it “International House of French Fries.” Here, they served up fries with “international” dipping sauces and/or toppings. An order of the Japanese fries – plain fries with a teriyaki dipping sauce – and an order of American (plain fries) for Chuck along with a deep fried hot dog. His American fries order got lost in the international translation, and he got an order of Italian fries with garlic and parmesan cheese. Both were pretty good and really filling.

So the afternoon passed, and we completed our tour of the museum. Time for an early dinner at Guy Fieri’s Tex Wasabi Rock N’ Roll Sushi B-B-Q (henceforth to be simply known as Tex’s). “Growing out of the imagination of Food Network's star Guy Fieri (“Diners, Drive-ins, & Dives”) is the whimsical melding of two disciplines, sushi and B-B-Q, and then breaking all of the rules with a California twist. Tex Wasabi’s Rock N’ Roll Sushi B-B-Q restaurant is a paradox that works! The food and the zealots who are drawn to the Santa Rosa and Sacramento, California, locations can be best typified as—rebellious!” (from the restaurant’s web page).

When we arrived at shortly after 4:00 p.m., we were really late for lunch and sort of early for Happy Hour. Therefore, we—along with four other tables—had the place to ourselves. When you walk in, you immediately see a large and attractive square bar area that was decorated with modern lighting fixtures and Japanese curios with stools along the bar and at high tops.

Displayed on one wall in the main dining room where we were seated was an elaborate Japanese garment and another wall contained a wall hanging with Tex’s logo.

The far wall contained a massive stone fireplace which seemed out of character with the restaurant’s theme. I suspect that, like Johnny Garlic’s (Guy’s other restaurant in Santa Rosa), the building had housed another restaurant.

The menu here is huge and touches multiple bases. As the name suggests, Tex’s specializes in sushi and BBQ. Not being sushi eaters, we passed by that section of the menu. Not being that hungry, we passed by the various BBQ selections that are marinated, dry rubbed and smoked for up to fourteen hours with hickory and cherry wood chips. These included Southern BBQ smoked pork ribs, half BBQ chicken, ribs-n-chicken combination, BBQ brisket platter, and a BBQ pork platter. Moving away from BBQ, you can order a New York steak with wasabi butter, bonzai beer battered cod, Cajun catfish, BBQ and sushi seared ahi tuna, and teriyaki chicken. And, there is an extensive list of sandwiches.

Not being all that hungry, we looked elsewhere. First were the appetizers that included Pork Slyders (pulled pork with BBQ sauce and slaw on potato rolls); Chipotle BBQ Pork Soft Tacos (corn tortillas with sweet and spicy chipotle pork and served with corn salsa, waka cabbage, and chipotle sour cream); Lettuce Cups (crisp lettuce cups served with seasoned chopped chicken, vegetables, peanuts, cilantro, and a citrus-ginger sauce; Eddie’s Mommy (Eda-Mame - blanched soy bean pods dusted with kosher salt; Waka Waka (Napa red and green cabbages, red onions, carrots, cilantro, peanuts, and crispy noodles tossed with a red wine-lemon vinaigrette and layered on top of crispy wonton skins; Szechwan Green Beans sautéed with house made “sambal” sauce garnished with peanuts and fresh cilantro; Garden of Good and Evil Lettuce Wrap (Korean style thinly sliced pork grilled and served with shiso, garlic, jalapenos, rice, and green onions with red chili flakes); and Tennessee BBQ’d Bologna served over fries with Carolina BBQ sauce and house BBQ sauce.

And, then there was the Gringo Sushi. Guy Fieri’s demo tape for “The Next Food Network Star” showed him preparing the Gringo Sushi Jackass Roll. (From there, he has gone on to host two shows on the network, write two books, host a network game show, and do commercials for AFLAC.) Gringo sushi choices included: the Texas Club (Cajun chicken, bacon, romaine lettuce, tomatoes, and Caesar dressing wrapped in sushi rice with tapioca paper); the Screaming Gobbler (roasted turkey, jalapenos, pepper jack, avocados, green onions, mayonnaise and sriracha mayonnaise wrapped in sushi rice and tapioca paper); the Kemosabe Roll (tapioca rice paper roll with sushi rice, BBQ beef brisket, french fries, crispy onions, and a garlic chili mayo sauce); Big Bird on Fire (tapioca rice paper roll with sushi rice, blackened chicken, french fries and a sweet chili sauce); the Jackass Roll (tapioca rice paper roll with sushi rice, avocado, BBQ pork, french fries, and a garlic chili mayo sauce; the Hidden Chicken Roll (teriyaki chicken, wrapped with avocado, mandarin oranges, crushed wontons, and lettuce in tapioca paper and served with a teriyaki dipping sauce; and Morgan’s Earthy Crunchy Roll (tapioca rice paper roll with sushi rice, crunchy tempura bits, avocado, cucumber, julienne vegetables, and daikon sprouts served with a ponzu dipping sauce).

I know what you’re thinking. “I’ve heard of fusion, but this is nuts.” The truth is, the Gringo Sushi was quite good. We chose the Jackass Roll (above) (how could I resist that name?)

and the Big Bird on Fire. I realize that, except for the rice, these bear no resemblance to authentic sushi. But they were tasty, they were fun, and they weren’t too filling.

On each plate came a small dollop of fiery wasabi and a serving of pickled ginger. The sauces, along with the wasabi (used with discretion) and ginger, supplied great flavor to augment the spicy chicken (Bird on Fire) and BBQ pork (Jackass Roll).

With the Gringo Sushi, we shared an order of the Chipotle BBQ Pork Soft Tacos. These were good with two caveats. One, I am not overly fond of soft corn tortillas. Second, the pork was a bit dry.

Time for dessert. And, yes, we had room for dessert. I couldn’t pass up the Wonton Wonderland – three flash fried wontons, dredged in cinnamon sugar with vanilla ice cream between layers. This is then topped with raspberry, white chocolate, chocolate, and caramel sauces and finished with whipped cream and dusted with powdered sugar. Nothing complicated here. All it takes is someone with creativity to merge the ingredients together.

We enjoyed our meal, but I do give an edge to Guy Fieri’s Johnny Garlic’s California Grill and give Tex’s a 4.0 Addie rating.

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