Sometimes, a Roll Is Just a Roll
The phrase “food porn” is too often abused these days by anyone who has ever seen an episode of Top Chef. I can’t tell you how many photos I’ve seen of someone’s dinner on social media outlets, with the tag “food porn.” Uh, sorry, but your grainy picture of thawed-out tilapia and rice with a sprig of parsley doesn’t qualify. Food porn needs to be a little decadent and adventurous. You should feel naughty for having eaten it.
The heart attack on bread from La Media Naranja (961 W. Magnolia Ave.) I wrote about a few weeks back: That’s sexy. The Maine diver scallops, with a caviar butter sauce I had at Grace (777 Main St.): Bow chicka wow wow.
But the sexiest meal I’ve eaten in a long time has to be my recent dinner at Little Lilly Sushi (6100 Camp Bowie Blvd.). The space until recently was occupied by Hui Chuan Sushi, Sake & Tapas and looks almost exactly the same, down to a few holdover staffers. I have a love-hate relationship with sushi. I adore the food, but not the sameness of the menus in most of the restaurants. It’s time to move on from the California roll and soy-wasabi-dipped yawn rolls.
Then there’s Little Lilly.
Just as with sex, creativity, daring, and attention to detail can be thrilling in the food arena. And Little Lilly has those things in spades. The whole menu is based on whichever sea creature is available fresh. Guests are greeted by whole fish in a basket at the entrance. (Here we depart from our analogy: “Dead fish” is not a compliment in lovemaking, but that basket was exciting in its very weirdness.)
Chef Jesus Garcia welcomed my guest and me from behind the L-shaped sushi bar on a recent weekend visit. As an ex-pat of Shinjuku Station (711 W. Magnolia Ave.), Piranha’s Killer Sushi (335 W. 3rd St.), and a few other sushi spots, he knows his way around a bento box. Lilly’s doesn’t offer the usual sushi boat; instead, Garcia asked us how much we wanted to spend and eat ($55 for both), and the fish came flying.
The first morsels we put into our mouths were sea urchin served on lemon wedges, reminiscent of oysters on the half shell. The lemon cut the fat of the sea critter beautifully, creating a rich, slightly sweet flavor. The rest of our first course was a sashimi medley, including tuna, swordfish, and octopus, along with delicious pickled eggplant.
The man knows how to roll too. Our next course was a roll of big-eye tuna, avocado, and mint, topped with snapper belly and jalapeño-infused roe. My God, that was pure sex on rice. Garcia then presented us with fried fish bones with some meat still on them — the sushi version of a rib plate. It required a little work to find the cheek meat — the best part — but the payoff was excellent. The meat was so tender I could have spread it on a cracker.
We finished off our meal in a grand way: roe soaked in dashi (the stock that forms the base of miso soup) and sake, topped with a raw quail egg. If Japanese food porn has a star performer, it’s that buttery dish. The flavor pops with every bite.
I’m calling for a moratorium on the term until everyone who wants to use it has tried Little Lilly. In a ho-hum sushi scene, Little Lilly is a porn star.
Contact Chow, Baby at firstname.lastname@example.org