To The Guy Who Flipped Out At Sagami On My Birthday

Dear Guy Who Flipped Out At Sagami On My Birthday,

How are things going? We’re doing pretty well here. Lizzie’s has her 2-year molars coming in, so that’s bothering her a bit, but otherwise she is in pretty good health. How about this winter? Glad to be seeing all that snow disappear.

Anyways, a few weeks back, Lisa and I went out to Sagami off of ‘the 130’ in Collingswood to celebrate yours truly turning the Big 4-1. We had been meaning to go to Sagami for quite some time, and we decided to make it happen. Instead of calling ahead to reserve a table, we decided to sit at the sushi bar and were able to sit down right away. After devouring our appetizers, and while we were savoring the sushi, we heard you drop an f-bomb directly at the person handling reservations. Loudly. The town of Bala Cynwyd called later and asked us to keep it down and to watch the language. The issue was over a reservation that the restaurant had clearly not honored. And then, for emphasis, you threatened legal action as you stormed out.

Listen, when a restaurant doesn’t keep your reservation, it stinks. As a notable episode of Seinfeld once addressed, it’s easy to take a reservation but the skill is in the holding of said reservation. And if I was told that there would be a two-hour wait for a table that I had reserved by calling ahead and doing the proper thing, I would be a bit put out, too. And why should there be an issue keeping reservations at Sagami? The place is dark. The ceiling is low. The decor probably hasn’t changed one iota since it opened back in the 70s, and one could probably say the same about the menu. And on that menu you won’t find any wacko tripped-out über-rolls that the kids seem to like these days.

And yet, the place is usually packed (as it was that night). The reason for that is simple: you do something well – consistently well – and the people will keep on coming. While it is true that the menu may look a bit disappointing in terms of choices, what is not disappointing is the quality of each item. We usually expect appetizers at Japanese restaurants to be, como se dice, small. But boy, were our faces ever red when our orders of gyoza, fried oysters and cold asparagus with sesame sauce came out and covered our little space at the sushi bar.  All three were excellent, and the massive oysters and perfectly tender asparagus were standout dishes.

As we waited for our sushi meals to be presented, I watched the chefs ply their trade. We have become so accustomed to scenes of frantic restaurant kitchens on TV shows that it was strikingly odd to watch Chef Shigeru Fukuyoshi and his men work at such a, dare I say, leisurely pace. But orders were moving briskly, so one can only gather that at their collective level of experience, the movements of the sushi chefs here have been honed down to just the essentials: every action is with purpose.

And then, our sushi arrived. A beautiful array of tuna, salmon, eel, giant clam, uni (sea urchin), squid and tamago (Japanese omlette) lay in front of us, and we were all too ready to devour it. Every piece was pristine. The eel was coated with just enough sauce to give it a satisfying sweetness. And the tamago…well, after you had your outburst that briefly quieted the room, we ended up chatting with the guy sitting next to us at the bar who had just ordered eel and tamago. He had traveled to Japan and said that he could not find tamago that was better than what is made at Sagami. High praise indeed.

All throughout our meal, there was a steady parade of people wanting to say hello, Konnichiwa, or Ohayo gozaimasu to Chef Shigeru, and he had a happy and friendly response to each and every one. And as we got up from our seats and prepared to leave, he gave us a warm ‘thank you’ in appreciation (which we responded to in kind). And that brought me back to you and your incident…and it’s what prompted me to write you. Having seen the people working at Sagami, I don’t think there was any intent to screw up your reservation. As much as that can suck, mistakes do occur in life that inconvenience us. But reacting in such a way as you did was not going to resolve anything. And threatening legal action? Surely we can act better towards each other than that. I’d hate to think that you would be so quick to react that way to every situation that didn’t work out.

I will end this letter with some advice; do with it what you will. If you ever decide to go back to Sagami, go say Konnichiwa to Chef Shigeru. You might also want to say Domo sumimasen as well; a little humility might go a long way.

Sagami – 37 Crescent Boulevard (Route 130), Collingswood.  856.854.9773.

Please note: image used from Sagami’s Facebook page.

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