A sushi date is becoming my new litmus test for the women I go out with. There is no better predictor of how people will be in long-term relationships than how they act vis-à vis sushi. Mind you, I don't consider myself an expert. I mean, I've had great omakase tasting menus in New York and L.A.; I saw Jiro Dreams of Sushi a bunch and liked its Facebook page. But I've never had a sushi meal and said, "Wait a sec, this isn't red snapper, it's tilapia," even though around 80 percent of New York's sushi restaurants pull this bait and switch.
But I digress. Sushi is specific in that there is ritual involved, and how much or how little your dates adhere to these rituals will determine what they will be like in the long run.
1. Good in bed?
When ordering an omakase, you have to trust the chef to serve you whatever is freshest. Is your date up for trying new things? This is a great test to see how controlling the person will be in the relationship. If you say, "There's no menu, you just eat what they bring you," and she freaks out, guess what, she's probably rigid and routine in other places as well. (Hope you love missionary!)
2. Likes adventure?
When the chef pulls out a sea monster, will your date wince in fear, or say, "Bring on the challenge!"? You can bet that if she takes on the creature of the deep, she'll be down for whatever. However, not eating fermented whale guts isn't necessarily a deal breaker. Actually, that's probably the girl you want to marry.
3. Will mom approve?
Sushi is as much about respect as it is about the food. Your sushi chef is not a waiter, he or she (that's right, one of the best sushi chefs at Sushi Park in L.A. is a woman) is a conductor who should be treated with respect. Mind you, my version of respect is usually to awkwardly bow with my hands in prayer when something is served. If your date isn't respectful to the chef, she's definitely picking up the phone in the movie theater, texting when ordering at the coffee shop and telling someone to go back to his or her own country at least once a year.
4. Too good for you?
I'm obsessed with food. But for the life of me, I have no clue what I'm supposed to do when I walk into a sushi restaurant and get yelled at in Japanese by a gang of stone-faced chefs with sharp knives in their hands. I usually just do my stupid bow and get on with it. Sometimes I yell something unintelligible back—definitely more inappropriate. A person's reaction to the yell is a fun Rorschach test. Does your date freak out? It's forgivable. Sometimes you forget it's coming and jump in shock, at which point I'm sure the chefs whisper the Japanese equivalent of "stupid gringo" to each other. Does your date yell something back in Japanese that impresses the chefs? In that case, walk away. She's way smarter and cooler than you, and you'll always feel inadequate. Does your date yell something back like "Hey! We're in America!! English!!" Well, then you found a keeper.
5. The one?
High-end sushi is an art. There's a time and a place for Frat Boy Sushi: rolls with names that sound more like an Axe Body Spray scent than food (I'm looking at you, Dragon Dynamite Testosterone Genocide Roll). But at an expert sushi meal, if the chef hands you dish, says "No soy sauce, just let me cough on it," then coughs on my nigiri? I'm eating that. So if she asks for a side of "crunchies" or "eel sauce" or "spicy mayo" as soon as she sits down you'll know two things: 1. She's probably from Long Island or Jersey; 2. There won't be another date unless you want to wear hip packs on your honeymoon.