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Raw Power, Baby, Can't Be Beat 

Let us take you on a hunt for jittery techno, glittery anime and amped-up sushi chefs

And on the fifth day, God said, "Let the water teem with living creatures..." And the next day, after God slapped together Adam and Eve, He said unto them, "Now go forth and eat sushi." Standing naked before the Almighty in the Garden of Eden, Eve turned to Adam and said, "Eat raw fish? Is He crazy?" But they did, and they saw that it was good ­ especially with a little wasabi and soy sauce. Genesis, of course, doesn't quite go that way, but we have been dining on sushi for centuries. Since the 7th century, to be exact, when the Chinese started making it as a way to preserve fish, using the natural fermentation process, and adding a little rice and salt.

By the 19th century, the Japanese had adopted sushi and it became a staple in most households. The unique delicacy soon made its way west, and somewhere along the way sushi restaurants became synonymous with techno music and all things cool, much like barbecue is equated with potbellies and guys named Bubba. And with plenty of sake at their disposal, the Japanese would also go on to introduce the rest of the world to drunken karaoke — it almost makes up for those badly dubbed Godzilla flicks.

In Charlotte, the sushi business is booming, with nearly a half-dozen new restaurants having opened in the past few years, each one offering its own particular dining experience. Sushi 101, located on Woodlawn, (a second location opened last year along Ballantyne Commons Parkway) is one of the more popular locales. The long, narrow space seats 80, including a 30-seat sushi bar. The décor includes a black floor, tables and ceiling offset by orange-yellow walls, funky artwork and blue urban light fixtures. The music is often cranked up, especially on $1 beer Tuesday's, and the sushi chefs — mostly dudes in baseball caps sporting tattoos — reflect the hip, young clientele.

One of the more established sushi restaurants, having been around for eight years, is Nikko Japanese Restaurant and Sushi Bar in South End. While the sushi has long been regarded as some of the city's best, another major drawing point is proprietor Joanna Nix, Charlotte's only female sushi chef. Usually decked out in her trademark cowboy hat, Nix is a sexy, playful host, who can often be seen toasting her customers with a sake bomb — a sinful concoction consisting of a shot of sake dropped into a glass of Japanese beer.

RuSan's Sushi and Seafood also offers a great dining experience that goes far beyond the food. I always get a kick out of watching first timers jump in shock when the rowdy sushi chefs shout out greetings and salutations as folks enter the Park Road restaurant. Often referred to as a Japanese sports bar, RuSan's has an edgy, up-tempo vibe, and is usually populated with lots of young hipsters, grooving to the cranked-up dance music or checking out the cool Japanese anime on the wall-mounted TVs. RuSan's also offers one of the most extensive menus around, with nearly 100 different sushi varieties and combinations.

And if you're still one of those people who feel that if God had intended us to eat raw fish he wouldn't have invented the deep fryer, you should know that most sushi, my culinary-challenged friend, does not require raw fish.

Sushi, which simply means "seasoned cooked rice," most often consists of various types of cooked shellfish such as crab or lobster, along with other fresh ingredients like vegetables, wrapped tightly inside sticky vinegar rice. In truth, the raw fish is called sashimi, and is served with sushi or a side of rice and a bowl of miso soup.

If you'd like to try your hand at making sushi, it's relatively easy and you can find just about everything you need at most grocery stores. There are also countless web sites like to help get you started. And of course you can always down a couple of sake bombs while you're at it. That way if the sushi doesn't come out right, you'll be too drunk to care.

Did You Know

In 1992 a 715-lb blue fin tuna sold for $83,500 in Tokyo, Japan. The tuna was reduced to 2,400 servings of sushi at $75 per serving for wealthy diners. It set a world record for the "Most Expensive Fish."

In 1997, six hundred members of the Nikopaka Festa Committee in Yoshii, Japan, made a kappamaki (cucumber roll) that was 3,279 feet long. Now that's a lot of sushi.

NOTE: Last week's photo of Graciela Nolen should have been credited to Glamour Shots, Carolina Place Mall. We regret the omission.

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