My wife has taken a fancy to Fini’s Sicilian style pizzas and we’ve been there twice in recent days.This preference, of course, is expressing itself right in the height of the Antico pizza craze. Fini’s is just world’s closer, and it’s a place the family knows.  Drive to Highway 29, head up Lawrenceville Highway to Lawrenceville-Suwanee Road, turn left and eventually, Fini’s is on your right. Couldn’t be simpler.

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Fini's Sicilian slice. Crisp bottom, chewy crust, and delicious.

On one Sunday we tried to go to Fini’s and it was closed, so turning around the choices in the car were Umaido or Haru Ichiban. Haru ended up winning, and we went there. The menu at Haru Ichiban has changed since my last review. Robata grill items have been added, the special tuna combination is gone. It was a quiet Sunday and we were the last serious table to arrive. My daughter and my wife ordered udon. I ordered miso cod and grilled pike mackerel and my mother-in-law ordered salmon of some kind. We had chirashi sushi as a side. My mother-in-law’s chopsticks (back sides of them, as in FB’s cartoon) were in the chirashi routinely. Her comment, over and over again, was “oishii.”

chiraishi sushi from Haru Ichiban.

chirashi sushi from Haru Ichiban.

By the time our fish dishes were on the table, the salmon was gone, to be replaced with pike mackerel and my dish was given to my mother-in-law. We were half way through the fish before either of us noticed. We must have been hungry. I got a piece of the miso cod before it completely went away and it was the best thing I had that day, melt in your mouth tender, miso flavor permeating the fish. The pike was good, though the white flesh along the back and sides was the best part of the animal.

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nabekayi udon, in an iron pot.

grilled pike mackerel, or pacific saury. sanma in Japanese, kongchi in Korean.

grilled pike mackerel, or pacific saury; sanma in Japanese, kongchi in Korean.

Grilled foods. Miso cod and pike mackerel

Grilled foods. Miso cod and pike mackerel

I dropped by Buford Highway Farmer’s Market recently to look for Sichuan peppercorns and found, to my surprise, green mangos. I tried to call my wife but that didn’t work. I went ahead and bought a few. I knew she’d find a use for them. As for the Sichuan peppercorns, it looks as if they call them “red pepper corn” in BHFM, and they are currently on the lowest shelf in the Chinese section of the market, reasonably near the black and white peppers. So a question: I bought a pepper mill, to grind the Sichuan peppercorns. Is that how this spice is used?

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Green mangos and Sichuan peppercorns.

My copy of “Izakaya: the Japanese Pub Cookbook” has arrived. I’ve only had a chance to glance at it, not really read it thoroughly. The izakaya scene in Japan, and for that matter, in Los Angeles (also here) and New York, is remarkably diverse and trying to categorise the izakaya as a single thing or a single model, as some people have done, is a bit like saying there can only be one kind of pub. When the izakaya can go from vast commercial chains to three story Western influenced institutions to settings hardly more robust than a roadside stand, hardly anything epitomizes the izakaya “model”. I think the spirit of an izakaya can be captured, though, and thinking about it, I’m guessing that’s what Bill Addison meant in his recent Atlanta magazine review of Shoya. The spirit of the izakaya is what Mark Robinson is trying to illuminate in his tour guide of saki house foods.

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