Combination Plate

- by Michael!

On Saturday, Joanie and I got to go Hana Sushi in New Orleans, LA. Devotees of the blog will recall that our history with this restaurant is colorful, to say the least, but remember – I said we’d be back. And I meant it.

This time, we managed to eat our food slowly enough to avoid any … um … incidents. But it definitely made me think of previous adventures with sushi, which has long been one of my favorite foods.

I’d never eaten sushi until college. A friend of mine, Ashley Richardson, introduced me to this marvelous method of seafood consumption my freshman year, and it sorta became a thing for the two of us. We'd go down to a cheap sushi place maybe once a month, whenever we could afford it, and stuff our faces with delicious combinations of seafood and seaweed.

Then one semester, Ash was preparing to move away from Nashville to spend a semester as an intern in D.C. As a farewell gesture, I offered to take her out on a “friend-date” to Goten, a nice sushi place we’d always moaned about not being able to afford. I still couldn’t afford it, not really, but hey – you have to splurge every now and then, right? I mean, a whole $40 on dinner was way out of my pay-grade as a college kid, but she was one of my best friends! (Still is!)

So I found my one non-Tabasco-or-Loony-Tune-themed-tie and picked her up in my snazzy little Cavalier coupe (ooh lah lah, indeed) and headed downtown.

Right away, the atmosphere in Goten screamed “You! Kid! You with the prefabricated plastic on-campus apartment that smells like feet and imitation crab-meat! You do not belong here!” It was swank, sophisticated, and subtle, which are probably the three adjectives least used to describe college-aged Michael. (Or any other aged Michael, if I’m being completely honest.) We sat down at a cozy little table for two right near the sushi bar itself and started looking over the menu, and…


You know that thing that your heart does when it drops into your stomach?

Mine felt like it was about four inches and eight organs lower.

I mean, it looked fantastic. Everything on the menu. Out of this world good. And the cheapest thing on there was $12, and if we got two rolls each, I was in serious financial trouble. Ash, being a really good friend, noticed my distress (I didn’t say anything, of course, I’m not a completely hopeless case, but –again – not known for my subtlety) and graciously suggested that we look into splitting something, or maybe two somethings.

I nodded with too much enthusiasm and started looking through the menu for likely candidates. Almost immediately my eyes lit upon “Combination Platter ~ Seven Kinds of Sushi” – for only $18!


“Hey, Ash, let’s get this combo platter! We can get that and some dumplings and be in great shape!”

“Ok! But what kinds of sushi should we get?”

We discussed this at length, and decided to ask our server. Here was a problem, however – her grasp of English was limited to the numbers one through twenty and, apparently, the word for “dumplings.” She did confirm that we did, indeed, get seven different kinds of sushi with the combination plate, and when I asked what she recommended, she pointed at the menu so quickly that I couldn’t see what she meant.

So Ash and I shared a quick look and just picked. Being the gallant that I am, I let her pick four of our seven kinds of sushi, then chose three of my own and smiled at the waitress as she bowed and walked away.

Our dumplings came out in short order and were every bit as delectable as we expected, followed almost immediately by tuna rolls for Ashley and salmon for me. We were astonished at how much food they were bringing out – and that they were bringing us our combinations in stages! How fancy!

We did not yet leap to the fairly obvious conclusion.

Next up were the crunchy shrimp rolls that we had both ordered, and again, we were absolutely stunned by how much sushi we were getting! It was really phenomenal – for only eighteen dollars?!?

And then, when we finished our shrimp, the waitress and her cohorts brought out three more plates of sushi, along with … um … along with a fourth…

That had … seven … sigh … seven kinds of sushi on it.

This was the point at which my red flags went up. Ash’s did, also. I mean, we had already eaten a vast amount of sushi that evening, and here was enough to feed… well, enough to feed at least three more people.

We looked at each other across the table, both our eyes wide. We had put the pieces together at the same time. Due to the language barrier and a lack of common sense across the board (let’s be honest, the waitress should have had some red flags of her own), we had ordered a combination plate AND seven different types of sushi.

They needed a forklift to deliver the check to the table.

I could have wept with embarrassment as I said to Ashley, “Hon, I can not afford this. Can … can you help me out here?” Thankfully, she had her wallet as well as her sense of graciousness with her, and announced that she’d just take the leftovers (which could have populated an entire Sea World theme park, had they still been among the living) home for her father and brother to eat when they helped her move.

It still ended up being more than I could afford. I was *not* planning on a triple-digit check at the end of this particular evening. But it's given Ash and I something to laugh about for years, and is now one of my favorite memories from college.

Also, I read menus much more closely now.