There it sits on a plate, shiny and quivery and not unlike a pile of raw sweetbreads. Intertwining sacks, bound by sinew, filled with creamy sperm. Cod sperm, to be more exact. And I'm going to eat a lot of it. Without gagging. In fact, I'm going to enjoy it.
Hamasaku, a Japanese restaurant tucked in a strip mall near the 405, has long been a power-dinner, Hollywood-player kind of place, with dozens of elaborate sushi rolls named for the stars who created them. But two months ago a new sushi chef, Yoya Takahashi, arrived and things started to change. He's the spunky guy responsible for the sperm.
Instead of signing for fish deliveries a few times a week, Takahashi and his apprentices travel downtown to Little Tokyo's fish markets every day and buy what's fresh. When they run out that day, they run out. So you'll now find barracuda and sweet shrimp and other rarities at the sushi counter — and the dedication to seasonality means that until the end of February, 'tis the season for sperm.
In Japan, it's a delicacy known as shirako — meaning “white children” (ewww…). In the United States it's called “cod milt,” which ensures people will order it without knowing what it is. And at Hamasaku, you can order it three different ways: simply poached with ponzu sauce, tempura-fried with a little yuzu kosho, or grilled atop sushi rice.
How does it taste?
Unexpectedly delicious, and I say that up front because every word I use to describe it is so spermy. The flavor is delicate, creamy, like a rich tofu or a mild monkfish liver. It has just a hint of ocean in it, and tastes almost milky. Less adventurous sperm eaters should order it as tempura: The texture of the shirako stays completely smooth inside the batter, like a mild cream cheese.
The mating season for cod is a short one, so now is the time to increase your virility (men) and embrace the aphrodisiac (women). And at only $8 for two shirako nigiri, you won't blow your load.
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