HE’S got a glint in his eye and a knife in his hand. Gerrie. Gerrie de Beer. Sushi master. Not just any sushi master. Gerrie is sushi slicer supremo of Kakamas.
This is correct. Kakamas. A town of the small, quiet variety in the Northern Cape. Think Upington. Orange River. Meerkats and barbel.
Did I say “barbel” or is Gerrie just waving the knife in my direction to show me the honed steel and razor edge of a Japanese hara-kiri instrument? Because one thing we are not going to joke about is Gerrie’s sushi, which sure as hell ain’t made from some brutish barbel plucked from the murky depths of the Orange River. We are talking real fish for this sushi. Flown from Cape Town to Upington every second day before hastily transported to the Kalahari Gateway Hotel, where Gerrie’s sushi bar sits in the sprawling dining room.
I’m travelling with Jeanie T, a blonde of the sushi-loving variety, as most blondes tend to be these days. We sit next to the rotating sushi counter, which is situated under a couple of stylish cheap multi-coloured paper,lamps hanging from the roof. We pick-up the menus welcoming us to Kalahari Sushi. I mention tuna prices, Japanese knife names, geisha kimonos and other,chink specialities. Let the guy know we mean business. We know the gig around a sushi bar.
But Gerrie, he’s not baulking. He gives us the once over, lifts his knife and starts slicing. I order a bottle of Colombard from the Oranjerivier Wine Cellars and watch the kid working. His got flexible palms, nimble fingers. Cuts wafer-thin slices of yellow-fin tuna. Deftly skins an orange fillet of fresh salmon. Desiccates a plump avo.
Hey, but can this kid work a bamboo sushi mat or what? In goes the white rice. Spreads out the wasabi. Whacks in the avocado and the fish. Folds the mat. Rolls it firmly, quickly. He’s got great hands, and Jeanie T is licking her lips.
The rotating counter is switched on and gets going. And Gerrie starts piling on the plates. And it’s all there: salmon roses with proper Japanese mayo and caviar; ice white California rolls; perfectly formed Nigiri with salmon and prawn. Dig the rainbow and dragon rolls. Fashion sandwich and spicy rolls, coated with an orange crust of umami heaven.
We load the bowls with soya, snap chopsticks and fill glasses. And get eating.
The fish is sparkling fresh and clean and melts in the mouth. The rice is perfectly textured with just the right zing of sweet-sourness. This is sushi. In Kakamas.
Gerrie is watching as we pick, dunk and devour. He has that real Zen look of satisfaction, Gerrie does.
“How are the locals getting in on the sushi act?” I ask through a mouthful of cucumber-encased bamboo roll. He gives Jeanie T an eye.
“The ladies like sushi,” Gerrie says. “And they are teaching the men that raw fish is not all that bad.”
But just for the hell if it, Gerrie is going to be introducing some sushi items with game carpaccio once the Northern Cape hunting season gets going.
The spicy roll is a killer with a fierce kick leading into the taste of avocado and salmon and rice.
Gerrie is happy that we are happy, and we’ve had too much so he can start cleaning his knife and he shuts off the rotating sushi counter, shipped in all the way from Hermanus.
Afternoon in Kakamas with a belly full of sushi and wine. Life is good. We’ve got to get going. And so does Gerrie ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ he’s on duty in the bottle store this afternoon.