Each week, I’ll be checking out a different restaurant, bar, or other such establishment to watch the Dolphins game, so I can report back to you with the details of my experience in
bullet point format some format that will probably change every week. This week, I took my talents to Shinju in Plantation. Here’s what you missed:
Usually, I take my Dolphins Yelping to the bestest and not-so-bestest sports bars South Florida has to offer. Coming off the bye week, though—and a much-deserved gastrointestinal reprieve—I decided to use Week 7 to perform a Yelping experiment:
Would Shinju, an all-you-can-eat sushi place, allow me to sit there and eat their food for three straight hours?
There were a lot of possible outcomes to consider going into this experiment. For starters, could I even handle that much sushi? I mean, most trips to the all-you-can-eat sushi place last about 30-45 minutes, because the food is already prepared and each piece is basically one bite. (Unless you’re at one of those fancy sushi places, where you have to fill out a little slip every time you want another roll. Sure, the quality is probably better at those spots, but you also don’t get to see the looks of horror on other patrons’ faces, as you walk back to your table with an enormous pyramid of sushi on your plate.) This trip would be about 180 minutes — roughly 4-6X the length of a typical all-you-can-eat outing. There was a good possibility my stomach might explode if I didn’t pace myself correctly.
Another possibility is that they’d kick me out. I didn’t know if they were even allowed to do this, but what if they were? What if there were some unwritten rule in the all-you-can-eat handbook that stated that “in the event that a person(s) continues eating for an excessive period of time, or through the lunch-to-dinner transition, the gluttonous party shall be asked to leave the establishment and not ever come back.” It was highly unlikely that such a rule existed, but it would be such an embarrassing ordeal to have to go through if it did. Like, you’re being so fat that the people in charge of the place have to put their foot down and save you from yourself.
That lunch-to-dinner transition period is a real thing, too. A lot of all-you-can-eat sushi places close down around 3:00 p.m. to set up for the dinner menu, which tends to have better options and is usually significantly more expensive. Would they charge me the lunch price? The dinner price? Both?
It was just about 12:45 p.m. on Sunday, so it was useless worrying about all that could go wrong. It was time for the experiment to begin.
I had eaten super-healthy all week to prepare for this and played three hours of basketball in the morning, so I was essentially beginning my day at roughly -2000 calories. My body was as ready as it would ever be for the ensuing carnage.
I opened the door and walked into Shinju. There was no turning back now.
Starting Weight: 176.0 lbs
First order of business was to find out if the Dolphins game was even going to be on a TV in the restaurant. (I had planned on doing this two weekends ago, but the all-you-can-eat place I usually frequent wasn’t showing the game.) The hostess seemed confused at first, but after checking with a few of her coworkers, she smiled, nodded, brought me to a table directly in front of the biggest television in the room and pulled a remote from her pocket.
I thought about waiting until the start of the game to begin the feeding frenzy, but again, -2000 calories. I was starving.
Before kickoff, I had already finished 12 pieces of sushi and a Diet Coke. By the third play of the game — a Ryan Tannehill pick-six — my first plate was finished and a second drink was on its way. I began to realize that it was very early in the game and I had already polished off 16 pieces of sushi. One of which had a baby octopus on it. (Ed. note: Don’t ever eat that at an all-you-can-eat place.)
Clearly in need of a pacing strategy, I decided to wait till the next commercial break to fetch my second plate of sushi. I mean, I planned on eating a lot, but I also didn’t want to hit a wall too early. I’m not exactly Joey Chestnut.
A few minutes passed by and I came back with another plate. This time, I had hit the portion of the sushi bar where the pieces all have crazy sauces and crunchy things on them. This is by far the best type of sushi, but also the heaviest, so I was careful to only take 18 pieces back with me.
After devouring eight of them, I ran into my first problem of the afternoon—a fairly significant pacing issue. The aspect ratio on the TV was set wrong, so the part of the screen that shows the score—and more importantly, THE TIME—was nowhere to be found. I frantically checked my phone and found out that I had eaten 24 pieces of sushi…and we were only seven minutes into the game. RUH-ROH.
I was now legitimately worried. I didn’t want to leave too large a gap in between trips to the sushi bar, because I didn’t want the waitress to get pissed at me for loitering. I wanted it to seem like I was constantly eating for the entirety of the game. But, for obvious reasons, I also didn’t to go back for more for a while. This was a silly dilemma to have, but it was a dilemma nonetheless. And just as I was beginning to stress over it, something magical happened: the speaker system began playing a delightful Japanese melody. It was kind of difficult to place at first, but soon enough, I realized what was happening. It was someone’s birthday.
Having an underpaid, overworked wait staff half-assedly sing “Happy Birthday” to you in a dark corner of The Cheesecake Factory is awkward and embarrassing enough. Now imagine the song playing throughout the whole restaurant, with patrons all turning their heads to try and figure out where the little bowl of ice cream with the candle in it is going. On the plus side, at least the waiters and waitresses didn’t have to sing. That must be the most awful part of working in the service industry. Even worse than making $2.74 an hour.
It was 14-0 Buffalo when I finished the rest of my second plate — 34 pieces of sushi consumed at that point—and there was still 5:47 left in the first quarter. I didn’t know how many pieces of sushi that put me on pace for, but I knew how I felt at the moment and that the end result would probably be death. I found myself actively rooting for running plays and completions and anything that would keep the clock moving. Every pass that fell incomplete, every penalty that caused a stoppage, it was like the football and sushi gods conspiring to make my afternoon miserable. Whenever a player was tackled next to the sideline and the official made that windmill motion with his arm, I gave a little fist-pump. The game was barely a half an hour old and I was already rooting for the clock.
Throughout the first quarter, the waitresses were super-friendly towards me. With every refill of soda and removal of a clean plate, they’d look me right in the eyes and smile. But, by the time the second quarter started, there was a noticeable difference in their mood. They weren’t making eye contact anymore, and I noticed that two of them—my waitress and another waitress — holding little impromptu meetings against a wall near the kitchen. They kept glancing over at me, then whispering to one another. They didn’t seem mad, but they also didn’t seem happy. It was the second quarter, though, so it was time to get another plate.
This time, I opted to change things up by hitting the Chinese station for some chicken, noodles and vegetables. I do this whenever I go for all-you-can-eat sushi and I’m never not disappointed with it. The Chinese station always tastes like Chinese food you’d get at the food court. If you told me they imported the table from Cajun Grill, I’d just shrug, because of course. Really, when you eat a plate of Chinese food at an all-you-can-eat sushi place, what you’re doing is wasting space in your stomach that could be better used to store more sushi. And having said that, I know that the next time I go for all-you-can-eat sushi, I’ll find myself with a plate full of wholly underwhelming cashew chicken and dumplings.
A Dolphins touchdown and an empty plate of food later, the waitress came by to clear the table. After asking me if I’d like another refill (I did), she smiled politely and said, “Thank you.” I found this peculiar, because I didn’t do anything deserving of a thank you. Was she playing mind games on me, thanking me as if to suggest I was done? Oh, hell nah.
Within minutes, I was back at the table with my third plate of sushi, this time 13 pieces of mostly nigiri. I felt like if I was going to maximize my sushi intake, it was best to take a break from the heavy sauces. If I was going to show this waitress what was up, I was going to have to begin making some serious tactical decisions. Little did I know, she was prepared to battle, also.
There were about two minutes left in the half when I realized they weren’t refilling my soda anymore. My mouth was dry from all of the rice and salt and I had been down to just ice for a while—something that hadn’t happened all afternoon—and yet nobody was bringing a pitcher of Diet Coke to the table. A few times, the waitress even walked right next to me without so much as glancing in my direction. When she turned and walked back to the kitchen to talk to her waitress friend, I’m almost positive I saw her smile.
This little lady meant business. U AINT BOUT DIS LIFE, GIRL.
With halftime looming, I placed my chopsticks along the edge of my dirty plate and waited for the waitress to come by and clear it off. There are things you can do at an all-you-can-eat sushi place to tip the wait staff off to what you’re thinking. One of those things is to lay your chopsticks across your bowl of soy sauce to let them know that, when they come to take your plate away, you aren’t finished eating yet. Conversely, leaving your chopsticks on the empty plate lets them know you’re just about done.
All afternoon, I had placed my chopsticks on top of my eel sauce, away from my plate, to show that I still needed them. This time, with the chopsticks on the plate, though, I baited the waitress into assuming I was throwing in the towel. As she came to pick up the plate, she smiled at me and very politely asked if I was done with the chopsticks. She had already expected me to wave them away, so when I shook my head, took them back from the plate and asked for another refill of Diet Coke, she was stunned. Her facial expression changed. She wasn’t smiling anymore. She just looked shocked. I had landed an uppercut.
After that, the kitchen wall meetings began occurring more frequently. Whispering and staring and whispering some more — plotting. The two of them weren’t even hiding it anymore. At one point, a chef came out to join them. He wasn’t holding a knife, but I imagined that was the next phase of their plan.
Halftime was coming to a close and I began to feel the afternoon’s gluttony settling in my stomach. By this point, I had consumed 47 pieces of sushi, one large plate of Chinese food and probably a two-liter bottle’s worth of Diet Coke. I didn’t know if I’d make it through the rest of the game, but the waitress and I were still engaged in psychological warfare and I had one final trick up my sleeve.
As I was saying earlier, waitresses at all-you-can-eat sushi restaurants treat their job like a game of poker, constantly watching you for visual cues. And there’s no more obvious tell than a person coming back to the table with a bowl of ice cream. Once the waitress sees the ice cream trip, she knows the meal is over and she’ll immediately bring the bill and a fortune cookie.
At the start of the third quarter, I made my ice cream trip. The plan was in motion. When the waitress noticed the heaping tower of mint chocolate chip I was escorting back to my table, she grinned from ear to ear and disappeared into the kitchen. We both knew where she was going, but only one of us knew she was being set up. A few seconds later, she reappeared with my check and laid it down on the opposite end of the table. Like clockwork.
“Thank you,” she said mockingly, almost glowing, pleased with her perceived victory.
I smiled back, thanked her, and proceeded to finish my bowl of ice cream. It was time to deliver the final crushing blow.
Her guard was down, thinking she had already won the battle, so I bided my time, until she was walking into the kitchen, to make my move. Once she rounded the corner, I quickly made one last trip to the sushi bar, filling half a plate with six or seven more pieces, and was back at my table, chopsticks in hand, before any of the wait staff had noticed.
A minute or two later, she walked out from the kitchen, glanced over to check on the bill, and I watched as it hit her all at once, the realization that she had been set up, that I wasn’t done, that I had dropped a psychological bomb on her. She was shook. Her mouth was open, but she wasn’t speaking. The look on her face made reading her mind all too easy. BUT…BUT…YOU CAN’T DO THAT…THAT’S NOT FAIR…YOU HAD ICE CREAM…
There was nothing she could do now but laugh. I did my best to keep a straight face, but after finishing off five more pieces of sushi, I felt a wave of nausea and ridiculousness sweep over me, and couldn’t help but laugh, too. This game we had been playing was so, so stupid.
I decided to head out with 4:16 left in the third quarter. There was nothing left to accomplish there and watching the game through the building discomfort felt a little too much like a chore. When I walked back through the front of the restaurant to leave, there were a group of waitresses — mine, included — standing at the front counter. They giggled as I passed. I smiled and nodded before proudly stepping back out into the sun. I didn’t last the whole game, but I emerged victorious nonetheless.
Final tally: 2 hours, 15 minutes; 52 pieces of sushi, one large plate of Chinese food, one large bowl of mint chocolate chip ice cream.
Ending Weight: 182.2 lbs (+6.2 lbs)
Viewing Experience: 3/5
Total Score: 6/15