You don't have to be a nuclear physicist or fighter jet pilot to go sake bombing. Just sit down to a nice sushi dinner, pour yourself a little Kirin beer, set your chopsticks on top of the mug, place a shot of sake on top, let it drop, and slam the concoction so fast that you don't taste it. Simple enough.
So recently, I set out to do a few. My hypothesis was this: Sake-bomb oblivion is not the same as getting shitfaced. Getting shitfaced is the way guys release the stress of a 50-hour workweek. Getting shitfaced is the way that girls forget their strapless tank is riding high atop their love handles. The cardboard cutouts standing 60 souls thick outside of Tarpon Bend get shitfaced.
I was going to get inebriated.
So a few weeks ago, I pulled a crew together with the mission of moving partying one inch up on the brow. I went to Sushi Rock Café (1515 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale) with two friends about 9 p.m. We'd have a few rolls, a few sake bombs, and enjoy one another's conversation as increasing blood-alcohol levels roseyed our cheeks.
We squeezed past the bar, which was packed with middle-aged businessmen drinking milk-colored shots of unfiltered sake, to our table in the back. The orangey Tom Jones album cover on the wall next to our table put the "rock" in Sushi Rock, I guess.
Within three minutes, we had three Kirin Lagers and a bottle of Sho Chiko Bai sake in front of us. One of my companions was an experienced bomber, so we followed his lead. He set up his shot, then put his hands together in the manner of pious Catholic children and bowed his head to the table, as if channeling the cosmic energy to throw the chopsticks asunder and drop the bomb.
When the shots clinked in the mugs, we grabbed our drinks and chugged them in five seconds. The fluid slopped over the brim and ran down our chins and onto our clothes. We choked. We laughed. The aftereffect in the nasal passage was so strong that our eyes watered.
But in less than two minutes, we had another round set up and ready to drop.
By the time the food arrived, we'd downed three. The waitress whirled past in a blur of eyes and teeth, chirping pleasantries. We picked at our dinner. It was difficult to eat with all that booze churning in our bellies, so we set up one last bomb instead. Splash. Clink. Guzzle. We sat in a drunken haze until... boom! The monstrous bill arrived.
We contemplated sneaking off to the bathroom one at a time but thought better of it. So it was with thinner wallets that we stumbled out onto Las Olas in no better condition than the Bud-guzzling Himmarshee set. So much for my highfalutin anthropological aspirations; when it came down to it, all we'd done was get wasted. The rest of the evening passed in a blur.
But I didn't surrender. Watching the drink demolish my friends didn't deter me from believing that this sit-down-and-chug drink could establish a more polite camaraderie than standard bar-top drinking. I wanted to see how it would work on strangers.
So at 9:30 this past Saturday night, I arrived -- with a female friend in tow -- on the A1A strip near Sushi You (235 S. Atlantic Blvd., Fort Lauderdale) to round up some subjects before the restaurant closed at 11 p.m. Little did we know at the time how difficult this task would be. It seems that men are intimidated by a couple of bold women with a little cash to throw around. The first stop in our search was obvious: the Elbo Room. As we stood in the center of the room scanning muscular men for ideal candidates, a meathead named Jake came out of the shadows and offered to buy us a couple of beers. Stumped by our ambivalent stammering, the bald man's eyes opened wide when I intimated that he should let us buy him a couple of drinks called sake bombs.
Over the blasting rock music, he yelled, "It's OK if you don't want beer, but you don't have to call me ugly." Considering his aggression -- in addition to his stalky muscular build, torn sleeves, and tattooed biceps -- I was beginning to have second thoughts about walking with him through the alley to the quiet sushi joint. Still, I thought, it might be interesting. We waited for a couple of minutes while Jake went to get money from the ATM in the corner but then noticed that he was sitting at the bar with his arm around a bleached blond.
The search continued elsewhere. Passing hordes of ineligible 15-year-olds, we made our way to Beach Place. We walked up through the booby-eyed owl's home to the entryway of Sloppy Joe's, but there were no stray fellas. Back on the ground floor, two youngish men with gel-styled hair in white button-downs were pacing aimlessly.
"Excuse me," I said loudly as I walked up behind them.
They stopped and turned, and we explained our proposition.
Chris, a blond with spiky hair, found it improbable: "So we go with you to this restaurant and then you're going to buy us drinks. And what's the catch?"
No catch; we just want to watch you drop some sake bombs.
Rather presumptuously, Chris said, "If you guys are messing with us, this is the best pickup line I've ever heard."
Finally, after much ado about the gender-role bending, his friend, Reggie, an incredulous six-foot-tall brunet man, looked around nervously and said, "Hang on to your wallet."
And about 11:15, we scooted our sober asses over to Sushi You.
Upon arrival, Chris and Reggie scanned the small restaurant for cameras and sat down. "This is the weirdest thing that's ever happened to me," Chris said. Reggie gave us suspicious glances.
Sue, the matronly part-owner, wearing a festive rainbow-colored tank top and a warm broad smile, promised that she would lead us in a round of sake bombing -- clever girl that I am, I feigned ignorance on the subject to ascertain whether the peeps at Sushi You had a distinctive bombing style.
Sue poured the lager into four mugs, set our chopsticks on the brims, and placed sake shots on top of them. Then, despite the intimate atmosphere in the six-table restaurant, she started pounding the tables with her fists and yelled "Banzai!" Confusion ensued, the bombs dropped, and frenetically we all reached for our drinks and chugged.
I was dripping beer from chin to lap, but our amateur bombers were grinning with dry lips. My befuddled female companion said, "Bonsai? I thought that was a tree," then giggled with her tongue between her teeth as Reggie cast her amorous glances.
Without blinking, Sue set up another round for us, and this time we were all pounding and yelling "Banzai!" Chris and Reggie warmed up to the idea of a female-funded brouhaha and grew quite talkative.
They both, we learned, are upstanding Cuban boys with American accents who appropriately enough sell Japanese tools for a living.
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We set up the third shot on our own, ten minutes after the first one, and downed it with zest. But it just wasn't the same without Sue, so I summoned her back for the fourth and final bomb, and the round concluded as every hot Lauderdale summer night should: perfect strangers getting loud and drunk on the A1A strip.
After the restaurant closed, we stood outside talking to Chris and Reggie, wondering whether they felt that distinctively female obligation to linger and chat only because we'd bought them drinks. Like most men who throw alcohol at women in bars, we'll never know the answer to that question. But, more important, I had learned the secret of the sake bomb: We weren't shitfaced this time, and the drink had proven to be a potent icebreaker.
As we parted ways, Reggie said, "We should do this again. You guys are fun to drink with."
Fun to drink with? Hello, I would think so! Who did you think we were? Fucking City Link?