Collingswood's Sagami was a sushi pioneer, and after 42 years it remains one of the local gold standards for pristine fish cut with precision and tradition in mind.

Of course, that longevity is thanks to master chef-owner Shigeru Fukuyoshi, now 70 and lightly stooped, who brings to mind Tolkien's Gollum as he works behind the sushi bar - albeit with a far brighter sense of humor and a very sharp knife.

One of my favorite dishes, however, doesn't involve fish at all, but eggplant. Nasu Shigiyaki is part of the canon of various Japanese eggplant appetizers, usually glazed in miso, and sometimes filled with poultry (shigiyaki means "grilled snipe").

Sagami's is the latter.

Thick slices of plump Italian-style eggplants serve as the base, tender inside from a light pan-fry on either side. The top is then layered with a minced chicken gravy that's almost like a Japanese chili, but sweetened with red miso deepened by the deep-sea umami of dashi.

- Craig LaBan
Nasu shigiyaki ($13), Sagami, 37 W. Crescent Blvd., Collingswood, 856-854-9773.