Archive for the 'Japanese' Category

Zenbu

January 3, 2007
Cuisine: Japanese, Sushi

7660 Fay Avenue, Ste. 1
La Jolla, CA 92037

Phone: 858-454-4540
Website: http://zenbusushi.com

Tuna Nigiri (left), Yellowtail Nigiri (middle), Cucumber and Seaweed Salad (right)

Toro with Octopus and Caviar

Hamachi, Crab, Avocado, Unagi

Volcano – baked lobster and avocado

Cucumber, Tuna, Crab, Poblano

Fried Plantains and Coconut Gelato with Bittersweet Chocolate

For my final dinner in San Diego, my mom took me to Zenbu in La Jolla. As I perused the extensive menu not knowing what to order, I was reminded of an article I read in the New York Times last summer. In a piece by Trevor Corson entitled “Sushi For Two,” he recommended a new approach to eating sushi in America:

I suggest that customers refuse to sit at a table or look at a menu. We should sit at the bar and ask the chef questions about everything — what he wants to make us and how we should eat it. We should agree to turn our backs on our American addictions to tuna (for starters, try mackerel), globs of fake wasabi (let the chef add the appropriate amount), gallons of soy sauce (let the chef season the sushi if it needs seasoning) and chopsticks (use your fingers so the chef can pack the sushi loosely, as he would in Japan). Diners will be amazed at how following these simple rules can make a sushi chef your friend, and take you on new adventures in taste.

It was a little weird having a conversation with the chef right off the bat about how much we wanted to spend ($70 total) and our favorite fruits of the sea (toro, eel, lobster), but in the end, it was absolutely worth it. My mom and I conversed with our chef Lee throughout the meal about himself and the food, and in return, he took excellent care of us.

Lee started us off with two delicate cuts of tuna and yellowtail paired with a seaweed salad—my mother received sashimi (her request), while I received nigiri (my request). Eating sushi without chopsticks was really something different; the rice and fish felt so delicate between my fingers. The seaweed salad was light and refreshing.

The next course was my mom’s favorite. The toro was luxuriously buttery and melted in our mouths, while the octopus and caviar contrasted texturally to the fish. Just a smidge of soy sauce was all this piece needed to really come together.

After a brief intermission, Lee brought out the first warm course of the evening. A roll comprised of panko-crusted, deep fried hamachi, crab, avocado and unagi served with a sweet sauce. The warm, crisp hamachi was a great substitute for traditional sushi rice, but dominated the unagi’s subtle flavor. The sweet sauce (the name escapes me!) was an essential part of the roll’s deliciousness.

The Volcano arrived next (see picture below for full “volcano” effect). Filled with huge chunks of fresh local lobster, a spicy sauce and a sliver of avocado, the entire roll was baked in the oven and served warm. The lobster’s flavor really shined through, and I especially liked how the rice dried out a bit in the oven.

Our last roll contained cucumber, tuna, crab and a Poblano chili pepper sauce. I loved everything about the roll minus the cucumber exterior, which was little slippery and too summer-y for this time of year.

We concluded our sushi feast with a very un-Japanese dessert that Lee recommended. A house specialty, the plantains were covered in caramelized sugar and served hot with coconut gelato and chocolate sauce. The difference in temperature between the two chief components really made the dessert special. The plantains were sweet, but not tooth achingly so like bananas tend to be. The gelato was icy, but served its purpose well enough.

Corson’s advice really made my sushi experience at Zenbu spectacular and I recommend that all sushi-lovers try this approach at some point.

Omakase forever.

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The Sushi Bar

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November 19-20, 2007
Cuisine: Japanese

No 2, Le Thanh Ton Street
District 1, Ho Chi Minh City

Phone: 8238042
Website: http://www.sushibar.com.vn/

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Miso Soup

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Chawanmushi

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Nigiri Sushi Teishoku (78,000 VND)

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Gyuniku Tataki (30,000 VND)

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Chirashi Sushi Teishok (78,000 VND)

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Zaru Soba Noodles (48,000 VND)

Two weeks ago, The Astronomer and I had a really rough couple of days. First, we were given a ridiculously last-minute assignment for work and then we were told we had to move out of our apartment ASAP. In the words of Cher from the movie “Clueless”—

I felt impotent and out of control. Which I really, really hate. I had to find sanctuary in a place where I could gather my thoughts and regain my strength…

Enter: The Sushi Bar.

The one thing that made the stresses from work and moving a little better was some fine Japanese food served in an air conditioned restaurant.

On our first visit to The Sushi Bar, The Astronomer and I both had set lunches, which came with miso soup and Chawanmushi. I ordered the Chirashi Sushi Teishok, while The Astronomer had some delicate pieces of Nigiri Sushi.

The Chirashi is comprised of a bowl of sushi rice topped with pieces of salmon, tuna, clam, tomago and shrimp, pickled ginger and sprouts. The fish was high-qual and so, so good. The accompanying miso soup was average, while the Chawanmushi, an egg custard cup with shrimp, pork, and a shitake mushroom, was uninspiring.

The Astronomer’s Nigiri Sushi was lovely as well. The rice was loosely packed, while the fish was very fresh. He passed the tomago my way because he doesn’t like eggs. Yay, for me.

On our second visit to The Sushi Bar the following day, I ordered the Chirashi set lunch again, while The Astronomer went for a roast beef roll and soba noodles.

The roast beef roll tasted as I suspected—beefy. I prefer my sushi raw. The soba noodles, which were served with a soy broth, fresh scallions and radish, were refreshingly cool, but missing a certain oomph. Some vegetable and shrimp tempura would have made the soba outstanding.

I love street food, but when I need luxury and thoughtful service, pass the sushi.

Momofuku Noodle Bar

May 27, 2007
Cuisine: Noodle Shops, Japanese

163 1st Ave, New York 10003
Btwn 10th & 11th St

Phone: 212-475-7899
Website:www.momofuku.com

Ramen with Shredded Berkshire Pork ($10)

Our second stop on the NYC Memorial Day food tour was at Momofuku Noodle Bar. The Astronomer, Miho, and I managed to save enough room to share a bowl of pork ramen even after some hefty appetizers at Dumpling House. Regrettably, our appetites weren’t sufficient enough to order the Berkshire Pork Buns, but they are definitely one of my favorite menu items.

My brother introduced me to Momofuku over a year ago and I try to return whenever I’m in the city for work or play. The noodle bar is literally the the size of a shoe box and is almost always packed during peak dining hours. I was expecting a ridiculous wait for a table since Momofuku’s chef and owner David Chang recently won the 2007 Rising Chef Award from the James Beard Foundation. I was pleasantly surprised when we were seated only after three minutes of idleness.

One bowl of pork ramen was the perfect portion for the three of us after our Dumpling House binge. Although we felt a little strange ordering a single bowl of ramen, our waiter was totally cool with our request to share (unlike the folks at Peter Luger—details to come).

Authenticity aside, the pork ramen is a brilliant creation. The long strands of noodles are perfectly al dente even when dunked in the steaming savory broth. The Astronomer and Miho both commented that the broth was most excellent, but I found it a tad too salty. The bamboo shoots, fresh peas, and scallions go wonderfully with the ramen and provide both texture and freshness to the dish. The shredded Berkshire pork, though noticeably fatty, is my favorite element for its unrivaled flavor.

Wok & Roll

May 11, 2007
Cuisine: Chinese, Japanese

Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport
Terminals C, E, and Main Food Court

Phone: none
Website: none

Unagi Nigiri ($9.62)

Inari Sushi ($5.73)

I enjoyed some unexpectedly terrific sushi during my layover in the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport coming back from Boise. Chances are slim that I’ll ever have a layover in this airport again, but perhaps some gas•tron•o•my readers travel through this hub more often and can give Wok & Roll a whirl. Regardless, it never hurts to share good eats.

Wok & Roll dishes up Chinese food (hence, wok) and sushi (hence, roll) in terminals C, E, and the main food court. While I generally steer clear of sushi found in malls, airports, or sold next to General Tso’s Chicken, I have a soft spot for Inari and decided to take a chance.

The Inari sushi was just as good as the ones served in full-service Japanese restaurants. The fried bean curd was sweet and the rice was moist and fragrant of vinegar. The Unagi Nigiri was delectable as well. A generous portion of eel sat atop a lightly packed mound of rice. I asked for extra Kabayaki Sauce because the eel looked a touch too dry. Low-end sushi can usually be saved with plenty of soy sauce, but the Inari and Unagi Nigiri were both satisfying on their own.

The prices at Wok & Roll are a bit steep, but the quality is high. It’s good to know palatable sushi can be found in unlikely places such as airport food courts in the Midwest.

Ajia Japanese Fusion

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April 21, 2007
Cuisine: Japanese, Sushi

3131 Walnut St, Philadelphia 19104
Between 31st & 32nd Street

Phone: 215-222-2542
Website: none

Appetizer I: Salad with Ginger and Orange Dressing

Appetizer II: Miso Soup

Round I: Shrimp Tempura Roll, Inari, Tuna Nigiri, Tako Nigiri, Salmon Nigiri, Yellowtail Nigiri, Sweet Potato Roll, Philadelphia Roll, Spicy Salmon Roll

Round II: Tuna Roll, Salmon Roll, Spicy Crunchy Tuna, Spicy Crunchy Salmon

Round III: Shrimp Tempura Roll, Rock N Roll, Unagi Roll

Round VI: Unagi Roll, Spicy Crunchy Salmon Roll, Rock N Roll

Round V: Yellowtail Nigiri, Salmon Nigiri, Tuna Nigiri, Spicy Salmon Roll, Kani Nigiri, Inari, Tako Nigiri

Round VI: Philadelphia Roll, Shrimp Tempura Roll, Rock N Roll, East Roll

Round VII: Kani Nigiri, Shrimp Nigiri, Unagi Roll, Rock N Roll, Spicy Crunchy Salmon Roll

Round VIII: Unagi Nigiri, Salmon Nigiri, Tuna Nigiri, Mackerel Nigiri, Clam Nigiri, Yellowtail Nigiri

Round IX: Shrimp Tempura Roll, Tuna and Avocado Roll, East Roll

Round X: Inari

Round XI: Spicy Crunchy Tuna and Sweet Potato Roll

In honor of Paul’s 24th birthday, a posse of 12 gathered at Ajia for their delectable All U Can Eat sushi, which is reasonably priced at $21.95, plus tax and tip. The special also includes unlimited miso soup and salad. It was my second All U Can Eat affair of the week (Lacroix being the first), but I was ready to throw down once more because there’s always room for sushi.

The restaurant was packed on Saturday night and the service was extremely spotty because one waitress was working the entire room. This was my fourth time testing my stomach’s limits at Ajia, so I knew what to expect when it came to service. In my book, great sushi at a great price more than makes up for nonexistent service.

As usual, I passed on the soup and salad to save room for the good stuff. The Astronomer is a fan of the salad’s orange and ginger dressing. The miso soup is decent as well.

The variety of nigiri and rolls offered for the All U Can Eat special is impressive. Our group’s favorites were the Shrimp Tempura Roll, Spicy Crunchy Tuna and Salmon Roll, Unagi, salmon and tuna nigiri, and the Sweet Potato Roll. The Inari, Unagi nigiri, and Philadelphia Roll are three of my personal favorites.

The ratio of fish to rice is perfect and the fish is generally very fresh. However, the Mackerel seemed a bit off on this evening. All of the sushi is made to order, which takes a while with a large group.

After 3.5 hours and eleven rounds of sushi, we left thoroughly stuffed and satisfied.

For a complete menu, click below…

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