K K's Profile

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Does this look like a paella?

Looks more like Korean style seafood pot rice, a little shichimi togarashi, with quite an amount of kimchi jigae broth.

Jul 26, 2015
K K in Los Angeles Area

Honk Kong, Chengdu and Shanghai in October

威記 Wai Kee at 82 Stanley Street (Central) for congee

http://www.openrice.com/en/hongkong/r...

They also do a very good steamed daikon cake, and steamed rice rolls wrapped crullers (ja leung 炸兩). It's facing the dai pai dongs, and Yue Hing right opposite does some interesting localized breakfast sandwiches with unusual combinations that work (closed weekends).

A bit further away is Sang Kee (Sheung Wan area) that is also open for breakfast for congee

http://www.openrice.com/en/hongkong/r...

Both places might not have English on the menu, but you can always point or show them picture off openrice.

I would skip Australian Dairy. I never found it impressive even 2 to 3 years ago, and now local media and eaters think they have gone downhill so much. They are still very fast and efficient, so it is more of an experience or case study for process and operations.

Jul 25, 2015
K K in China & Southeast Asia

The Mori Omakase Challenge

For the fish geeks / sakana otaku amongst us:

Regarding Nodoguro, Maru-san is from Osaka, and in many parts of Kansai and coastal regions, the blackthroat seaperch is call Nodoguro ノドグロ(喉黒). It is definitely a highly prized specimen (and expensive).

But it is more widely known as akamutsu アカムツ (strangely other names for it include rosy seabass and red gnomefish, which sort of makes some sense as "mutsu" is gnomefish, and "aka" is red). It's also insanely popular to eat as shioyaki (salt grilled robata style like ayu) in the nicer Japanese restaurants in Hong Kong (e.g. higher end izakaya), 2nd only to kinki from Hokkaido, $120 to $150 easy for one whole fish.

As far as names/lengths for kohada during different stages of growth:

shinko - 4 to 5 centimeters
kohada - 7, 8, to upwards of 10 cm
nakazumi - around 12 to 13 cm
konoshiro - 15 cm and above

There are slight varying definitions out there but the lengths should be within range. Some Japanese Edo sushi reference books may be more exacting in their own methods of preparation and determination.

Should a really reputable place offer nakazumi and konoshiro as sushi that nails kohada regularly, just go for it. So incredibly rare (and on top of that a chef who is willing to give it a try to serve it as sushi). For me I've only had both once. Good stuff, even if not conventional.

Jul 25, 2015
K K in Los Angeles Area

The Mori Omakase Challenge

I agree, looks more like kohada.

Here's a picture of shinko I had at Kasen, Fountain Valley though it was interesting to have it last October, asked the chef if it was shinko or kohada after he put it down and he had to pause a couple seconds before confirming. Chef made one piece of nigiri with two pieces of shinko, so the size alone of the young fish would back this up. Interesting molded at an angle where both overlap and cover the shari. Quite the treat to have it.

Also if you do a google image search for シンコ, most of the pics of shinko nigiri are molded perpendicular to the shari (as opposed to parallel for kohada, nakazumi, or konoshiro) and wrapped around. Some use two and upwards of three pieces per nigiri. Some of the more creative high end places in Asia (e.g. Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Japan) do something similar to uni, and it's quite common for this "roll" version molding on kibinago (Silver-stripe round herring/slender sprat, usually served with vinegared miso sauce, or yuzu miso sauce, in season now too).

Jul 24, 2015
K K in Los Angeles Area

Mori...not the same for everyone

The cooked dishes as part of Premium Omakase are extremely commendable and were very memorable for me. It was basically an East (Kanto, nigiri portion) meets west (Kansai, kappo ryori cooked dishes) hybrid. Many reviewers use the word kaiseki to describe the dishes, but they seem more like kappo ryori or Kyo-ryori. Either way, generally rather simplistic in nature, but deeply and surprisingly profound. The attention to detail even to the cooked food was ridiculous for me to discover (even as a first timer), not a single drip of grease to the frying of the wakasagi, the interplay between the smoked takuan (which Mark ID'd as iburrigakko) and the smoked bluefin collar/neck meat with non smoked tsukemono, the tofu appetizer and tofu themed dessert/blancmange with kuromitsu, even the serving temperature of the cooked dishes (some room temperature, some chilled) were marvelous, and they way they paired with sake. The dashi shiru/soup that came with the course was as good as what I had in Kyoto (which is no easy feat).

This is a bit of a contrast with high end sushi in Hong Kong, Osaka, and perhaps Ginza style high end sushi in Hong Kong, where you have a lot of attention to the nigiri, and the cooked dishes portion are more like sashimi, artfully plated small dishes, and small plates (kobachi), rather than the awesome elaborate platter at Mori.

So for Mori to nail this bit down, along with the nigiri, is an extremely rare find, and in some ways too good for words. For the price, it's actually a steal compared to places that charge similarly but you get far inferior quality, and cheaper than high end in Asia (though to be fair, Mori does use a combination of Japanese and domestic ingredients, applying technique to elevate the experience, and still very satisfying).

Jul 23, 2015
K K in Los Angeles Area

Roast Duck: SFBA Dish of the Month July 2015

The marinated duck (aka spiced soya sauce duck) can often be a better performance than the roast duck at Cooking Papa (Foster City and Mountain View). The meat also tends to be leaner for some reason. I do love their Maggi sauce duck lower jaws (Maggi sauce duck tongues on the menu), and you can probably get a soya sauce (marinated) version of it as well.

Cantonese seafood restaurants serving sliced Canto roast duck and repackaging it as Peking Duck is probably more common here than in HK. Places that offer Peking Duck in HK that aren't obviously regional Chinese restaurants, likely do it right/better or as close as possible (particularly if anchored in a famous hotel restaurant), or if they claim their signature offering is Peking Duck. They may not do it exactly like the greats in Beijing, but for sure will be far superior to whatever Koi Palace would offer.

At least BDH will do it 2 ways for a whole duck. It just sucks their source for ducks sell them without the giblets, so you can't have another course of duck innards (e.g. saltwater marinated duck liver, but that's more of a Nanjing style I think). But you can get the mustard goose web, which rocks. At CP the best would be the soya sauce (marinated) duck wings, which are very good.

Best croissant on the SF Peninsula?

I quite enjoy the matcha croissant from Voyager du temps, but it is probably best to eat it right at the bakery.

Jul 22, 2015
K K in San Francisco Bay Area

Exotic fruits(esp mangosteen) in the Bay Area?

Good data point, thanks. Never tried mangosteen there, but had pretty good luck with rambutans there earlier this year.

Jul 21, 2015
K K in San Francisco Bay Area

Exotic fruits(esp mangosteen) in the Bay Area?

Try New May Wah on Clement in San Francisco, though the selections and availability are random.

Spotted fresh longan in SF Chinatown this weekend, Hawaiian at $6.99 a pound (stems removed) and around $4.99 to $5.99 a pound for ones supposedly grown in Florida if I read the Chinese sign right.

Jul 21, 2015
K K in San Francisco Bay Area

HK 30 hour layover update

Thanks for reporting back! Glad you scored YKY and hope your experience dealing with the shop was good. More importantly, hope you like the sauce, and go to town + have fun with it (including crazy stuff like using it in spicy tuna hand rolls or with pasta).

Jul 21, 2015
K K in China & Southeast Asia

Summer Omakase at Shunji Japanese Cuisine: A Pictorial Essay

Great review and pictures! Makes me miss Shunji even more.

How did you like the Born Gold Junmai Daiginjo and the Seiden Omachi Junmai Ginjo? The latter I have never seen before (also interesting that the Seiden is polished to 50%!)

I also miss his chilled dashi marinated/washoku flavored ikura. Poppin' boba good!! Perfect for the summer.

Jul 19, 2015
K K in Los Angeles Area

[Hong Kong] CH, please critique my 30 hour layover itinerary. Paging KK

A few things:

YKY flagship store I believe accepts cash only (you can always FB message ahead to check if things have changed, but they are old fashioned down to the recipe and tradition).

Kau Kee and Yat Lok Central have crazy lines. YL maybe you can get a seat with minimal wait between 11 to 11:30 am, but really hard to say since you will be there on a weekend. (It is possible Kau Kee no longer breaks between end of lunch shift/start of dinner shift), it may take up more time doing KK and YL back to back, so think about putting them apart (maybe one on Sat one on Sun depending on store hours).

YL, last time we went they ran out of drumsticks even a little past 11 am. So if you want to be guaranteed one, they will likely tell you to order the minimum of a lower 1/4 (which includes a drumstick). That should suffice for two. Ordering noodles/carbs there is just a distraction and quota waster (same for the drinks which are mediocre).

Advise skipping Mak's at the Peak (if you must choose a Mak's, Wellington flagship store only in Central). As Charles said, maybe Tasty is good enough, but it's always nice to have another data point.

Tasty/Mak's/Mak An Kee (and other won ton noodle shops containing the word "Mak") don't use bamboo pole kneaded noodles. Consider Wing Wah in Wanchai, pricey, but very high quality. Quite a number don't like their style (I probably wouldn't order won ton noodle soup there), but definitely think about trying a plate or bowl of noodles from there (perhaps lo mein/broth on the side) and what works as toppings would be pork knuckle, beef brisket stew (very nice), prawn roe (which they serve with oyster sauce on the side), or the sweet and spicy pork strip version (ja jeung lo mein) which Wing Wah adds shitake slivers to make things more interesting. Do not miss the self help cubed pickled crispy daikon in the jars (refreshing and aids in digestion of the noodles). Not sure how their house chili sauce is, but I don't recall seeing an orange sauce like at Mak's Wellington (which may be worth trying in itself with the wontons and noodles, ditto depending on what Tasty has). If ordering lo mein you could request wide egg noodles (cho mein). Look at openrice pictures so you get an idea.

Enjoy!

Jul 17, 2015
K K in China & Southeast Asia

[Hong Kong] CH, please critique my 30 hour layover itinerary. Paging KK

Worth calling just in case they've changed their stance, but based on one of their recent FB post comments, they don't deliver to retail customers even if you order a case worth.

Jul 16, 2015
K K in China & Southeast Asia

[Hong Kong] CH, please critique my 30 hour layover itinerary. Paging KK

Oh nevermind, I just saw that you are landing 9:30 am (not 6 am as originally thought). Time is going to be very tight, so maybe call them after you retrieve your baggage and ask them if they could stay open a little bit later for you and make sure Antony is working and in the store that day? Or get a list of addresses of the mom and pop shops that sell them if you can't get there on time (those locations will likely be quite out of the way and some parts harder to navigate unless you are with a local).

Or maybe your local friends can pick up a few bottles for you from flagship store in advance just in case?

Jul 16, 2015
K K in China & Southeast Asia

[Hong Kong] CH, please critique my 30 hour layover itinerary. Paging KK

Yeah Anthony manages that FB page, sounds like he responded quickly (very professional of him).

Depends if you want to lug your suitcases and hand carry around. There are some steep slopes but it shouldn't be too bad (but will be cumbersome nonetheless). The cab ride from IFC to your hotel should be roughly 15 to 20 mins (less if traffic is good). I would consider checking into the hotel (or leaving your luggage there if before checkin time) in Wanchai if you get to the hotel before YKY opens, then hitting up the MTR from Wanchai to SYP (bring a backpack or something you can carry the sauces around). You should make it there before 12:30.

Kau Kee has very strange hours, I believe they shutter for a period of time before late lunch/early dinner to allow employees to rest and eat. openrice might have the exact times.

Jul 16, 2015
K K in China & Southeast Asia

[Hong Kong] CH, please critique my 30 hour layover itinerary. Paging KK

I would imagine it will also work great with pasta.

Yick Cheong Ho's chili sauce containing lots of chopped clams is fantastic with pasta, I've found.

http://www.yickcheongho.com/pd_list.p...

http://www.yickcheongho.com/pd_detail...

Though their crispy dried shrimp chili sauce is crazy crazy crazy good. Makes you want to empty a jar and just eat it over steamed rice! Another brand where you can only get it at the store (Tai O, Lantau Island). Maybe their showroom in Kwun Tong. (Sorry ns1 if I gave you more ideas to deviate you from your itinerary!)

Jul 15, 2015
K K in China & Southeast Asia

[Hong Kong] CH, please critique my 30 hour layover itinerary. Paging KK

YKY shop is closed on Sunday, so you might as well try to head over there first thing after your visit to the Peak (call them and find out if they are open before you go). Better yet, private message them on Facebook in advance of your visit https://www.facebook.com/yukwenyick and tell them you will be in town visiting on that day, see if they will be expected to open (or if they can make exception). Or post on their wall to ask. Anthony Yu is the guy you want to deal with. Ask about the sizes of the bottles, they may come in 3 sizes. The medium one probably works best for portion, but the smallest one is convenient (if available) for lugging it around town and using it.

They are only 3 mins walk from the new Sai Ying Poon MTR station!

And if they are NOT open during your layover, ask them where you can buy YKY in town. There is a very specific but small list of mom and pop grocery stores that do (some are very much out of the way in Kowloon or NT side).

Tim Ho Wan and Ho Hung Kee used to stock or have some YKY available for customers upon request, but it's a high cost item for many restaurants (and perishable) thus they may use cheaper/lower quality replacements now. If you plan on eating beef chow fun, pan fried daikon cake, cheung fun, won ton noodles, it's awesome to have a little bottle of YKY around to season your food accordingly, no matter where you eat them. I don't know if Tasty has YKY available in house, you could ask for a little if they do. Enjoy!

Jul 15, 2015
K K in China & Southeast Asia

[Hong Kong] CH, please critique my 30 hour layover itinerary. Paging KK

Both. Plus how can you not love an enhanced chili sauce made with Shanghai hairy crab roe?

It's because XO sauce (the good stuff) made in HK contains Chinese Jinhua ham (vital to the flavor profile). US customs forbids meat products. I'm sure Sea Harbor could do something similar (assuming they make XO sauce in house) but using things like Virginia smoked ham / ham hock, but it is not the same.

The product is jarred with only the OSY logo as the label, which is a huge selling point for me.

Jul 15, 2015
K K in China & Southeast Asia

[Hong Kong] CH, please critique my 30 hour layover itinerary. Paging KK

It's XO chili sauce: of Chinese Jinhua ham, dried scallops, dried shrimp, oil/chili oil etc, and enhanced with Shanghainese hairy crab roe. There is no marked shelf life, but if you refrigerate it will last longer. Probably don't want to keep it too long, but it is seriously good stuff. The Michelin star hotel ones sold as gifts, on the other hand, last maybe a week to two tops (no preservatives).

Jul 09, 2015
K K in China & Southeast Asia

[Hong Kong] CH, please critique my 30 hour layover itinerary. Paging KK

One of the LA board folk had a great experience with Lei Gardens a few years back. Definitely will surpass anything in CA (Sea Harbor, Koi Palace etc). Or better yet, widen the dim sum experience at one of the places Charles mentioned. Get some dim sum (but not too much), splurge a wee bit and get a delectable blue/flower crab (steamed with shaoxing wine sauce), or a moderately priced wild deep sea fish steamed from off the coast of South China Sea or Borneo (or a local specimen if they have it), plate of roasties (though the one Michelin star ones could command US$20 to $30 for a plate of BBQ pork, but it will be very good quality). Make that one meal, then save room for little munchies and snack sized bites (like the traditional portion of won ton noodle soup). :-)

If you plan on taking the Airport Express back to Chek Lap Kok airport and have time to kill, do Express checkin, and save those precious hours to eat around Central (which is what my friends and I did). Endless possibilites to one meal at say, Man Wah if you can get a reservation in advance (do it uber early since it is a weekend). Or walk a bit further to a place like Ser Wong Fun and get a double boiled soup (a perennial favorite over their snake soups)...their Chinese sausage claypot rice is excellent with a killer smokey char/crispy rice bottom layer (they do not cook over charcoal). And you can always walk to Stanley Street (from Yat Lok Central) to visit the dai pai dongs and see what interests you. Or grab one last bowl of proper won ton noodles (snack size) at Mak An Kee (37 Wing Kat Street, though that's closer to Sheung Wan). Your dining companion and you might want to share an order of 甫魚撈麵 (Po Yu Lo Mein), it's the roasted dried tilefish/flatfish used in making won ton noodle broth, and Mak An Kee is the only place in town to actually offer it, and it is shaved. It's a small portion (they fill up a soy sauce dish's worth) that you sprinkle and mix over brothless noodles. You then probably want to moisten it with a side of brisket gravy or oyster sauce (have to ask for it). It's a very interesting experience.

Spare some time and pay a visit to IFC basement area before you leave, namely City Super. Food shopping heaven but can be very pricey yet fun to look at, literally. Great sake selection, Iberico hams, imported ingredients from around the world, snacks, French oysters, langoustines from Spain, Japanese and Korean fruit. I personally pay more attention to the imported Japanese items there. You might find something you want to snack on that you can bring on the plane.

Jul 08, 2015
K K in China & Southeast Asia

[Hong Kong] CH, please critique my 30 hour layover itinerary. Paging KK

So happy for you ns1!

Do you read Chinese and/or speak any Cantonese/Mandarin?

Where is your hotel?

For Yu Kwen Yick, call before you go to make sure they are open. I believe the # is 2568 8007. The bottles come in two sizes, small and large. Haven't seen the large ones in stock so far, and maybe a bit too cumbersome. You may want to consider buying a bunch and shipping some back in a large express mail box (there is a large post office in Central near Star Ferry), just buy a roll of bubble wrap and stuff the goodies in. It will run maybe $60 to $70 and may take 3+ weeks (less if you are lucky). Not far from YKY is Yuen Kee Dessert 源記甜品專家, they open between noon to 1 pm and is a very old school Cantonese dessert shop. Stick with 桑寄生蓮子蛋茶 which is a sweet herbal dessert soup with a stewed egg, considered one of the best renditions around and something you won't find in California (and even if so, not properly). The almond, black sesame, and red bean soups unfortunately are not so good. In any case, getting to the Western Edition / that part of town is now easier with the new MTR station :-). Before that I took the tram.

Should you dare to try to bring back, Old San Yang 老三陽 Causeway Bay is an old school Shanghainese grocery shop. Look and ask for their ingredient unmarked jar of Shanghai hairy crab roe XO sauce (around HK$120). Of course you can pay $$$ for Michelin star Cantonese fine dining restaurant XO sauce as well (including Mandarin Hotel by the bakery, or places like Ming Court, Tang Court, and maybe LKH will have something as well).

You may want to get to YKY first thing, and buy a bottle so you can try it first on whatever dishes you are sampling in town (so you can decide how much you really want to buy). YKY is excellent with wontons, even a little on the egg noodles, pan fried daikon cake, steamed rice rolls (plain kind with lots of sauces), dry fry beef chow fun, soy sauce supreme stir fried noodles.

Will chime in more later.

Jul 08, 2015
K K in China & Southeast Asia

Mori Sushi Premium Omakase + YOLO = YOLOmakase

Akiko's works in San Francisco, and fits into that part of the fancy restaurant scene for a number of reasons. They rarely had hikarimono of the few times I've been, and whatever they did serve, required very light preparation, or just enough garnish that they could serve fresh. So you will never see something that requires a lot of time, seasoned experience and skill to prep like kohada or shimesaba, and I think I never had anago there (at least not from 2013-2014 when I was there a few times). They use modern kitchen technology and toys to reduce time (or to intensify flavors from their perspective) for similar labor intensive preps by the competition. For a number of applications, it's a very interesting approach in concept. For others it's too overpowering, but a pleasant assault on the senses for many. The other issue is, if you follow social media (and particular individuals), there are examples of their work that stemmed from them eating at other establishments as if fishing for ideas. A lot of their style back (garnishes etc) then was taken from Kusakabe himself. Then suddenly they want to serve kasugodai with shaved freeze dried egg yolk on top...wonder where they got the idea from locally.... They have their circle of fans that include local chefs who are celebs in their own field (kind of like Sawa Sushi but for that place more so Silicon Valley upper echelon target). At this point it's not really an attempt on Edomae style, but more so being different (maybe from their own perspective) and trying to stand out from the crowd while fitting into the scene.

Aka shari may not work as well for lighter fish as you said, but with some additional preparation it could as I have mentioned below. If I want to eat pristine white fleshed sweet fish there is always the option of going somewhere else that does exactly that, but if the restaurant/chef is firm on serving aka shari and is willing to put in the effort on additional handling of the white fish (aging appropriately depending on the species [Sushi Mori Tomaki in Hong Kong ages their isaki for upwards of 2 weeks], yujimo technique to soften and create a layer of separation between skin and flesh, marinating in vinegar or konbu jime, searing, garnishing, adding egg oboro for kasugodai), it can be extremely pleasing. It's just mindboggling how much work is involved just for prepping that one piece of kasugodai. The joke then would be the average customer coming in and asking the chef "is this fresh" or "what day do you get your fish in" when the fish are prepped for a while to draw out its maximum flavors with the rice. So the "never frozen Hokkaido scallops" or "just hours off the plane from Tsukiji" works great at places that slice and serve those who care about that more than these details.

By the way I am so loving the discussion and interest in the topics, generated as a result of my trip report to Mori :-). Keep it up!

Jul 08, 2015
K K in Los Angeles Area

Mori Sushi Premium Omakase + YOLO = YOLOmakase

Just a data point, Akiko's in San Francisco back in October 2013, was experimenting with aka shari at the time. The chef showed me the bottle of sake lees/red vinegar they used, recommended by their fish suppliers in Japan. Looks like Yokoi's "Yohei" Kasu-su. The effort and concept was there, but the result was unfortunately not (grains too "nutty" in texture, kind of like Sebo SF in the day, which is what happens when the chefs are hobbyists, but at least putting in the effort).

Nothing wrong with not using kasu-zu/aka zu at Mori, in fact Mori/Maru's formula has worked all these years. With the additional polishing of the quality of rice they used, and with the current recipe, it works really well with all the neta he serves and you can really taste the grains and the fish with an appropriate balance. With aka shari (particularly the ones seasoned with 2 to 3 year aged akazu), it works at its best with stronger flavored, fattier fish, and/or fish served with additional preparations like konbu jime, su-jime, shoyu zuke, searing (if a super high end place, with binchotan), with or without garnishes, thus the balance is shifted towards heavier flavors. At that rate it becomes more of a style and preference (both the customer and the chef), and/or a heavier burden on the taste buds for those concerned for and prefer a wider range, including more subtle flavors (which is probably a minority).

Jul 07, 2015
K K in Los Angeles Area

New high end sushi in SF: "Omakase"

Jackson works at the station closer to the entrance, and Ingi is closer to the kitchen side on the right (unless they switch around).

I just saw some pictures of a meal there from last night on social media, and those nigiri pieces were clearly not made by Masa. The shiro ebi nigiri had about an inch to inch and a half thick worth of mentaiko piled on top, and a dollop of grated wasabi on top (I wonder how does the average person shove that entirely comfortably into the mouth in one bite, but more importantly the salty spicy mentaiko and wasabi will ruin the pristine sweet taste of the shiro ebi!), and I saw another of abalone nigiri with gold flakes on top (if it were me I'd rather have the abalone liver on top along with a sauce made with abalone reduction).

Moving along, has anyone tried to order or request in advance a nigiri only meal at Kusakabe? Wonder if that can be pulled off.

Jul 02, 2015
K K in San Francisco Bay Area

New high end sushi in SF: "Omakase"

It's far more than that (your first paragraph), it's the complete package, including the labor and time intensive preps as part of the finer details, the profound kappo ryori things at the start, the sense of balance and togetherness, all integrated seamlessly into the overall experience. Though it takes those with a very particular perspective and discerning taste, to notice some of the subtleties. Going beyond that, is to truly understand why things are done the way they are (the chef's style), and hopefully develop a deeper appreciation for them. I cannot say this about more than a handful of places out there. Though they already have their share of detractors (some of which their reasons are rather amusing).

Mark, it's all good, I had a great chuckle about it. I probably would have used the "taking one for the team" to describe myself as to what I did! In reality, I had to comfort my weeping wallet and my bleeding credit card :-) of lost opportunity cost! Kidding, but those thoughts can be hard to avoid.

I like to consider it market research for the food hobby. Not really an investment, but also a means of observation and learning more about why I like or don't like something and be able to back it up.

Jun 30, 2015
K K in San Francisco Bay Area

New high end sushi in SF: "Omakase"

You are most welcome OD and Mark!

Mark, consider it a tip of the hat back for your detailed posts in the revived Saison thread (a place which I have yet to visit) and Jiro SF.

Taking one for the team, hahaha....it actually wasn't awful as I made it sound! In some ways I was being overly harsh and critical, I guess traveling and knowing opportunity costs does that to you.

Hopefully all of you will eventually give this place a chance and try to enjoy it for what it is. It is probably worth dropping by after 6 months to see how they are doing. I mean with Gintei, I disliked the rice when I first went last November (way underseasoned and dry). However I gave them another shot a few months later, and presently with the latest sous chef (the one doing most of the counter orders), they are blasting at full speed, even with the kohada recipe. It took some time for Maruya to ramp up as well, and great things happened after that point (well before Masa left haha, I have yet to go back).

On a side note, anyone care to share any recent experiences at the bar at Akiko's under the current head chef Naoyuki Hashimoto? Or Maruya under the current head chef Kawaguchi?

Jun 30, 2015
K K in San Francisco Bay Area

New high end sushi in SF: "Omakase"

JL, really good to see you make an appearance on the SF board, so yes, welcome!!

Mark, your comments and initial instincts are extremely astute, and I would say accurate and rather on point with very good reasons.

I actually made it to Omakase last week, and had Masa-san serve us, so it is not an accurate portrayal of what it would be like dining with the primary chefs. He is using the restaurant's materials, and all the preparation is done by the Omakase people (he just constructs and adds some additional touches). He is indeed consulting there, but once his next project starts rolling, he will be moving on. Given that he was the principal architect of the concept behind Maruya (which ultimately lead to the rubber tire star), he is very well known amongst his peer group, and people in the industry (many have had his sushi at Maruya). Thus the interest by the Omakase people to bring him on board to make their vision of having an omakase style restaurant, become reality. But ultimately the owners (Jackson and Kash) decide what they want in the end.

Given what I know of the tastes for JL, MarkA, and probably ODSF, I will say that none of you will be pleased with the meal. Yeah it's really hard to go back once you've had Mori in LA.

Some random observations:

- The overall vibe I get is that the owners are very new at running this kind of restaurant (it is a new venture, I understand), and are trying to find their footing. The effort is a good start, but there is a lot of room for improvement and I really hope they do. There is a lot of interest in the restaurant, particulary the

#OMGToroUniHamachiWagyu
#FoodPorn
#MySushiPictureIsOnInstagramAlongWithMyChestAndNails

crowd will love it and perhaps keep them afloat for a bit.

- I don't agree with some of the designs/decor of the restaurant, but it is what it is. From a glance, it seems aesthetically pleasing. But I am not a fan of the height, the reach space/distance between chef and diner, the number of seats and space in between, the style and type of chairs, the spacing. The feeling of intimacy is vital to a great experience, and I felt none of that with this setup, but some probably won't have that issue. I also don't get the bamboo tree / poles covering the window...

- the plates and cups (used for sake) just doesn't seem right. I get that they are hand painted and brought in from Japan, but a number of them look like they more belong in a high end banquet Chinese restaurant. I also get the style of the plates (probably a nod to some Kanto earthquake back in the day when hand painted tile plates were replaced with laquered containers as a result of them falling off the shelves and breaking), but sorry they don't work and clash with what they are serving. Unlike a place like Mori (LA) where hand crafted ceramic plates are used that add to the visual experience (exponentially I would add), and if you add the kaiseki course plating for the appetizers, it's a home run. But going back, the sake cups, some odd looking gold and silver, that look a bit bronze and brass like, maybe it works if I am wearing a toga during Roman times and it is goblet shaped. Unfortunately they didn't hold the temperature very well (should have just used a glass or crystal carafe in an ice bath), thus the Kokuryu Junmai Ginjo I had could have tasted better. Not a huge fan of the sake selection (it's not bad otherwise).

- the cooked dishes are good to very good. Really loved the uni fishcake tofu, and the grilled bluefin tuna with eggplant in miso sauce was quite spectacular. The "live item" in the $200 menu was lobster. Unfortunately they didn't do it like ise-ebi sashimi (not that it would have been the best course/approach necessarily), but they baked it with uni sauce (couldn't taste the uni much). The head portion was really good as they kept it moist on the inside. But in the end it reminded me more of Hong Kong cafe style cheese baked lobster (I was craving for some e-fu noodles to go with it, or turn it into an udon seafood carbonara, but we're in the wrong restaurant).

Ok I saved the best (or worst?) for last.

I had a major issue with the sushi rice. Apparently it is aka-shari, but it tasted off. Hard to describe. It worked with some of the neta, but for others it revealed the weakness, and affected the overall balance and mouthfeel. I believe they are trying to maintain some level of consistency, so they are not there yet. Masa-san did the best he could, and of course he probably has the most experience out of the other two chefs (in terms of crafting something closer to what I like, and probably Mark and JL), but if the components are not quite right to begin with, there's only so much that can be done.

As I did not have Ingi or Jackson serve me, I cannot comment on the nigiri formation, fish to rice ratio, and all that jazz which would have been the true test for down the road. But I did see a couple to my right, receive anago nigiri from Jackson. All I can say is, I wish I took a picture. The way the shari was shaped and the nigiri was molded, was rather mortifying. The other nigiri he served, seemed ok though, so not sure what happened there.

The progression of the nigiri seemed off...I am not sure why I received anago about halfway to 3/4 of the way through the meal.

The weirdest piece of nigiri I had was hamo. Unfortunately they grilled it, dabbed a little ume (plum paste) on top to call it a day. It wasn't bad, but it just felt really wrong. Basically they tried to do it like a Japanese unagi shirayaki style (salt and/or yuzugosho), which leads me to suggest that 1) they possibly couldn't remove all the soft bones and don't have proper hone-giri skills to serve it in dashi, or raw 2)the product itself probably was not suited for other applications and 3) they were trying to be different/use a substitute.

Ebodai was very salty, searing and topping it with other things did not work very well.

Kohada was not my style. Perhaps a touch too long marinated.

The sashimi course had hoya (sea squirt), tachuio (belt fish), and copper river salmon. The salmon was rather disappointing. This is where some additional effort and skill could have been applied to really make this shine (had one recently where a particular chef prepped it to taste like Hokkaido Cherry Trout/Sakura Masu, ruined for life...).

OK the things that I liked:

- flute of comp'd Krug champagne before the meal started. Copying Saison?

- the cooked dishes (adding umi budo/Okinawan sea grapes to the lobster and snow crab salad was an interesting touch). Liked the uni fishcake tofu, and the grilled bluefin and eggplant.

- tamagoyaki was good, but it was otherwise the Maruya version

- Ankimo (but I think this was Masa-san's recipe)

- shima aji (this was enhanced when Masa shaved some house cured karasumi on top)

- shiro ebi (maybe only came with the $200 course)

Basically walked away feeling like they could have done more. It was fantastic seeing and chatting with Masa-san again, and I look forward to what he might be doing next. With Omakase, hopefully given time they will ramp up and do better. The biggest improvement I can hope is in their sushi rice. As of now, I would prefer Gintei. But I kept thinking about this one other place throughout the meal (Mark, you know which one...). Sigh.

Jun 30, 2015
K K in San Francisco Bay Area
1

New high end sushi in SF: "Omakase"

Yes. Possible some do it a touch more frequently than others.

In addition to what Mark said, most places work with at least one of several distributors. Really good places would use several sources to get what they need. Quite a few SF Bay Area restaurants also use locally accessible sources, e.g. ABS Seafood (SF) that carries (wholesale) some domestic (and a few imported) items.

Jun 29, 2015
K K in San Francisco Bay Area

Clarissa Wei's Crowdsourcing Hopes?

Anytime you ask the public for donations towards a project that sounds good on paper, yet the process/execution/intent or results themselves is dubious at best where moral fiber is challenged (as interpreted by many), it becomes an instant invitation to ridicule and criticism.

Seen this far too many times, including in the U2 fan world where some stealth filmer brings in his HD cam gear with tripod, makes DVDs/Blurays after hours of editing, sells them on ebay, and uses the profits to finance his trip to other U2 concerts (wash, rinse, repeat). Then has the cajones (or whatever is left after being flamed), to ask for paypal donations on the fan boards to finance the expensive tickets, in which he may share his videos only to those who donated to his campaign. So what would he name those bootleg DVD titles? With renamed U2 song titles like "I'll Go Fundraising if I Don't get fundraising tonight", "A Sort of Loan Coming", "Get on your bootlegs", "No Donations On The Horizon", "Where The Streets Have No $hame" etc.

In all seriousness, this approach of taking a daydream into reality is not well thought out or executed, and giving the impression this was on impulse (or a delayed one). If she is trying to build her brand as part of this endeavor, this went off on the wrong footing already. Though it is not too late to recover and find the right path. There is only so much youthful indiscretion one can chalk this up to...

Top 5 restaurants in San Francisco...?

I also went to Charin a few months ago, which is now in the space where Saison was before they moved to their current location. It's small but people are not clumped up together like LB. The experience was good and pleasant, but not earth shattering where it would move you. For those who are visiting and have a very limited time here, and want value for what they are paying, may be better off elsewhere such as those mentioned by many. But if they want to experience these up and coming hot places with the pop-up feel or rooted in pop-up/became B&Ms recently yet retaining that vibe, then it may be worth checking out just to experience them.

Personally I really like Atelier Crenn. The only time I think AC would not yield my maximum satisfaction is if I recently traveled to Kyoto and had stellar kaiseki meals. Then I would find the AC experience on the subdued side.

Jun 25, 2015
K K in San Francisco Bay Area