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Via Tokyo also has a Royal Milk Tea soft serve that has caused crazy lines (similar to the popular tonkotsu ramen shops). Definitely the best choice in town for matcha soft serve.
You might also want to check out the brand new branch of Nakamura Tokichi 中村藤吉 via Kyoto that offers a wide range of Kyoto wagashi, kissako, and matcha based traditional tea and desserts (and even matcha soba). It is on the 18th floor of The One in Tsim Sa Tsui and just received a ton of media coverage. The flagship in Kyoto is over 100 years old.
Yes Lab Made definitely comes to mind as Luther has said. Give them a try. Initial in Tsim Sa Tsui is also getting some coverage of late
It's expensive but the flavors seem very interesting and unusual. The concept appears to be giving you the sense of tasting flavors from abroad via traveling. The tins they serve the ice cream in are keepsakes apparently.
The locals who live in the Kowloon City side swear by Hoover Cake Shop, supposedly their puff pastry crust egg tarts are better than Honolulu Cafe and retain the flavors from the 70s/80s.
You can probably find something half decent (Japanese French bakery) in the basement of Sogo department store in Causeway Bay.
Urban Bakery is also quite unusual. Really love their croissants, and if you see some Hong Kong fusion flavors (e.g. flowing custard croissant, or pineapple bun butter croissant which was not offered during my visit in January) give it a try, the one in Landmark Central is a safe location to ensure quality.
Ramen burger is definitely a fad, probably will die out first much quicker before the growth of the number of pseudo ramen shops flatlines. In some ways I don't see much coverage for it at least in my area, but it guarantees lines at these lame ramen festivals (served from a tent) if you are a business owner.
Budae Jjigae, I think there is still some staying power in that, at least in places with larger Korean expat communities and larger concentration of Korean restaurants along with a supportive Asian/Asian expat community into Korean food. Food trends are also influenced by other popular culture...other Asian countries (particularly Chinese speaking) over the last decade have gone crazy over Korean food, some I think were attributed to Kpop music and K-dramas (TV soap opera series), and a few of course easily showcase people eating local food (or drowning their sorrows in soju after discovering the love of their life was a separated at birth sibling or cousin who already had a love interest in pursuit), and viewers get hungry.
Korean tofu stews were the rage 10 years ago, but it's not as interesting anymore. Budae Jjigae went through a huge surge of interest in Hong Kong maybe 2 years ago, when it was the cool and in thing to do to write/review/blog/brag about. Then suddenly HK people are requesting instant noodles and spam into Cantonese style hot pot....This boils back down to people being people, maybe they (the non Koreans) do enjoy this stuff, but they don't necessarily see or connect the food to the memory or sentiment (or culture), particularly if there is a generation gap.
I looked at their top lists for Hong Kong
A few I say are good, but the rest will be strongly disagreed by the locals. It reads more of a guide for Chinese and Taiwanese tourists (and even some know better).
Anytime an affordable comfort food (or snack type eat) is upscaled and/or overly glorified and scrutinized, it fuels various sides of human nature (businesses and consumers) and naturally leads to interest which turns to hype to some extent. It is true that the degrees of glorification and scrutiny are far greater for ramen, and it is quite possibly the most easily recognized, affordable, and accessible food export (as a cultural food icon) from Japan aside from sushi.
There is also clearly the urge to follow what is or was popular in Japan, more so the past tense because everything from technology and food, markets in the USA always play catch up. Thus there is always going to be demand for whatever quality, and demand for business wanting to join and jump on the bandwagon despite the market saturation (in some markets, it seems that it is never enough).
As far as this "fad" not dying off anytime soon, unless it is an upscale overly expensive ridiculous joint trying their take on fusion that does not work, or if quality is ridiculously horrible, it will satisfy hunger just like cheap comfort Chinese food....in some ways it is cheap comfort Japanese Chinese food (or that is how it started). In Japan you can easily find ramen at many chuka ryori joints (restaurants that specialize in Chinese food for Japanese), hence the awesome combo of ramen, cha han, and gyoza. But those kind of ramen are usually shunned by tonkotsu ramen fans in America because to them they are not the same as their favorite overrated long line joints.
Lastly, a bowl of good ramen means something quite different to a Japanese expat (particular the 30s/40s and older crowd). Not just comfort food in the sense, but an integral part of food culture (e.g. after rounds of binge drinking). Those from Tokyo will appreciate a fantastic hearty cheap bowl of shoyu ramen (made with chicken stock), which falls entirely on deaf ears (and tongue) with American ramen fans who are mostly into tonkotsu ramen (those who want the hype and those who drive to feed that hype).
In Hong Kong, one only needs to go to Wellington street in Central, and see the ridiculously long lines for Butao ramen (tonkotsu ramen specialist shop), next door to Mak's/Mak An Kee flagship won ton noodle shop (no lines at all), where quite a few locals think the latter is overpriced because of the poor value without proper regard to the fact that their WTN is supposed to be snack portioned (and not a meal) while also disregarding their own culinary cultural tradition in favor of...."exported trends".
Would they lament the loss of a Hong Kong cultural icon so more tonkotsu ramen shops open up? The younger generation might not care...
Don't eat ramen much but if I had to pick, I'd stick with Shalala or Izakaya Ramen Yu-Gen (go when they open at 5:30 pm or face a wait). If you have been to Ramen Izakaya Goku in SF, Yu-Gen might not be that far off (owned by the same company that runs Shabuway and a myriad of other noodle shops, including the NorCal branches of Men Oh and Udon Mugizo).
Guru Katsu is a tonkatsu specialist eatery and on a pretty good level, at least for me above average compared to restaurants that do jack of all trades and have tonkatsu on the menu. You can also grind your own sesame seeds to make your own dip sauce, which is a nice bit of additional detail unavailable elsewhere. Plus all you can eat cabbage which tastes superb with your DIY sesame sauce dip.
Cooking Papa (Mountain View) would be pretty quick as well.
Olympus Caffe & Bakery across from the train station is very good if you have time. Solid Turkish pastries desserts/baklava, Turkish coffee, mint tea. Alexander’s Patisserie is just up the street as well (pastries/coffee/macarons etc).
Yeah Irvine location was horrible. Even Meet Fresh (a Taiwanese dessert chain) there was bad. :-(. Quality got lost in transit!
Chef Hung (洪師父), previous winner of several beef noodle competitions in the past, has a location here:
No. 29, Section 1, Kaifeng St, Zhongzheng District, Taipei City, Taiwan 100
Looking at google maps, it's 7 mins walk from Taipei Main station, near Mitsukoshi. They open at 10 am from their website http://www.taiwannoodle.com.tw/, if you are willing to wait/use that time to travel at 9 am it shouldn't be bad. You could also use that time to explore upper floor of Taipei Main station, lots of food court style eats (it's also a launching ground for new business to test the market, including chains out of Japan). They may have some beef noodle shops there, but probably not destination places.
Despite the fact they have locations in Vancouver and Irvine (the Irvine one I went to I did not like), the Taipei locations should be far superior.
Lin Dong Fang business hours are 11 am to 5 am if tripadvisor's snapshot of their business card is up to date, fyi.
72's signature is the oxbone soup (white/creamy broth). It's categorized under "clear" but it's closer to a Korean style "gomtang", but far better and very much worth trying. They have the hong shao version as well, but it is not their forte or primary focus (though I'm sure decent enough).
Yeah you are right.
I may have had "wor won ton" once, maybe even in Hong Kong back in the early 1980s. The idea was to basically supersize and serve a family style portion of won ton in soup for everyone at the table. I don't think it was a popular dish at the time, and I don't even recall if it had noodles inside (or if it was a request). People would order this if they didn't want to eat other things (e.g. dim sum) or that's all they needed/wanted. I don't recall seeing other things in the soup pot, and at the time, dining in a restaurant that served seafood and dim sum was more of an exquisite affair.
Traditional Cantonese won ton (snack portion) broth is made with roasted dried tilefish, shrimp shells, shrimp, shrimp roe, and maybe with a protein/bone stock (but even that's rare to come by in Hong Kong).
The latest craze in the last two decades in Hong Kong is to get 砂窩雲吞雞 (sa wor won ton chicken), which is a claypot soup with whole mature chicken, Chinese ham, napa cabbage, pork wontons (not sure if there is any shrimp inside), and before the trend of saving the sharks, yes shark fin was added. Used to be more of a regional Chinese restaurant specialty, (e.g. Spring Deer in Tsim Sa Tsui famous for Peking Duck, or Wing Lai Yuen famous for dan dan noodles that also does Sichuanese fit for Hong Kong tastebuds) but you can find it everywhere now. Even Washington Bakery in SF Chinatown offers a range chicken version of this, but obviously less refined and not cooked anywhere near as long. Basically won ton chicken soup with chicken.
Nanjing Kitchen - now I regret not getting the duck and making room in the ice chest (which was filled up with 20 bags of frozen Cha Oc/sea snail sausages from Westminster, and about 8 bags of Sinbala sausages), but other things I REALLY wanted to try and get to go (with enough advanced notice to the owner) is 鹽水鴨肝 (saltwater duck liver) and gizzard. Heck even their mini salted pork hock looked good! I think the owner said he gets his ducks from a specific farm in the East Coast. Luckily it's the entire duck so he gets the giblets too (unlike this NorCal restaurant which sources East Coast ducks for making Peking Duck in house, but they gets them without giblets, total WTF for us geeks who want to pair wine with this shizzle....)
In Northern California, pretty much all but one or two locations of Liang's have closed. I thought they went belly up in SGV! Didn't think it would be worth a trek for this out of towner, but maybe I'll reconsider next time round.
Huge Tree - I don't think I have a proper pulse of this vs Four Sea, but in comparing the mi jiang 米漿, Huge Tree does it the best (with Four Sea a close second). Hate to say this but the 米漿 at both locations surpasses their own soy milk offerings. I do dig the purple rice fan tuan though. We have Chef Wu in Fremont up here but their offerings are more limited. Huge and Four blows them away easily.
While I didn't eat around SGV that much this trip, Seafood Village was a total standout, particularly the Chiu Chow slanted dishes. Marinated duck was ace, as was the marinated pork intestines. The taro dessert (taro mud) was stellar with the snow ear funghi. Almost contemplated buying one to bring home!
Had the Proscuitto di San Daniele Dok Selezlone aged 36 months at La Nebbia, really good stuff! Supreme to eat alongside the burrata, frisee, bread, that wicked balsamic sauce, along with a glass of La Crotta di Vigneron Chambave Muscat 2010.
That sounds great, thanks again so much! Quite a variety there with the alcohol pairings! Last year at Keiko a Nob Hill, we also had a glass of Pinot Noir (Oregon state somewhere, 2011 or 2012) with the A5 Kagoshima wagyu steak (and Keiko's wonderful cherry blossom wood smoked duck, beautiful pink interior, done very well and paired beautifully), so I can only imagine how much more ridiculously awesome it would be with Ohmi beef.
The price tag however is holding me back, at ~$450/pp I'd probably just wait until the next time I am in LA and hit up Mori for another YOLOmakase, except it will be $450 for two people (although just one small bottle of sake)!
Lastly, do you remember the neta/types of fish you had for the nigiri course? Was it somewhere around 18 pieces (or was it less than that)?
Thank you again for your excellent details and insight! After having the cooked dishes myself at Mori and Shunji earlier this month, it's hard for anyone else to top them (I won't even mention my visits to Kichisen and Hana Kitcho in Kyoto back in January...). Also Mori was very engaging in conversation that made the experience a whole lot more memorable. Were you able to talk to Jiro in a similar manner at any point during the meal, or was it more quiet and subdued?
Can you tell us more about the sake (individual) offerings and the pairings? Did you get hojicha at the end, and what was the dessert offering (add-on or included), and any of those "petite fours" type things at the very end?
Went there on the 5th, and we were absolutely floored.
Most of their raw oysters are very very, good. The samplers (you don't get to pick) have been very spot on. Personally I prefer the Pacific NW area oysters, with select East Coast (MA state) ones in second place. If you love raw oysters, give the XL Naked Cowgirls (WA state) a try, so smooth and delicious. Pairs so wonderfully with a nice white wine or bubbly. Their top neck clams (raw) are also excellent
The clam cakes are also quite delicious if you crave for something hot.
The Hokkaido hot dog is brilliant, the entire sausage is made with scallops and was one of the best things we ordered.
If you like sea urchin (raw), getting a whole Santa Barbara sea urchin is quite a treat. They give you spoons to scoop it out of its shell and provide some toast/crostini (already buttered). Ridiculously good and quite the bargain at $18 despite the portion (then again to have this in NorCal would be almost impossible, too far away from the source and not in this level of quality).
So let me clarify my comment about that.
We praised the way the ikura was done to our waiter who checked up on us, and he (same guy who recommended Morinoya to us) said that Shunji is not a fan of salmon ikura, but applies his "washoku" techniques to it to bring out the flavors. I alluded to the strong katsuo dashi presence, and the waiter did not confirm or deny it, but said "trade secret" when I inquired what else might be in the making process.
What I do notice though is the way high end sushi restaurants in San Francisco Bay Area do ikura, vs my experiences at Mori, Shunji, and Zo back in 2007. A decade back, very few places did soy sauce, mirin, and maybe sake marination of ikura (in varying degrees and interpretations). Lazy mofos would just brine it and call it a day, and you usually end up with sad clumpy sacks. Now if you go to the likes of Kusakabe, Wako, Gintei, Maruya in NorCal, it's not hard to find soy sauce marinated ikura, and done pretty nicely.
But it seems that at least with Sushi Zo, Shunji, and Mori, the recipe and approach are very different, and in fact there is more dashi in the marination and the soy sauce portion takes a back seat. To me that is a good thing and refreshingly different. The additional chilling of Shunji's ikura, particularly when it bursts in your mouth, is very noteworthy. (Insert "popping boba" jokes here). As a side note, unfortunately both times I had ikura at Kasen (Fountain Vallety), their ikura was just the salted version. Had to get my soy sauce ikura fix at Sushi Koto with their kaisen-don.
And finally to the nigiri course.
At this point Shunji-san asked us if we want anything else and if we are ready for nigiri. We nodded. Then asked us how many pieces. After I said "let's do ten to start", his eyes opened wider and seemed pretty shocked. Then again if J.L. did 51 pieces this should not come as a surprise ;-).
I enjoyed the thinly sliced chunky house pickled ginger. Very strong flavor and very different from the typical "gari" you see elsewhere.
I believe this was the progression
and Shunji finished it off with his take of una-ju. Two pieces of delectable Japanese unagi over his sushi rice, and the eel sauce he poured onto it was awesome. The couple next to us got unagi nigiri, but I really appreciated the creativity he went through here.
Then we got lime and banana ice cream. Good stuff.
And finally the obligatory meal closer Hojicha. Not as great as Mori's but very soothing.
Some random comments
- Shunji, much like Mori, seems a little out of place. But I guess that's the nature of LA in this sense. The round exterior and the interior are certainly very interesting
- not the best acoustics inside, but it is a small place
- Shunji's ikura is excellent. Maybe this is a distinctive LA style where some chefs like Shunji do not like salmon and ikura, but apply some technique to it (there is also a strong katsuo dashi presence). However Shunji serves them much much colder than Mori, and the texture and popping experience you get is wonderful. Our waiter refused to divulge how it was prepped.
- Some of the shiromi had quite a bit of coarse/rock salt over it, at first I thought it was a bit overkill but it worked.
- The toro was maybe just a touch better than Mori, but not mindblowing.
- the cooked food surpasses the nigiri for sure, but the nigiri is pretty good.
- Shunji-san sported a really wicked hairstyle that evening, and evoked a presence that was unlike any other chef I've encountered. If Mori is the friendly traditional master excellent at what he does, then Shunji would be the avante garde "birth of the cool" smooth roller. It was amusing to see him interact with some of the regulars, and also made his own mistakes that made him rather embarrassed (he was decorating a sashimi platter and accidentally broke the sayori deep fried skeleton).
- Had a good exchange with our waiter, and I casually asked him what izakaya he likes around town. He answered Morinoya.
In some ways Shunji reminded me of the glory days of Koo (San Francisco) where the cooked food/small dishes were top notch, although clearly not on the same level.
Also, really really glad I finally made it here.
Tony, as with any sushi restaurant, my experience and instincts are: you are the customer. When you sit down Maru-san will also ask if you have any preferences/allergies/things you don't like and you can kind of customize a little.
So you can request the premium nigiri omakase and tell him no bluefin no uni if you like, and more importantly tell him when you want to stop. He actually said to let him know when we felt full, so he will give some choices from his nearing the end lineup, thus you get to choose what you must not miss.
I think the chef will calculate the tab based on what you ate and # of pieces. This is unlike some high end places in Japan, let's say you booked for a 20,000 or 30,000 yen omakase...you have to leave after the 4th nigiri piece for whatever reason (even if you are ill), they will still charge you full price.
Also Mori Sushi/Maru-san are very customer and service oriented. So long as requests are within reason, they will accomodate. True Japanese style hospitality. This guy rocks.
51!!! I am not worthy.
"My doctor told me to stop having intimate dinners for four. Unless there are three other people."
Next up, another killer beautiful platter of goodies, in a similar style to Mori but quite different.
- delicately fried baby sweetfish (ayu), a delectable piece of shrimp with sweet potato (satsuma imo) filling inside, and a wonderful Nikogori (sea bream soup jelly) with a piece of salt cured cherry blossom flower on top
- Japanese horned turban shell (small) sazae (simmered)
- firefly squid with vinegared miso sauce (hotru ika with su-miso)
- monkfish liver paste with caviar on top (very concentrated flavor)
Then came the kegani (Hokkaido hairy crab) leg meat course, absolutely delectable. Served with a side of kani-su (crab vinegar dip) which to me was not needed and personally not quite my style (unlike the versions I've had in Japan and Hong Kong). The side of the kegani carapace/crab brains/crab roe/crab guts was awesome. Ended up scraping more chunks of crab meat and mixing it with the paste to elevate the experience. A whole crab is otherwise $85 and to me a reasonable price (had the chance two years ago to have one in Hong Kong, and the restaurant offered it at a reduced cost of $65 to $70, but far too much for one to conquer), and would be great to do a multi course with.
Sashimi course - the least interesting of everything (before the nigiri). Bluefin and kanpachi. Could have skipped them honestly.
Next was the signature famous squid ink ika somen (truffle, sea urchin, quail egg on top). Ridiculously excellent, particularly when paired with the Ichigo sake. Tried some prior to mixing the quail egg yolk and after, and it truly spoke to me. Loved it!
Agedashi tomato - texturally amazing. Makes you wonder how he accomplished this! Deja Tofu?! WTF? There is an interesting mochi like layer that gives it that extra texture. The dashi/sauce at the bottom is rather savory, but so so so good. After having a series of cold dishes, this one warmed us back up.
Yakimono - Canadian black cod, I believe. It's in the vein of Nobu's Miso Grilled Black Cod (which is stolen from Kyoto style Gindara no Saikyo Yaki), but a more subdued simple soy sauce and citrus marination. Silky smooth fatty delicious piece, but without that fermented almost sake like taste. Effective and delicious!
Next up was the Shinshu Mushi - steamed halibut in soba with broth. Words cannot describe how effing awesome this was, particularly the soul soothing dashi it is served in. Reminds me a little bit of Toshikoshi soba (年越し蕎麦) mini bowls served in high end Japanese restaurants during New Year's eve/New Year's. To go from fusion done right, and immediately to a nailed down traditional classic without skipping a beat, is too genius and marvelous for words.
Next up, Hama hama WA state oyster tempura with a piece of proscuitto wrapped around it. Worried at first that the oyster might be overcooked and its natural flavor ruined (I'm of the school that if an oyster is pristine, I just slurp it down down as is, no sauce, and at most either a glass of bubbly or a nice white wine like a Riesling to go with it) but Shunji nailed that frying down to an artform, and with the proscuitto it made for a very interesting bite. The Ichigo sake was a good one to go with.
Before the nigiri, was the shabusuki. A5 Miyazaki fatty beef. Liked the shabu shabu and sukiyaki remix version of this dish.
(Nigiri portion of the review to come)
After a rather earth shattering experience at Mori Sushi last Thursday, it was hard to even fathom what kind of delicious aftershocks we would eventually encounter (followed by even more deep ass kicking rockin') the following night at Shunji. This was a place I had also lusted over since it was mentioned 3+ years back on this board.
Thanks to kind folks like Porthos, J.L., The Offalo, and many others of you who posted reports and reviews, I had some idea what to expect. But it still did not prepare me for the awesomeness of the entire experience.
The specials board would be literally a sight for sore eyes. F those DMV and eye doctor tests while covering one eye and reading out random letters to determine your glasses prescription! How about, "read me the 5th item down under Special Fish From Japan" or "read out loud the 3rd item from Chef's Creative Dishes"? What is the cost of that whole Hokkaido Hairy Crab if you are diagnosed with YOLO-itis?
So the strategy for us was simple. It was more nigiri focused the night before at Mori, and if we wanted to experience traditional and classic/avante garde Washoku in the same breath and sentence, then the need for more cooked dishes in focus, was our theme of the evening.
Shunji's sake selection is interesting, though I have to say Mori's is hard to beat (even carrying bottles not available at say truesake.com based out of San Francisco). Mori doesn't stock Dassai Junmai Daiginjo, but you can find it at Shunji's. We wanted to try his exclusively brewed in Japan for Shunji by Shunji (Ichigo Junmai Ginjo). At $80 a bottle, I had even contemplated buying one or two as a souvenir to take home. When I casually asked one member of waitstaff, they seemed unsure about selling unopened bottles but would be fine if one bottle was purchased, opened, consumed (no matter how much) then brought home. (Eventually I would dismiss the idea, as the sake is the perfect pairing with his cooked food, does not overpower and is gentle/delicate enough, it will not necessarily taste as good somewhere else, and left the fond memory of it there).
The amuse bouche was sea eel larvae (noresore のれそれ) with a dollop of sesame sauce. Huge fan of this texture (and the noresore too), far more slippery and smooth than nama-shirauo. Quite the delicacy and treat!
Next up was a refeshing delicious chilled soup (butternut squash, and I believe some cauliflower) with four kind of mushrooms (maitake, shimeji, enoki, shitake) and some scallops. At this point we noticed that with each course, the ass kicking meter goes up a notch.
The next course blew our socks right off. Home made soy milk sesame tofu with dashi gelee and Santa Barbara uni on top. I must say, a perfect medley of flavors and textures. Ever get so excited at a concert of your favorite performer that you can't resist yelling, shouting, clapping, and it's only the 2nd or 3rd song in and the greatest hits (or obscure classics/b-sides) have not been played yet? This was how it felt.
(More to be continued, stay tuned).
Actually no, it was not $400 per person, but $400 for two. My mistake. Sorry!
$95 pp (baseline omakase with kaiseki paced courses with some nigiri in between)
two glasses sake
and nigiri add on's a la carte. I just checked the website and kasui eni and shirayaki are $14.50 per piece. So these add up pretty easily.
I cannot ball like that anymore. But I think I did max out once at almost $450 solo (with mandatory service charge plus a little tip) at Ginza Iwa Hong Kong. That was an exception.
I haven't been to Shi Jia, but Lan Jia in Gong Guan, and this place, are supposedly the top gua bao joints in town (each with their own rabid following), unless things have changed recently.
Hopefully Tong Hua street night market still has a localized feel. Used to be that Ningxia night market was in that camp, but it has been overrun by tourists too in the last few years, and many people are trying to make a buck by writing about their food in foreign media (e.g. HK press).
Yes, total dopesauce of those two fruits! Thanks for shedding more light into this.
Sorry for the confusion, yes I had Oma bluefin kamatoro in Osaka market (Kuromon) sashimi. I just looked at my photo of this YOLOfest and it was 8400 yen per 100 grams. The order of sashimi from that toro specialist shop (Kurogin) I think ran over $150+ easy. My friend commented (and lamented) "ruined for life!" after eating it, and he was so conflicted about ever having toro in the States again. The kama toro I had was not properly defrosted, and it was less than 8 degrees C (but above freezing) that day, but once you let it sit on your tongue for a bit to warm it up, the sensation and taste after a minute or so is unforgettable.
When Maru-san said back of the neck when he described that part of the platter, and I asked "kama" he said "yes", and I assumed that was using the Boston wild bluefin he stocks up on. It's just a point of reference at least for me in bringing up the Oma bluefin kama toro I had. I don't know if Maru-san has ever served Spanish farmed bluefin, but he made his preference clear to me at night at least.
Even Ginza Iwa (Hong Kong, a branch of Sushi Iwa Tokyo) used farmed bluefin off the coast of Hokkaido (never got more info on that, it's just based on what I was told by chefs), and I think a few other places in town that are non star high end have access to the same stuff. It rivals and can surpass good Spanish bluefin.
Cool thanks for the clarification. Maru-san mentioned a South American country but I didn't want to get it wrong.
Yes exactly, boils down to the way the product was handled, stored, aged, the season and the conditions it lived, the amount of bleeding it goes through before deep freeze storage, and all those other finer details that get lost. One prolific and well traveled Taiwanese blogger (based in TW) informed me that migrating bluefin caught off the coast of Pintung and served locally are not properly bled (or at all), resulting in akami with a not so good iron taste. These I believe are the same bluefin that swim back to Oma at some point during their migration path (I guess they get to Jiro/Sawada/Mizutani et al if they are very lucky, or some rustic Taiwanese bluefin specialist sashimi butsugiri fest that does multiple courses in local cuisine, not properly bled if they are unlucky).
I know what you mean by spectacular farmed quality Spanish bluefin! When you get that perfect chutoro cut that is inbetween typical chutoro and otoro, looking more like otoro but tasting like pristine chutoro, it cannot be beat. You will be crying ooo-mommy if it gets a ridiculously good shoyu zuke treatment...
A few other tidbits before I forget
- Maru-san revealed that he keeps a steady supply of wild Boston bluefin, so it is almost always available (pre-purchased and stored in deep freeze). He believes this wild specimen is more effective than the Spanish farmed bluefin that many other restaurants use. Whether you agree with this or not is entirely subjective. But I will say that the bluefin trio pieces were not the cream of the crop that night at Mori.
- Mori-san appears to be somewhere in South America now, working in something food related, but not as a chef (distributor?). My memory is a bit hazy, the conversations went by too quickly.
- before otoro, I actually had a piece of kinmedai (seared). Not sure how I forgot to add that to the photo upload!
- we were not given the shrimp heads (strangely), nor asked if we wanted miso shiru, fried, or grilled (or imagine it smoked then grilled with kani miso inside....) but that's ok as our stomachs hit capacity by the end of the meal.
- the flowers on top of the wakasagi (smelt) and on top of the egg in the abalone dashi, I believe are cherry blossom
- I forgot to describe and include two items on the kaiseki platter! In front of the rapini was a small portion of shredded bamboo shoot, and on top, something that looked like cod roe (tarako), but was actually roe from Sawara (spanish mackeral). Textural heaven. Oh and I am appalled that I forgot to mention the two cute little halves of round little thingies...kumquat/Mandarin quat and baby peach, ridiculously natural sweet and refreshing.
- Next to the smoked takuan and pickled (pink) daikon were two pieces of smoked bluefin, I believe from the neck/kama area that Maru-san said was too tough to eat raw, so I believe he marinated it with soy sauce (amongst other magical substances) then cherry wood smoked them. In Osaka (Kuromon Market) back in early January, I did the YOLO thing and my friends and I shared an order of Kama Toro sashimi (neck/cheek) of Aomori Prefecture wild Oma Bluefin (the pedigree Jiro Dreams Of uses), and while the marbling is not as ridiculous as a farmed specimen, it can still be very heavy. So Maru-san smoking that kind of similar cut, helps for what he is trying to achieve here. The contrast between the takuan and the non smoked tsukemono daikon inbetween eating the smoked bluefin neck/collar for this tasting is very, very, profound.
Ouch, I lucked out then in comparison!
Two guys came in about 1/2 way through our meal and they had fewer appetizers, likely the $120 option, and one yelper who may have had a similar meal got 18 pieces of nigiri, though I ended up with more.
May have to specify Premium Omakase if you want and are willing to do #YOLOfest (which should be available even during lunch, assuming the chef has the time and materials ready by then, and if so reserving in advance would be the right way to go if you can't wait till dinner). So basically $70 for a few more pieces of nigiri and maybe a few other cooked dishes. I do want to note that dessert might not be included, ours according to the check, was on the house, ditto for the bamboo and kani miso tofu (strangely marked goma tofu) as a result of my ballsy request with the kani miso. But it may not necessarily be $70 more since it is marked M.P. and could change based on the chef's whim and seasonality of ingredients.
Absolutely agreed, and thanks for your very well thought out input/feedback.
Quite a lot of what you have said also boils down to attention to the finer details, some more subtle than others, and some requiring a much deeper appreciation and understanding to realize.
The finer polishing of the rice, compared to some of the ok places in Northern California, it was like progressing from an alright Daiginjo to a premium Junmai Daiginjo. Really unbelievable texture and taste of the rice. Would it have benefited from some red vinegar marination (to keep up with the trend and hype/Edo style rice revival)? Who knows, I didn't bring that up with Maru-san. Just glad he didn't give me a WTF look when I had that strange request with the kani miso I brought in!
To put it in perspective of some fairly recent to not so recent high end sushi meal experiences:
Kusakabe (San Francisco) starts off around $90+ pp, people usually don't get full, and nigiri add on's average $8 to $10+/$15 a piece (higher priced would be Japanese ensui uni, stored in saltwater where it came from), so with two glasses of sake, $400+ per person
Maruya (San Francisco): $150 to $180 per person easy, good variety of fish but the rice is nowhere close. To be fair that was before the original chefs left.
Sushi Mori Tomoaki (Hong Kong) - Lunch (requested dinner-eqsque YOLOmakase) ran probably close to $240 to $260. Very bold red vinegared sushi rice, it's considered above average for HK and cheaper than Michelin star Ginza style sushi. Some of the exotic items were: seko gani 香箱蟹 miso, Japanese (farmed) bluefin meat from the top of the head, smoked Nagasaki oyster, premium quality kawahagi with raw liver on top, seared baby bluefin, Kuruma ebi (raw)/Imperial prawn that Akiko's and apparently Yasuda uses, Kanburi.
Ginza Iwa (Hong Kong) - Premium YOLOmakase runs over $400.
Sushi Hirano (Osaka) - rated #2 in Osaka by tabelog, sat at the table, but a very comprehensive set meal that was Mori-eqsque but very different. No comparison really, but they had three cuts of whale blubber, whale bacon, whale belly (the stuff The Hump dreamt of), and hey it's part of that culture. That was almost $200. I'd imagine you can eat like a king at Ginza Tokyo for that price, rubber tire or not.
Sakae (Burlingame, NorCal) - You can spend $180 to $220 (no drinks) and order from the white board. Larger cuts, but quality can vary (compared to Mori). You can also spend that much at Koo (San Francisco) but it's nowhere in the same league as Shunji, but the cooked food and fusion touches done right are nice.
So yeah, Mori's price to performance ratio just from those perspectives, is very solid.