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Japanese

dinner/ Japanese/ Seafood/ Uncategorized

Kusakabe: A Deliciously Harmonious Omakase

I want to be a regular. This may be aspirational, since it seems as though everyone also feels the same way. With one Michelin star under the belt, Kusakabe seems to churn out fans – not only with its high-quality fish but its natural and comforting service. Nothing seems to be out of place, and all is harmonious with the extra focus on what’s most important – the fish.

There is only one menu – the omakase (chef’s menu) – where eight central courses are all centered around fish, and several sushi pieces sewn throughout the meal.

Sushi Prelude

The first piece was a great opener and set the tone for the rest of the meal. The Zuke Chutoro – a lightly seared bluefin medium fatty tuna cured in soy sauce – was awfully delicious. The tuna was flavorful; the saltiness from the soy with tuna melded harmoniously and ended with a faint char at the end. Chef Ken mentioned this was their signature piece, and I can totally understand why.

Unlike its previous counterpart, the hirame (fluke) served with shiso was light and refreshing. Nice way to follow the zuke chutoro.

The katsuo (skipjack tuna) followed suit. Served with some green onion, it was delicious as it encapsulated umami flavor.

Sashimi

Tuna and hotate (scallop) sashimi served on top of shaved ice with fresh wasabi and yuzu onion sauce. Each piece was definitely very fresh. Surprisingly I also enjoyed eating the radish as it provided a complementary refreshing taste and crispy texture against the fish.

Soup

The Ushio-jiru (seafood soup) was made from Japanese tai snapper, and had somen noodles with fresh yuba. At first I wasn’t expecting much, but after the first slurp I was under a food trance. All I could keep doing was slurp to much of my pleasure. The soup had depth, with meshing umami and citrus flavors, and lightened with dashes of cilantro.

Hassun

The beautiful plate of the chef’s petit fours and a Shiguko oyster served with French Daurenki caviar well represents what’s in season. What I got was, not surprisingly, all very tasty – some examples include a shrimp with a dusting of freeze-dried egg yolk or a crab claw with a puffed rice cracker.

Warm Dish

The Sansho Teriyaki Monkfish and its liver with “Soba” buckwheat and Nameko mushroom risotto was finely cooked. There wasn’t much risotto and I would say, mainly focused on the monkfish. Nothing wrong with that in my book!

Sushi Chic

The shima aji (striped jack) was nice, with some good fattiness to it.

Kamasu (Japanese Barracuda) was so delicious too. It was lightly torched which brought out the light char flavor but went so well with the fish itself.

I easily gulped down the buri (yellowtail) – it was very fresh and had some good fattiness to it. Yum.

Sushi Finale

The omakase officially ends with your choice of toro or wagyu beef sushi, which I chose the former. You can never go wrong with toro (fatty tuna). After all, it’s meant to melt in your mouth and that it did.

Obviously I couldn’t stop there so I ordered two more pieces to see what was on the a la carte menu.

I decided to pick a piece where it required a bit of preparation versus being a fresh piece of fish, so this was the Ji Kinmedai (Golden Eye Snapper) that has been lightly smoked with cherry wood. It was delicious, though I think I tasted more of the smoke from the char than the cherry wood.

Last, but certainly one of the more memorable pieces of sushi to me, was the Gyoku. It was made from fresh lobster and organic eggs. Essentially it was a fluffy egg cake, and provided a perfect sweet savory ending to the meal.

I found my entire meal to be nicely paced. Chef Ken was incredible and knowledgeable about his craft and fish. Nothing there felt pretentious and just a restaurant that aims to serve delicious sushi and dishes. Good thing I’ve already made my next reservation.

Kusakabe
584 Washington St
San Francisco, CA 94111
(415) 757-0155
kusakabe-sf.com
Opentable

Japanese/ lunch/ nyc/ Seafood

15 East: Treating Myself to High-End Sushi

As a celebration of my new job, I decided to take myself to 15 East for some delicious sushi. It has been a while since I’ve been to a nice restaurant (I know it’s a bit shocking) so this was a nice way of celebrating with myself. Needless to say, there’s a reason why 15 East has a Michelin star – they serve very fresh sushi in a very clean and comfortable atmosphere. I got their lunch omakase:

You start off with edamame, and looks like it’s covered with some matcha powder.

Octopus – clean and not too chewy.

Above are all my sushi pieces I got dealt with. For all the sushi experts out there, I can’t remember which each one was but I would have to say the highlight for me was the marinated tuna (3rd from the top).

The uni from Hokkaido was also another highlight of my meal. It was a great piece of uni, providing the richness of the sea in one bite – it was perfectly creamy and rich, and didn’t make you feel like you were eating innards. SO DELICIOUS!

After the plate of sashimi and raw prawn (as shown in the first picture), they fry the prawn head for you to eat further. Nothing goes to waste and proved to be something not wasted. It wasn’t oily and had a great shrimp / prawn flavor.

I’ve managed to squeeze in one more addition to my lunch omakase – an ikura uni soba. It was well made – the soba was cooked perfectly – and the fish roe and uni made it unbelievably tasty. Would I have it again? YES please.

Lastly I was served this strawberry panna cotta-like dessert – it was light and had a good taste of strawberry. It was a great way to end the great meal.

For those who are looking for some fresh sushi served with an attentive waitstaff, this is the place to go. If you’re going to sit at the sushi bar, make sure you say hi to the sushi chef Masato. He definitely knows his fish!

15 East
15 E 15th St (btw Union Square West and 5th Ave.)
New York, NY 10003
(212) 647-0015

dinner/ Japanese/ nyc

Yopparai: Sake and Snacks Abound

Atop a narrow stairway seemingly hidden in the Lower East Side rests a Japanese izakaya, a type of Japanese drinking establishment that also serves food to accompany the drinks, named Yopparai.  As if entering an apartment, with the buzz of a button this tranquil restaurant appears and you are quickly transported to Japan.  There are only 30 seats in this place, again resembling the tiny spaces in Tokyo, and sake is the name of the game.

However, my interest lies beyond the drinks and into the snacks that are meant to pair with the drinks.  Yopparai takes pride in using high-quality ingredients and an open grill, which only means I gotta try, I gotta try! The first dish pictured above is their Masu Tofu (升豆腐), chilled tofu served in a masu box with benito flakes, seaweed, and other condiments.  The tofu was silky smooth so you’ll definitely need the spoon.

The Uni (sea urchin) mixed with squid topped with seaweed was creamy and fresh tasting.  The squid provided an added layer of chewy texture, and was easily finished by everyone.

With a list of daily specials, the scallop is served in a shell with broth and a flame.  Yup, that is real flame on top of salt.  Sadly enough I can’t remember how this dish tasted, but was definitely memorable in its presentation.

The Chutoro (中トロ), fatty tuna, was like its name – fatty and melted in the mouth.

Grilled octopus, how can you go wrong?

The assortment of six oden (おでん盛合) was good though I found the broth to be a bit salty. Still, it was nice to be able to try out the various odens that had different textures.

There’s the Isobe Yaki Mochi (自家製磯辺焼), homemade pounded rice cake grilled with soy sauce, that had a great chewy texture but a bit salty for me.

How can you have yakitori without tsukune (名物自家製つくね) a.k.a. meatballs?  Here there was both the free-range chicken (地鶏つくね) and the washu beef (和州牛つくね).  Both good but on the salty side.

The Kakuni (黒豚の角煮), Kurobuta pork belly simmered in dashi broth, was extremely salty and I would highly recommend you eat it with some rice.

Where are the veggies?  No we did not forget that food group!  We got an assortment of grilled vegetables, which were perfectly charred.

Ochazuke (茶漬), dashi broth poured over rice, was served with cod roe.  It was light and tasty, standard rice with broth dish.

The Yaki Onigiri (名物関ヶ原たまりの焼おにぎり), crunchy rice ball grilled with Sekigahara soy sauce, was surprisingly salty and a bit hard to finish. It was served warm but had too much soy sauce to it.

Overall, Yopparai is a place that definitely needs its snacks paired with drinks.  Many of the dishes were too salty for me, but I did find that their seafood was very fresh.  Their sake is also undeniably good so I would definitely come here for its drinks.  It’s not an easy find and a small restaurant so I wouldn’t be surprised if you walk past the stairway a few times before finding it.  Happy drinking! Gan-bai!

Yopparai
151 Rivington St
New York, NY 10002
(212) 777-SAKE

dinner/ drinks/ Japanese/ nyc

Bohemian: Japanese Exclusivity

When my friend mentioned that there’s an ultra exclusive Japanese bar / restaurant in NoHo called Bohemian, I was immediately intrigued.  What do they serve? Why would anyone not want their establishment to be full of patrons?  As it turns out, there is an appeal to knowing a place that isn’t known by most people like some other places around the area, inundated with tourists or loud college kids (woo hoo NYU!).  Anyway, my friend scored a reservation (he got the phone number through a friend who has eaten there as well) and I was excited to see what makes this place tick.

We took a look at the menu and decided to get their tasting course plus a few other dishes to try out the highlights (according to FourSquare).

Farmer’s Fresh Vegetable Fondue was beautiful and a great appetizer to whet your appetite.  Personally, I can probably eat these vegetables without any dip, but what they provided was a nice thousand island-like sauce to go with it.

Pictured above is the uni croquette which was creamy and had a great umami flavor.  Enjoyable and easy to eat in a few bites.

We also started with a plate of Herve Katz’s Assorted Cold Cuts which were good, but nothing particularly memorable for me. However, I am generally not falling off my chair for cold cuts anyway so take my comment with a grain of salt.

Who can resist having Washu-Beef Short Rib Sashimi? The melt-in-your-mouth feeling in the beef was there, and all of us wharfed this down pretty quickly.

A cast-iron pan is brought to our table loaded with vegetables and with a Pan Roasted Branzini. The vegetables around it were nicely cooked and soft though a bit salty. The branzini was flaky and worked well with the vegetables when eaten together (since the fish itself had a mild flavor).

Here is the Wagyu Beef Mini Burger, which was definitely mini. In terms of flavor and other important aspects of a burger anyone cares about, I wasn’t particularly impressed…we do have a lot of good burgers in NY so it is hard to say this was particularly unique (even with the wagyu beef).

The Ikura Caviar Rice Bowl was tiny and simple – caviar with rice.

Their soba was a bit too salty for my taste, but was still good. I always enjoy noodles so it was nice to end the meal this way.

My conclusion – It’s nice to go to a place where there aren’t loads of people waiting for a table or has the noise level of a club. The food wasn’t memorable, but I would say it’s a great place for drinks. It’s also a good place to catch up with someone or even have a date. Their decor is interesting and looks like they have these pieces of art around, which makes it have more character. All in all, I had a good time but not sure if I would want to go back for dinner but probably for drinks.

Bohemian
Great Jones Street
New York, NY
Phone number unknown

dessert/ dinner/ Fusion/ Japanese/ nyc

Lan: Fusion Japanese Done Well

I’m always hesitant about Japanese food in the city. There are a lot of Japanese restaurants out there, and majority of them I am not often too impressed with. Either the quality of fish is lacking (reflective in the price), or it’s so expensive that I wouldn’t dare step in (i.e. Maru, 15 East, Blue Ribbon Sushi, the list goes on…) so it leaves me at this weird middle place about Japanese.

Then you bring on FUSION. I’m always hesitant about this idea of fusing two different cuisines. It’s hard to master one cuisine, not to mention incorporating another one…can a restaurant really do that well? I always see fusion = japanese + chinese + korean = not good.

However my friend Alex wanted to try this place and I’ve always passed it when I was at NYU so I said, “Why not? I’m a working woman now. I can afford to come here now.” Therefore, I say this as a warning – do NOT go there with a student budget mindset. It is not for the poor and hungry! However, I can guarantee you that you will get very good food…and onto my review:

Lan
56 3rd Avenue
(between 10th and 11th St.)
New York, NY 10003

Once you walk into the restaurant, you find yourself away from the loud NYU area to a quiet and dim open area. It looks very clean and the waitstaff are very attentive. Took our coats, scarves, umbrellas, and onto our table we sat. After deliberating for a while, we decided on a number of dishes/courses…this is my attempt to be “baller” status:

This is Steamed Homemade Prawn & Vegetable Dumplings flavored with oil. Though there were only a few dumplings, it was really good – they definitely used fine ingredients. The prawns were large and the skin was silky smooth. It was slightly spicy, but not overwhelming in flavor.


This is their Egg Custard “Chawan-Mushi” with Lobster Sauce. It was a new take on the traditional Japanese egg custard dish that is often eaten as an appetizer and has a soft silky texture. They added a lobster sauce, which worked very well with the egg custard. You could taste the lobster as well and it added another layer of flavor to this dish.


We deliberated for a while which sashimi plate to get – chef’s selection or the normal selection? CHEF’S SASHIMI SELECTION! Boy, was it good. It was like a trip around the world because they had fish imported from Japan. The cuts were fresh and meaty…I felt like some pieces even melted in my mouth.


This is the Green Tea Tiramisu dessert. As you can see, it is covered with matcha powder. The combination was surprisingly good and didn’t clash.


Shown above is the Chocolate Souffle, Raspberry Sauce, and Vanilla Ice Cream. It is REALLY good…namely because I also love desserts that incorporate both cold and hot elements. The combination of all three – chocolate, vanilla, raspberry – made this a delectable dessert.

Conclusion: My experience at Lan has been one of the most memorable Japanese dinners I’ve had. One dish that I didn’t show above was the prime rib shabu shabu. Our waiter was so helpful too, even when it comes to picking sake! He gave us a sampling of three sakes and it was delicious with what we ordered. Yum. I give this meal and restaurant a HUGE thumbs up!

dessert/ dinner/ Japanese/ nyc

After A Long Break…Japanese!

Yes, I know it’s been a while since I’ve blogged…I completelyapologize for my lack of food entries and journies. It’s been quite hectic lately – job search, school work, midterms, club activities. All those things add up to ZERO free time. However, I’ve found time to go to restaurants, eat, and take pictures.

I gotta say, one of my latest dinners this month was a really big pick-me-up from the depressing job search: Chiyono + Chikalicious. I’ve been meaning to go to both for a LONG time, so when my friend and I went, I forgot about my hectic life for that night…which was much needed.

First off is Chiyono. Originally, my friend and I found this place randomly since it’s in the middle of Indian Row and it’s a Japanese restaurant. Nonetheless, it’s a real authentic Japanese restaurant. Everyone in there spoke Japanese and I had to ask lots of questions to figure out what the heck I was going to eat. hahaha.

I got their Fried Oyster dish, which is a special winter dish:


It was really good. The paste on the top right is actually spicy…reminded me of wasabi. Anyways, it’s definitely worth a trip there. The restaurant is really cozy and has this huge wooden table in the middle, to share the place. It’s a relatively small restaurant, but if you want some authentic “home-cooked” Japanese food, this is a great place to go. Highly recommended. And most importantly, it’s not too expensive so it won’t hurt your wallet.

Afterwards we were still hungry so my friend suggested to go to Chikalicious. I think he said that because he knew my spirits needed to be lifted up…through food. Just by mentioning Chikalicious made me SO happy.

If y’all don’t know about Chikalicious, it’s basically a dessert place in the East Village where their menus change everyday and are freshly made by this Japanese women and a fellow chef. It’s incredible. There’s a fix prix menu of $12, additional $7 if you want a wine pairing with your dessert and what you get is an Amuse + Entree + Petit Fours. So it’s treated like a real meal, except it’s dessert. I think my pictures will show you what I mean:


This is the Amuse, which basically means an “appetizer” that is a few bites. Psh…it’s definitely amusING for them to tease you…making you wait in anticipation for the next course. It was real cool since we also got to watch them make the desserts; we sat at the bar so we were lucky.


My friend got this dish, which is a “Warm Chocolate Tart with Pink Peppercorn Ice Cream and Red Wine Sauce“. Yum yum.


I got this dish, which was “Banana Salad on Crispy Kataifi and Chocolate Pudding with Mint Froth“. It was really good. Their shapes and combination of fresh ingredients made it very tasty and unique. I loved it.


Lastly, we ended with Petit Fours. There’s marshmellow with coconut flakes, chocolate truffle, and…well, the last one has a hazelnut on top of it. My friend fell in love with the hazelnut. hahaha. All in all, Chikalicious is DEFINITELY a place to visit so make sure you go! I warn you that it gets very busy during the weekends, so you should try to get there at 8 PM on weekends or go during the weekdays. They’re opened until they run out of the ingredients…and people seriously will wait for a long time so this place. It’s very good so I encourage all of you readers to go!

Alright, so that’s that. If I have time, I will definitely post more of my adventures!