Saturday, June 27, 2009

Sushi the Old-Fashioned Way: One Fish at a Time

by Guest Blogger BCD Dad

Dad has had the opportunity to travel to Singapore and Brunei in recent months for work and has gotten a few meals in. He was gracious enough to chronicle one of his awesome sushi experiences in Singapore in a guest post. Thanks Dad!!

The experience of Shiraishi Restaurant, Singapore, May 2009

It does seem odd that our family, that came from grandparents who were essentially meat-and-potatoes raised, has become such fans of the fin. Perhaps it started when Grandpa Podolny (William) became so engaged with the Japanese in his business relationships and it has blossomed ever since, being reinforced by my own travels to Asia, by my brother Richard’s many experiences in Japan and now our daughters’ various travels to China and further abroad.

Meat and Potatoes notwithstanding, there does always seem to be a compulsion for the search for perfection, and I admit that I succumb, especially when I am in Asia and have a free evening to myself. Unfortunately none of my traveling colleagues share the passion for poisson to the degree of our family, so it is not something that I can persuade, especially considering the price.

So when the planets aligned and I found myself with a free evening in Singapore, which has to be among the top foodie cities in the world, the pursuit was on. A little internet research and a recommendation from the concierge at the St. Regis, and I had a reservation at Shiraishi, a tiny sushi bar located in the Ritz Carlton Millennia Singapore. I hesitated at first, the restaurant being in a hotel, forgetting briefly that outside of the USA, the finer hotels also have the finer restaurants. I was also a little skeptical since the online reviews for all of the top-end sushi/sashimi places were only mediocre. But I don’t really trust other reviewers of sushi restaurants, since the absence of a California roll, for me, is a plus.

Shiraishi has sixteen seats and tables for ten. It is small. There were four sushi chefs upfront and four wait-staff. A very good ratio so the service was perfect.

Minimalist setting to go with the minimalist presentation

My goal was to try the very best and most unusual sushi/sashimi in the house. Shiraishi is a “fugu” rated restaurant, but alas, the poison poisson was out of season. I left the menu up to the chef along with a budget (what a distortion of terms). What followed was an interesting, unusual and delicious presentation of about twelve different courses – most of which focused on a single fish.

A first course on-the-house “amuse bouche” did make me worry a little bit though. It was a dark tuna in small pieces with several flavorings including onion, soy, and sesame. But I was tasting “tuna fish salad.” Things got much better in a hurry. As an alternative to edamame, there was dadachamame (maybe), a sort of cross between lima beans and soy beans, boiled and salted edamame style. This had a lot more substance than the edamame, with almost a sweet potato flavor.

The next course was a mixed sashimi. The presentation included a white fish, very thinly sliced, almost transparent, with ponzu sauce, and then four or five other types including amebi, Kampachi (like hamachi), and what was to be the star of the evening: an absolutely luscious Ohtoro (very fatty tuna). These other fishes enjoyed freshly made wasabi and two kinds of fresh herbs that first decorated the plate and then under the chef’s direction were added to the soya mix.

Annoyed that the amebi was missing a very crucial part, I calmed down when the tempura battered shrimp head and tail appeared as a separate course on a teeny-tiny plate of its own.

Then came the parade of sushi. One piece per serving – a size just perfect to fill the mouth, a minimum of sushi rice – and advice on each piece ("no soya on this one").

Here’s the round-up:

Ohtoro – Awesome

Kampachi – A perennial favorite (same as “hamachi?)

Uni and Ikura – From Hokaido. A very interesting juxtaposition

Kohada – “…no soy on this one…”

Anago– Perhaps the only real disappointment. Too bland and mushy.

Akami (tuna) with oshinko

There were three more, but I’m sorry I can’t recall what they were!

The finale was a nigiri sushi combo. Three pieces each: back for an encore the Negitoromaki – Fatty tuna & welsh onion roll and then a riff on Kappamaki, a delicious miniature cucumber with Umeshiso spicy pickled plum sauce.

Green tea, the house sake, and three bite-size pieces of a perfect “honeydew” melon rounded out the meal.

This was a strictly minimalist approach to the fish. At other ‘high-end’ sushi shops, there is typically, and I quite enjoy, the artistry of the presentation. Here, this was kept to a minimum – no reproduction of the Imperial Palace done in daikon and wasabi. Aside from this minor observation, it was a very pleasurable meal which could only have been better if shared with my sushi afficionado family.


Thanks Dad! Great post. Now when are we going out for sushi??


X & E

Thursday, June 25, 2009

A Tale of Two Cities: Cleveland and Charlotte

by Xani

Recently I've been on the road again and my latest trip took me to visit my dear friend Hayley in Cleveland, then on to Charlotte, NC for a conference. Plenty of good times and good eats in both places. Beginning with:

Cleveland gets a bad rap. The winters are interminable, the local economy sucks, and every summer the city gets invaded by "Mayflies" or "midges" which may sound like something cute but actually they are disgusting little pests that land all over your body! Gross!!

Um, anyway, Cleveland may have its issues but thanks to Hayley I always have an awesome time when I visit. And we ALWAYS enjoy plenty of tasty treats.

My first night we hit Momocho, a funky little joint that bills itself as "mod mex." We arrived in time for happy hour and enjoyed 1/2 price margaritas, including this trio of flavors: cucumber, blood orange, and... something else that now escapes me. Cucumber was the best!

Then we worked our way through LOTS of guacamole (and more margaritas). Another trio, this sampler included: traditional guacamole, guacamole with pineapple, jicama, habanero, and mint, and guacamole with blue crab, corn , and chipotle. Interesting combinations... not the BEST guacamole I have ever had, but I never met an avocado I didn't like!

Mmmmm.... Guac
Our Guardian Angel
Margaritas getting to us...

Next we moved onto the main courses, which were, sadly, a little forgettable (also, my pictures suck and therefore will not be posted). I did like the remolacha (roasted beets + spinach / spiced peanuts / chihuahua cheese), an interesting vegetarian dish, and the queso fundito (house made chorizo sausage / rajitas / corn tortillas). We also had a special with... boar? elk? It's all lost in a margarita haze at this point. The food was solid, just nothing mind-blowing. Great atmosphere and great margaritas (obvi)!

The next night we had a truly fantastic meal at a place I'd wanted to try for a long time: Lolita. Lolita is the more casual counterpart to Lola, Iron Chef Michael Symon's fine dining establishment in Cleveland. The menu includes lots of delicious meat (especially pork) products that Symon is famous for. But, of course, we began with cocktails:

This was a lime and vodka concoction that went down smooth

Then, the parade of food started. We began with these lovely roasted dates with almonds, chiles, pancetta and parsley.

And pure decadence on a plate: roasted bone marrow with grilled bread, scallions and salsa verde. Heavenly.

The "Big Board" included generous servings of a selection of their house-cured meats and tasty accompaniments including soppresata, proscuitto, cured duck breast, and so on. Look at all this gorgeous MEAT!

We finished up with an excellent wood-fired pizza with housemade pork sausage (more pork!), garlic, olive oil, rapini, chiles and fresh mozzarella, and a side of crispy fried brussels sprouts with anchovies, capers, walnuts and chiles-- delicious!

Excellent pizza-- and the leftovers made killer breakfast

What a meal!! Iron Chef Symon (and the hardworking cooks in the open kitchen) did NOT disappoint. I would definitely go back and try some of the other tantalizing dishes (crispy chicken livers? bucatini carbonara with pork belly?? yes, please!)

When it was time to leave Cleveland (sad-- was having so much fun with Hayley and did NOT want to leave. Can't wait til she visits Baltimore in August!) I headed directly to Charlotte, NC, a place I had never been before. With no rental car it was a little challenging to get out and about to interesting eateries, but one night some coworkers and I hijacked (not really) the Charlotte Fire Department shuttle and hitched a ride over to Mac's Speedshop (tag line: Beers. Bikes. BBQ.). What a scene-- apparently we were there on "Euro night" which meant every bike in the lot was a BMW or Ducati. It was crowded with people so we enjoyed a few frosty beverages while waiting. Once we were seated, we ordered a variety of BBQ-- some folks got a platter of pulled pork or brisket, but others (including myself) got the "Little bit of everything" so I could see what all this BBQ was about. A few moments later, my "little bit" arrived. The platter, which was $15 and came with two sides was one of the most ENORMOUS servings of food I have ever seen. It was obscene. One whole giant platter covered with ribs, brisket, pulled pork and quarter of a chicken, and the sides on another giant plate. I'm embarrassed to say I barely made a dent in the food (but would be more embarrassed to report I had eaten it all!). My pictures don't do it justice:

pics are waaaay dark, but if you can make our two plates, I can promised you they were both LOADED with food
meat mayhem

It was a meat masterpiece! But waaay too much food and as tasty as it was, I had to leave most of it there (no fridge in the hotel room, although I'm sure it would have made great leftovers). The only person at our table who was able to finish his whole plate was Mike. Mike, if you are reading this, my hats off to you. You are a gentleman and a scholar.

What a trip. It was heavy on meat, and extra-heavy on fun! Where will work/play take me next?? Stay tuned to find out!


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