Shuko

February 6, 2017 § Leave a comment

Another stellar meal at Shuko, one of my all-time favorite restaurants. The chefs and staff are always so warm and welcoming, practicing their craft to perfection, and I love that you can eat pristinely prepared sushi and kaiseki dishes in an environment that’s casually blaring old school hip hop or Justin Bieber at any given time. Dress is as casual or formal as you want it to be and it’s not out of the ordinary to strike up a conversation with your neighbor at the counter. Plus, even though the kaiseki tasting menu consists of a long procession of dishes, I never feel like I’m about to burst out of my jeans by the time the meal has ended…which has happened before at dinners with a French or New American emphasis on cuisine.

Highlights of the cooked dishes from this visit include the crispy fried oyster with hollandaise, black truffle and pea shoots (a wonderful mix of textures and earthiness against fresh greenery); cumin-inflected squid with carrots and fennel and a meltingly tender braised veal cheek with crispy fried sunchoke, sunchoke puree and fresh Asian pear.

Sushi-wise, the first toro piece was beautiful as always…perfectly rich and unctuous. Also really loved the amber jack; ocean trout (which I didn’t get to have the last time I visited but remember loving); Spanish mackerel; sweet, sweet scallop; baby shrimp; uni (of course); a mini roll of grilled toro with chiles and scallion that was completely out of this world; the matsutake and truffle tempura that was super light for something fried; and finally, the charcoal-grilled tuna we ordered as a supplement that I will never be able to forgo ever again. Amazing to see our awesome chef Andre prepare it in front of our eyes and hand it to us seconds later, still smoking and glistening from all that fat. A couple bites of the famous apple pie and I was ready to (blissfully) call it a night. Can’t wait til the next time!

 

Sushi Nakazawa

October 2, 2016 § Leave a comment

Dinner at that temple of sushi, Sushi Nakazawa (and as you’ll see below, it really did feel like a temple). I’d been wanting to go ever since it opened to rave reviews but was always too lazy to bother scouring reservations for a decent time at the bar. Finally, near the end of the summer, when I had a serious sushi craving and work was slow, I managed to snag an 8:30 p.m. spot at the 10 seat counter. The reservation was on a Saturday evening, which meant that Chef Nakazawa (of Jiro Dreams of Sushi fame) wasn’t in, but the quality of the food and service was still at the highest level (as it should be, given the price of the omakase).

While the overall experience was wonderful, the general atmosphere seemed a bit stiff to me – the interior was very sleek and modern (almost sterile-feeling), the chefs behind the counter didn’t seem particularly keen to make conversation (even more noticeable since there was no music playing) and the other guests were mostly a well-heeled crowd that seemed to hold the restaurant in such reverence that they weren’t willing to let loose and relax (also, there was a super hip woman wearing a fedora throughout the entire dinner, which I just didn’t understand. I must be getting old). I’m still very glad to have had the chance to go, but given the choice, I’d much rather go to Shuko for dinner, where the food is still perfectly executed (and honestly, more interesting – especially when doing the kaiseki menu) and everyone, guests and chefs, is having a fun time making conversation in a warm and inviting room with Top 40 or old school hip hop blaring in the background.

On the other hand, in addition to the pristine fish, Nakazawa’s sake pairing for $45 is an absolute steal. Compared to some high-end, tasting menu pairings which can set you back another $150 or so (which includes the pairing at Shuko), this was so affordable and I really enjoyed the choices (and the obscenely generous pours). Anyway, see below for the actual courses:

Chum salmon, smoked sockeye salmon, soy marinated salmon

Chefs hard at work

Scallop

Squid

Sea bass

Barrel fish

Spanish mackerel – this was a favorite of mine.

Horse mackerel

Unfortunately, I can’t recall the name of this particular type of fish.

Dungeness crab

Preparing the botan ebi…look at those dimples

Spot prawn – seriously delicious

Skipjack

Trio of tuna from leanest to fattiest

California and Hokkaido uni – always a crowd pleaser

Unagi and the infamous tamago

A lighter sorbet and tea to round out the meal

 

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