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Ivan Ramen – New York, NY

Oh boy!  If you’re familiar with Chef’s Table on Netflix then you already know about this place.  If not watch the show, you don’t even need to commit to the whole series, but this episode is worth it.  I finally got my husband to watch it and afterwards, he was craving ramen every single night – no joke.  We were conveniently on our way to NYC shortly after so we made going to Ivan Ramen our #1 priority.  SOOOOO worth it!  Holy cow.  We were with another couple and all of us ordered the same thing – the Chicken Paitan (with an oven roasted tomato of course).  When it came and we took our first bite we were all speechless and then…just moaned.  I kid you not.  I’m already dying to go back.  We got in line 30 minutes before they opened because we didn’t have a reservation and it was a good thing.  If you’re a ramen fan this should be at the top of your list!

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Steamed Pork Buns – soy-mushroom glaze, picked diakon

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Kyuri Pickles – persian cucumbers, spiced rice vinegar, dill

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Miso-Roasted Cauliflower – shio-koji butter, fresno chili, bonito

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Chicken Paitan – rich chicken broth, minced chicken, egg yolk, shio combo, rye noodles

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Sushi Zo – New York, NY

I was hesitant to write this post only because this place feels so special that I’m not sure I want to share it but…I’m going to share because if you’re a sushi lover you should make this place a priority.  There are 10 seats situated around an L-shaped counter that frames Chef Masa at work.  You are served an Omakase menu (multi-course tasting menu) that will change your sushi life forever.  I was blown away and ordered more once the service was done.  Not to mention the miso soup with king crab as your starter is the best miso soup I’ve ever had.  Well done Chef Masa, well done!!

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45th Stop N Shop and Poke Bar – Seattle, WA

Poke bowls from a convenience store?  Yup!  And they’re incredible.  I’ve been known to go multiple times a week.  The menu is simple – 1, 2 or 3 fish (Izumidai, salmon, shrimp, tuna, unagi, or tofu) and from there you decide if you want regular or spicy.  Next you decide if you want rice, salad or 1/2 and 1/2.  Sides included are seaweed, ginger, crab meat, edamame and avocado.  The ingredients are incredibly fresh and the staff couldn’t be nicer.  Not to mention your bowl is made so quickly that the wait time is minimal even when they’re busy.  If you don’t have time to go yourself, do yourself a favor and use Postmates.

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Sushi Sukiyabashi Jiro – Tokyo, Japan

If you’ve seen the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi then you’re well aware of who Jiro Ono is.  I’m completely convinced now that it’s nearly impossible to get into his sushi restaurant.  However, we DID get a reservation at his son Takashi Ono’s restaurant, Sushi Sukiyabashi Jiro in Roppongi.  There are 8 seats at the counter and rules to go along with dinner.  No perfume and you must be on time or they will cancel your reservation after 30 minutes.  The rice is purposely prepared so that it’s warm when you eat it (side note – if at any time you feel yourself getting full, tell the chef and he’ll make your rice serving smaller going forward – big help considering how much you have to eat!).  The ambiance is not that of your typical sushi restaurant in the States.  No music or mood lighting.  It’s all about the sushi.  Anything else is purely a distraction.  Chef Takashi Ono was very personable and talked to us during the whole meal.  Was it worth the price and hype?  Absolutely!

Our dinner consisted of the following:  Flounder sashimi, clam sashimi, abalone (awabi) sashimi, marinated mackerel sashimi, flounder nigiri, squid (ika) nigiri, needle fish (sayori) nigiri, lean tuna (maguro) nigiri, medium fatty (chutoro) tuna nigiri, fatty (otoro) tuna nigiri, sardine family fish nigiri, large scallop (hotate) nigiri, raw horse mackerel (aji) nigiri, Ikura nigiri, tiger prawn (kuruma ebi) nigiri, Japanese geoduck (mirugai) nigiri, octopus (tako) nigiri, sea urchin (uni) nigiri, hard shell clam nigiri, small scallops nigiri, saltwater eel nigiri, egg nigiri.

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Sushi Kashiba – Seattle, WA

I had the pleasure of eating here on my birthday this year…what a treat! This is Chef Shiro Kashiba’s new sushi venture located next to Pike Place Market where the old Campagne used to be.

If you don’t know anything about Chef Shiro, let me give you a quick little breakdown.  Before starting his own restaurants in Seattle, Shiro spent many years working alongside his sushi mentor Jiro Ono (of Jiro Dreams of Sushi), who many consider to be the world’s greatest sushi chef.  He eventually made his way to America, convinced that in the Pacific Northwest he could keep the integrity of the way sushi is made in Tokyo.  He was right!  Fast forward to today – he has opened four restaurants, Sushi Kashiba being the only one he owns today, and has been nominated for the James Beard Award twice.

My husband and I decided to go with the “omakase” menu – chef’s choice sushi dinner.  Overall it was enough food, not too much, not too little.  Everything was outstanding!

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Naka – Seattle, WA

When my husband and I went here last month, we had the choice of two menus, the a la carte menu or the kaiseki menu (a traditional multi-course Japanese dinner).   With the kaiseki menu we then had three choices, the Tasting Menu (5 or 7 courses I can’t remember), the Naka Kaiseki (10 course tasting menu) or the Chef Kaiseki (15 course menu which requires a weeks notice).  We went with the Naka Kaiseki because why not?!  We were also told that the chef’s intention was to eventually limit the menu to just the kaiseki one and have the a la carte become the bar menu.  Looking at their site right now I see they’ve made that transition.  I hope this doesn’t discourage people from trying this restaurant because the tasting menu was outstanding.  When you hear 7-15 courses, I think most people think that sounds like a lot but some of the courses were just one bite.  Very simple clean food so we both left feeling satisfied and not the least bit full, refreshing actually.

The presentation was stunning and the flavors were outstanding.  I highly recommend Naka if you appreciate great Japanese cuisine.  The bill can get a little steep so it’s the perfect place for a special occasion.  I should also mention that we enjoyed the wine pairing as well and the pours were very appropriate seeing there were 10 courses to be had.

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Sugarfish – Beverly Hills, CA

BEST. SUSHI. EVER.

My mouth is salivating as I think about my meal at Sugarfish.  Honestly, it was the best sushi I’ve ever had.  I may not know everything about sushi but I will tell you that I’ve eaten it around the world.  From The Tsukiji Market in Tokyo to Seattle, I’ve sampled a lot of “the best” and this by far is THE BEST out there!

There are three menus to choose from: Trust Me/Lite, Trust Me and The Nozawa.  Think of it as small, medium and large.  You can order a la carte but price-wise, you get more for your money with the prefix menus and you will most definitely want to add more to it once you’re done.  I chose the Trust Me and my husband got The Nozawa.  Each included edamame, tuna sashimi, albacore sushi, salmon sushi, yellowtail sushi, halibut sushi, a toro hand roll and a blue crab hand roll.  The Nozawa also included a “Daily Special” as well as a few more pieces of the sushi.  My favorite was the tuna sashimi and the albacore sushi.  The sushi is served nigiri style (fish on top of the rice) and the rice was warm (I’ve never experienced that and it was such a great surprise).  The fish couldn’t have been better quality.  It seriously melted in my mouth.  I remember 1) being speechless as I ate it, 2) telling my husband that you wouldn’t even need teeth to eat this sushi and 3) that if I had to choose my last meal on Earth this would be it!  They don’t take reservations so go put your name in and have a drink or walk around.  Worth the wait for sure!

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