This week has been a somber one with the news of Anthony Bourdain’s passing. I find myself in shock and saddened that we’ll never hear that oh-so-recognizable voice again (thank God for OnDemand and the internet). His unfiltered nature and willingness to try anything was fun to watch, as well as the great rapport he had with everyone he met and interviewed. I feel lucky that I got to see him (and Eric Ripert) years ago at The Moore theater in Seattle while he was on tour to promote his book Medium Raw.
My husband and I frequently go to Japan for skiing in the winter. It was brought to our attention on this last trip that Anthony Bourdain was obsessed with the egg salad sandwiches at the local Lawson minimarts…think 7-Eleven in the United States. I know, I know – it sounds disgusting in every way possible but I trusted him (who doesn’t?!) and low and behold…he was onto something!!! I honestly don’t even think I had ever even eaten one in my life, but I was willing to give it a try. Holy #$@! Those fluffy little sandwiches are something special let me tell you! How is a minimart sandwich that amazing?! The crust is perfectly cut off the sandwich which is also perfectly sliced into two triangles to fit into the neat little packaging (packaging is EVERYTHING in Japan)…AND… the bread is not soggy. What???!!! I don’t know what else I can possibly say to validate his love for these sandwiches but one thing’s for sure, you have to make this a priority the next time you’re anywhere in Japan (they make great midday snacks on the chairlift or train).
In his CNN travel show, “Parts Unknown with Anthony Bourdain,” Bourdain states what every Tokyoite knows:
Tokyo may well be the most amazing food city in the world. With a nearly unimaginable variety of places stacked one on top of the other, tucked away on every level of densely packed city streets.
At Lawson’s, you can dig into their unnaturally fluffy, insanely delicious, incongruously addictive egg salad sandwiches. I love them. Layer after layer after layer of awesome. Proud eateries serving who knows what. But it all smells delicious and looks enticing.
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!
Steamed Pork Buns – soy-mushroom glaze, picked diakon
Kyuri Pickles – persian cucumbers, spiced rice vinegar, dill
Miso-Roasted Cauliflower – shio-koji butter, fresno chili, bonito
Chicken Paitan – rich chicken broth, minced chicken, egg yolk, shio combo, rye noodles
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.
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.
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!
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!
Kondo – Tokyo, Japan
I knew this was a 2 Michelin star tempura restaurant but I didn’t know much more than that. Surprisingly I was able to make reservations just a day in advance for 6 people which was even more shocking when I saw how small the place was. There was absolutely no English signage so had it not been for our taxi driver pointing it out to us we probably never would have found it.
Once inside we were seated around the tempura bar with a front row seat to tempura delights being fried in front of us (also Chef Fumio Kondo unbeknownst to us). With three menu choices to choose from, we decided to go big and ordered the largest of the three, the “Yomoji” menu which included – an appetizer of 2 Japanese dishes, sashimi, tempura (7 vegetables, 4 fish, 3 shrimp), and Kakiage (a mixture of scallops and honewort fried in batter). It was an aggressive order but our thought was “go big or go home!”.
Highlights were the shrimp, tuna sashimi, and tempura vegetables. My least favorite dish was hands down the first appetizer which included two types of raw fish (which were very good) and then a large snail and fish liver. I’m not a fan of liver to begin with and this one didn’t do anything to change my mind. That being said I tried it to be polite and moved on:)
With each piece of tempura that we were served, we were told to eat half with a little salt and the other half dipped in the tempura sauce which had fresh diakon in it. Overall I enjoyed the simplicity of the salt. Everything was so fresh and cooked to absolute perfection. Watching the chefs delicately prepare each dish was a treat.
Sashimi, fish liver (I believe monkfish) and sea snail
Steamed tofu with yam, gingko nuts, and potato
Kisu – flat white fish
Some sort of fish/eel wrapped in shiso
Fruit for dessert