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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.

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The reason I’m putting this in my Good Things section is simply because I don’t speak Japanese therefore I’m not able to tell you where to go exactly to eat at Tsukiji Market.  BUT…I did take pictures which I know will help.  The first spot – I’m not even sure what we were eating but it was kind of like the Japanese version of a Philly cheesesteak on rice minus the cheese.  Amazing!!!!!!!  We got there fairly early and by the time we left there was a long line so it must be “the place”.  Our second stop – fresh tuna.  Need I say more?! You get to choose how fatty you want your tuna – lean, medium fatty or fatty.  I chose to go middle of the road and it was delicious.  Third – dried fruit.  I’m not even sure what we bought but they had samples and they were sweet but subtle.  The kind of mysterious snack where you keep eating it because you want to figure it out but can’t.

I suggest going early in the morning (by early I mean 8:30-9am) and just wander.  Get lost, turn left, turn right, just explore and have fun.  I promise you won’t have a bad experience and if anything you’ll wish you had more time.

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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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