Sunday, February 21, 2010
We arrived in NYC the day after the snow storm. While many people were upset about the inconvenience and transportation delays caused, I was so excited to see the city covered with snow.
Lunch at Nobu. Clockwise from top left - Rock Shrimp Tempura with Creamy Spicy Sauce, Sashimi Salad with Matsuhisa Dressing, Broiled Black Cod with Miso.
We also had Assorted Sushi and Tofu Cheesecake for dessert. I’m not sure whether it was because it was lunch or our choice of dishes; I wasn’t very impressed with their food. None of the dishes were necessarily bad, but from their stellar reviews and reputation, I was expecting flawless presentation and outstanding quality. But to be fair, I’ll have to come back for Omakase at dinner next time.
My friend, Rachel from RD'lite compiled a list of places to visit in NY and the Zabar's was among them. It’s a historical Jewish market located in upper West Side. They have all sorts of pickles, freshly baked bagels, and taste-bud tempting rugelagh and their famous smoked salmons. On their second floor mezzanine, you will find cheap, silly kitchen gadgets to $$$ Al-clad copper cookware. It’s amazing how much stuff they carry in such a small space (although it’s probably considered big space in NYC). I’d visit this store all the time if I were living in the neighborhood.
From there, we looked for a place to eat dinner. My iPhone is more fun and useful when in a big city. Urbanspoon found Patsy's Pizza, which costed less than half of Nobu’s lunch and had enough leftovers for happy stomachs much later. One of the best pizzas I’ve ever had. It was a very simple pie, topped with thin layer of tomato sauce, both fresh mozzarella and ricotta cheese and fresh basil. We added a couple more toppings: roasted pepper and pepperoni. Delicious! On the way back, we stumbled upon the brand new Apple store that was just opened just a few months ago. It was gigantic and blasting super bright white light. Although I’m just another big Apple nerd, I didn’t really appreciate that they built such a huge, modern structure (totally wasting the vertical space) in the middle of Manhattan just because they can.
We (actually just me) again got distracted when we walked by Magnolia Bakery. So I bought a couple of cupcakes for next morning. (I was taking a break from being a dietitian during my vacation... LOL.) I tried the vanilla kind the next day, but honestly I was disgusted by the amount of frosting. I scraped away 80% of frosting and just ate the cake, which I thought was okay. I’m sorry if you are a big fan of Magnolia, but I don’t think my negative comment will make any difference when they already have millions of fans, however, the cuteness of the cupcakes are undeniable.
[Better stuff to come...]
Sunday, February 14, 2010
Last week, I was invited to a media dinner at Nombe. The former owners of Sozai Restaurant & Sake Lounge, Gil Payne and Mari Takahashi, partnered up with the executive chef from O Izakaya, Nick Balla, and created a new restaurant in Mission. If you've been to old Sozai, you may not recognize that Nombe is run by the same people until you actually taste some of the food. Even then, because their food has been refined, you may not notice that at all. While the old Sozai was quiet and had few and simple Japanese decor, Nombe feels like you are in a bar. The funky atmosphere created by the dark reddish lighting and upbeat music, the kind you would expect in any bar, made it more inviting for the younger crowd.
Nombe in Japanese means lush, but it could also mean an imbiber, someone who is a thirsty regular found at Izakayas in Japan. Though I'm not even close to an expert in sake, their long list of sake selection is quite impressive. If you are new to sake, don't worry, Mr. Payne is a very friendly sake sommelier, he would be happy to help you with that.
We asked the waitress for the recommendations and pretty much followed what she suggested all the way. We also ordered at least an item from every category: house plate, fried dish, grilled dish, starchy dish and dessert. First item we had was from the house special - sautéed Brussels Sprouts with mint, carrot and togarashi (spicy powdered assortment of dried chil peppers and other seasonings), drizzled with ponzu sauce. It's very similar to Namu's Brussels sprouts, but this one had a more refreshing taste to it and of course no fatty pork pieces.
The second dish was from Agemono (fried) - Pork Belly with karashi (Japanese mustard), stewed onion and shoyu tamago. Oh my god! This was to die for. The combination of pork and boiled egg seemed a bit weird, but it was sublime. The pork was crispy on the outside and very juicy inside. The egg was cooked to just perfection. It was so soft that picking it up with chopsticks almost broke the egg. Because it was cooked in shoyu (soy sauce), it has faint brown tint on the egg perimeter.
The third dish was also from house plate, Black Cod with spinach, fennel, leek and miso. It must have been only cooked to medium. I'm so used to grilled fish being very tough and dry, it was a big surprise for me when I tried to pick up some meat off the fish. It was very fluffy, unbelievably soft and almost melted in my mouth. The fish was accompanied by some cooked vegetables; they were so creamy I couldn’t believe it was miso. If I could make fish like this, I would eat it everyday!
The fourth item, we ordered the Yakitori Sampler from Yakimono (grilled). Yakitori literally means grilled chicken in Japanese. All different parts of chicken are put on skewers and grilled and it is one of the most popular street foods in Japan. Our sampler came with chicken thigh with ume and shiso, Negima (chicken thigh with scallions), chicken gizzard, tsukune (it's usually chicken balls, but sometimes made into one big piece on a stick like this) with egg, chicken hearts, and chicken skin. I'm typically not thrilled about any organ meat or gizzard, but they somehow made it so tasty that I didn't even care what I was eating.
As I talked about Izakaya food before, you order starchy item towards the end of your meal. So for our starch option, we chose Wild Nori. Crunchy salty wild nori and toasted sesame seeds were mixed into steamed white rice and topped with chopped scallions. I truly take my hat off to this dish for making plain rice so tasty.
Since I couldn't make it to the dessert last time, this time I made sure to leave some room for that. There were three options for the dessert and they were all new items I haven't seen before. As the waitress suggested, we tried Warm Kabocha Mochi Cake with Toasted Almonds, which she explained that pureed pumpkin is incorporated into the actual mochi. It sounded pretty good and I was expecting chewy, sweet soft mochi like daihuku kind, but it was actually more like rice pumpkin pie without the crust. The consistency was quite dense and not as chewy as I imagined. This was probably my least favorite of the dinner. But this place is where you go to drink good sake and eat savory street food, so I’m not surprised.
I didn’t come to Nombe just because I was invited for the dinner. I had actually wanted to try it out since they opened in December 2009, because I knew that they would have really good food. What I like about this restaurant is that it’s not pretentious at all. You know that your money goes to quality of food and drinks and not the interior décor or fancy table cloth and dishware. Their food is very down to earth and there is no rush to finish your meal.
2491 Mission Street SF
Sun, Mon, Wed, Thu, 6:00pm-11:00pm
Fri, Sat 11:00-2:00am
firstname.lastname@example.org - 415.681.7150
Sunday, February 7, 2010
If you’re a regular of The Breakaway Cook, you’ll recognize that this post was inspired by his most recent post about Matcha Soba with Veggie Medley.
Eric makes a variety of wonderful flavored salts such as Matcha Salt, Tangerine Salt, Lavender Salt, Smoked Paprika Salt and Kaffir Lime Salt. He shows you how easy it is to make those flavored salts on his blog and if you are a visual type of person, you can watch his video on Youtube. Basically, you take a very flavorful ingredient and mix it with good quality salts in a spice grinder. It’s simple and yet so brilliant!
I haven’t tried them all yet, but matcha salt and tangerine salt are definitely worth the try. You’ll be surprised how well you can incorporate them in your everyday cooking. It also creates a lovely fragrance in your kitchen as you’re making it.
I prepared this dish in two different ways while most ingredients were kept the same: 1) served cold with a drizzle of ponzu, 2) quickly stir-fried and served warm. Both were unique and very tasty in different ways. Yes, the one shown in this photo is the cold kind before adding ponzu. I blanched edamame and asparagus, shocked them in cold water and tossed them in cold cooked noodles with some smoked salmon and sprinkles of tangerine salt. The second kind was made by stir frying cooked noodles and blanched vegetables with a little bit of butter. Just after turning off the heat, I added smoked salmon and sprinkled a pinch of tangerine salt and pepper. Both are topped with cut Nori, adding another Japanese twist.