Sunday, January 4, 2009

Osechi from Delica rf-1

I ordered Osechi from Delica this year. I really like Delica. It is one of the best Japanese delicatessen (Osouzaiya / Depachika) outside of Japan.

I think almost all Japanese people who live in Japan eat some sort of Osechi for the new year celebration. (FYI We celebrate January 1st / western new year's day).
Osechi consists of many good luck dishes. New Year celebration is one of the biggest holiday of the year in Japan. Osechi dishes are prepared before new year's day and eaten 1st through 3rd of January (Called Sanganichi) so that women do not have to cook and can enjoy the celebration with family and guests. All the dishes are displayed in beautiful lacquered boxes and consumed cold. They are prepared to last at least 3 days by either braised, salted, pickled, candied or dried. We usually visit family and friends and eat Osechi at different houses for the 3 days. Each region and family have different variation for their Osechi. The restaurants, schools, stores, and almost all other stores are also closed for the first 3 days (it is changing now 10 years ago or so and some store stay open through the new year).
This years Osechi at Delica was $300 ($50 discount if you bring back the lacquer box from previous year).
The menu included:
1st Tier:
1. Seasoned Prawns - Tasted like Preservative or chemical... May be farm raised imported shrimp?
2. Rolled Kobe style beef with Burdock - I liked the tasty crunchy burdock but Kobe style beef was too fat to be eaten cold.
3. Roast Beef - It was tender and nicely cooked medium well. I think it could use little more seasoning and should have been sliced thinner.
4. Smoked Salmon with Fromage Blanc - Tasted ok but it's NOT Osechi!
5. Slow-Cooked Abalone - Nice flavor and nice texture beautify presented in the Abalone shell
6. Marinated Herring Roe - It was beautifuly prepared without any membrane but tasted bitter and I didn't eat them. When you prepare herring roe, you have to be careful not to over soak them. If you take away too much salt from the roe, it become bitter and uneatable.
7. Kombu Cured Sea Bream (Tai) - Tasted elegant. The tast of Kombu came through.
8. Roasted Duck Breast - Perfectly salted. Tender and not too fatty.
9. Salted Olives with Cheese - It is NOT Osechi and made everything in the box smell like olives. PLEASE DO NOT PUT OLIVES in Osech next year!

Second Tier:

10. Pickled Daikon and Carrot with Dungeness Crab - I think they shouldn't have put Crab in Namasu (Picked Daikon /Carrot). Crab is not traditional and didn't go well with the dish. Also, crabs had cartridges in them... The vegetable tasted the way they suppose to be. Sweet sour and good.
11. Braised Burdock Root with sesame - Kansai style vinegary burdock.
12. Caramelized Dried Anchovy with Pine Nuts - I never liked this dish as I grow up but I was pleasantly surprised I liked them for the first time. It was nutty and not too sweet.
13. Sweet Black Beans - Perfectly cooked plump and shiny beautiful large beans. I could tell they used high quality "Tanba" beans from Japan.
14. Mashed Sweet Potato with Chestnuts - One of the best Kurikinton I ever had. Not too sweet. I could taste wonderful character of Japanese sweet potatoes.
15. Pickled Chrysanthemum Shaped Radish - Very beautiful and refreshing
16. Karasumi Bottarga (Salted dried Mullet roe) - Thinly sliced high quality Mullet roe. Very tasty reminds me of aged (24month+) Gouda.

Third Tier:
17. Braised Shitake Mushroom Taro, Bamboo Shoot, Carrot, Lotus root, Konnyaku and Green Peas - I loved every bite. Perfectly cooked in light Japanese fish broth. Only thing was Lotus root was little overcooked..
18. Baked Omelet with Shrimp Puree - Nice light texture with hint of shrimp flavor. I ate it with soy sauce and wasabi.
19. Black Cod w/ Sweet Miso - Tasted very good cold. Black Cod was fatty in good way
20. Minced and Roasted Chicken with Saikyo Miso Topped with White Sesame. It was good but I think they put too much chicken fat in it. May be needed little more saltiness too.
21. Rolled Kombu - nicely cooked soft and tender high quality kombu

Overall, I was very pleased with Delica's osechi. I had low expectation since I never had a great store-bought Osechi before even in Japan. Except a few dishes I mentioned above, everything tasted great. I also liked the fact they did not use too much sugar in their cooking (In Tokyo where I grow up, Ochechi have "Amakara" sweet and salty seasoning which I do not like...) I think their seasoning style is Kansai (western Japan) style. I will buy their Osechi again if I'm in the US next year for the New Year.

Delica rf-1
1 Ferry Building, Shop 45
San Francisco, CA 94111
(415) 834-0344


Addition to the Osechi I bought from Delica rf-1, I made Ozoni.
Ozoni is a brothy dish with mochi (sticky rice cake) and a major part of Osech which almost all Japanese people who live in Japan eats in the morning of January 1st.

Each region make different kind of broth with (Shio / Salt, white Miso, Red Miso, or Soy sauce). The contents are different by region too. With seafood or with chicken? Round moch or rectangular moch?

My mom's recipe is Tokyo style.

Chie's Ozoni (Tokyo style) consists:

1 /3 Chicken broth and 2/3Bonito broth

Soy Sauce

Komatsuna (similar to spinach but more texture)

Chiken leg pieces (No bone, no skin, and no fat)

Kamaboko slices (Fish cake - preferably Tai no kamaboko)

Daikon slices

Rectangular Mochi

Mitsuba (for topping)

It is also my family tradition to make Japanese style roast beef (we eat it with Japanese yellow mustard) for the New Year celebration every year.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Main stream Kobe Beef

My friend sent me a link for Cosco Wagyu beef. I was doubtful it is a real Wagyu from Japan until I read the link. It seam to be real Japanese even though they do not specify which variety / brand (i.e. Kobe Matsuzaka etc). As I mentioned before, There is about 139 Wagyu variety across Japan (concentrated in southern Japan).

They state "100% authentic Wagyu of the highest grade possible" A-5 in their description.
A-5 is the best ranking for Wagyu. Priced at $2299.99 for 15LB ($153.33 per pound) they are priced reasonably.

I was not a big fan of Cosco but I may have to revisit...

Sunday, November 9, 2008

"Brand" "Breed" for Eggs

Ok. Now people care about different Brand name for Meats such as Kobe beef, Matsuzaka beef, Angus beef, Hereford beef and Kurobuta pork.

How about different breed of chicken eggs? Japanese people care about "brand" name for chickens and eggs. Some eggs like Ukokkei can costs more than $10 each.

Me personally I do not eat any "Factory Eggs" which come from chickens living in small cages fed vitamins and antibiotics. I think the eggs come from healthy chicken laid naturally tastes so much better.

I consider a good egg suppose to have :

1. Strong shell
2. Bouncy yokes (I prefer dark yellow / orange colored yokes)
3. Rich almost oily york flavor
4. Thick dense whit
5. Mild or no chicken smell

...Araucana Egg

I was very very very happy to find 3 varieties of fresh organic free range chicken eggs from local farmer's market (see the top picture)

Beautiful and tasty Green-Blue Araucana egg

One of my favorite way to eat egg is Japanese OmuRice (Omelet Rice)

I also love OnsenTamago (slow cooked egg) with Chive Natto (fermented soy bean) Rice with Dash Shoyu

Monday, May 26, 2008

Japanese Butcher / Wagyu

Perfect Marbling of Fat

Wagyu Rib eye stake from Gunma Japan .
890 yen per 100g - much cheaper than in US

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Kejserens nye kl├Žder (Emperor's new clothes)


1723 N Halsted St
Chicago, IL 60614
(312) 867-0110

The restaurant remind me of Kejserens nye klder (Emperor's new clothes)I was very excited to dine at Alinea but I was extremely disappointed...It was one of the worst dining experience I ever had. I cannot express how awful it was in words but I'll try...

1. The restaurant suggests formal attire (Jacket / no jeans) however their atmosphere did not match the dress requirements. It was very casual in a bad way. When the hostess took us to our table, I asked her if we were at a waiting room / cocktail room before getting moved to the main dining room, but it was our actual table to experience our Tour - 24 courses. I also noticed that because of the way the tables were set up and bad ventilation, I could smell everyone else's food in the dining room.

2. The chef added emphasized elements of scents to some of the dishes which were overpowering and not well composed. For example, he put a full branch of mint in an outer bowl of a dish and the server poured hot water on top of it at the table side.

The mint scent was so strong and overwhelming that it not only destroyed the great soup but also lingered through the next 3 courses served. I could also smell the mint every time someone else in the room received the dish. I could smell the mint before the hot water was poured, I do not understand why he wanted such a strong sent with a dish. I saw the chef Grant Achatz speaking about importance of scent on video. (http://videos.howstuff/)

3. The chef put more effort to create a dish which is "different" than "great tasting". Yes some of the dishes such as Ice Fish were beautifully presented, but flavor composition and balance did not follow the beauty.

I believe importance of proportion and balance of ingredients comes before plate presentation. In this dish a lot of mayonnaise was used as glue to make the dried fish stand up.

The Mayonnaise's rich taste was so overpowering that it killed other taste components of the dish.

Also for the wagyu dish, a thinly sliced (shabushabu thickness) beef was frozen by liquid nitrogen then hung on a wire until defrosted and cooked on top of the warm black truffle / potato.

I asked our server that other than the appearance, what does freezing the beef add to this dish. He said it was just a presentation for us to enjoy watching the beautiful beef melt and change appearance... Freezing meat usually let moisture out of the cells thus make beef dehydrated. I cannot see any good reason to freeze wonderful wagyu beef for just appearance...

4. Some dishes such as Bacon which was hanging on a wire were inedible. I understand why the chef coated bacon by butterscotch for this dish. Fattiness and saltiness DO go with sweetness (same idea as fois gras with fruit compote, duck confit with balsamic reduction, or honey baked ham...) but the balance is the key.. This dish was overly sweet and fatty, it was inedible.

5. Some of the guests were unacceptably loud and obnoxious. They were talking to us and other guests over other tables. We were minding our own business, but few other guests were drunk and yelled at us inappropriately several times. For example, our server presented a skewered dish served on a freestanding wire and told us to eat it without using hands. The male guests on the next table shouted "I wanna see you eat it" (eating it with our mouth wide open without using hands / resembling a sexual act).

The dining environment was extremely uncomfortable so I asked our server if it was always same at the restaurant where the entire guests talk to each other. His answer was "our guest enjoy lively atmosphere and even Wolfgang Pack is eating with us tonight." The guests kept talking to each other over our table during whole dinner. I enjoyed neither the food nor the atmosphere. We told our servers to stop bringing last few courses. We left the restaurant without eating last 3 courses, paid for the entire "Tour", left over 15% tip and went out of the restaurant.
To be objective,
  • Visual presentation: 4.3 / 5 points
  • Innovativeness of dishes 5 / 5 points
  • Quality of ingredients 4.2 / 5 points
  • Scent 1 / 5 points
  • Taste of each component in a dish 2.8 / 5 points
  • Composition of flavor for the each dish 1.5 / 5 points
  • Flow of the courses 2 / 5 points
  • Wine (independently from food) 5 / 5 points
  • Wine choices (paired with each dishes) 3.2 / 5 points
  • Server's knowledge of food and wine) 3.9 / 5 points
  • Service (servers' customer service skills) 1.8 / 5 points
  • Atmosphere 1.4 / 5 points

Bottom line, I will not dine at Alinea even though they were at $40 per person (at 1/10 of the price point).

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

What is Caviar?

Caviar = Fish egg? I don't think so.

I found interesting definitions:

"What is Caviar?
Biologically, caviar is the unfertilized eggs of fish. Roe is fertilized.
The FDA defines roe as unsalted fish eggs and caviar as salted fish eggs.
French law states: if the name simply says caviar, it's from sturgeon, caviar from other fish must list the species name, such as "salmon caviar."
In Russia, black caviar is from sturgeon, red is from salmon. In much of northern Europe, black caviar is died lumpfish or whitefish." (The Little Pearl)

"Caviar is the processed, salted roe of certain species of fish, most notably the sturgeon." (Wikipedia)

My understanding was same as the one for the French law. If it's not specified, it better be sturgeon.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Buying Wagyu / Kobe beef

I found two butchers in San Francisco that sells real Wagyu /American Kobe beef.

I was little disappointed that both of the butchers did not know exact definition of Kobe and Wagyu beef, I wish the butchers study little more about the back ground of the meat they carry.

Bryan's Quality Meats
3473 California St, San Francisco, CA 94118
Phone: (415) 752-3430

I was very happy to see that Bryan's carry REAL Wagyu from Japan.

As of 3/06/08 Prices are:

Real Wagyu from Japan Rib eye $100 / LB
Real Wagyu from Japan Fillet $100/ LB
(I don't know why they are same price... Fillet always cost more in Japan too)

American (Californian) Wagyu Rib eye $39 /LB
American (Californian) Wagyu Ground $9.99 / LB

Antonelli's Meat Fish & Poultry
3585 California Street, San Francisco, CA 94118
Phone: (415) 752-7413

They have Snake River America Kobe style beef which is not 100% Kobe beef cattle nor from Japan, but taste great as a hamburger. It has very nice beef juice flavor with depth. The fat doesn't linger in your mouth.

As of 3/06/08 Prices are
Ground shoulder $9.90/LB
NY Stake $54.99 /LB
Fillet $79.99

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Myth Chef O'Brien

After finding out Chef Sean O'Brien is leaving Myth, I had to get to Myth before his departure.
I really liked Myth. I liked their cozy but modern decor. I liked food which was complex yet simple.

I had:

1. Point Reys Oysters Marinated in Cilantro and Lime with Yuzu Tobiko - Great combination of flavors and textures. I am not a big fan of cilantro but it was not over powering the dish. The acidity of the lime gave the dish a refreshing finish. The sweetness of tobico enhanced the sweetness of the oysters. The crunchy texture and aroma of yuzu gave interesting contrast to this dish.

2. Caribbean Shrimp Poke with Cucumber, Shiso, Hijiki, Soy Sauce and Kakui Nut. The shrimp was poached perfectly to the milliseconds. The shrimp was deveined in Japanese way with 2 small holes without a big cut on the back. I think this way is better when it’s poached because it holds in flavors better. I am Japanese and I never had these Japanese ingredients together in a dish but I was very happy with the end result. I am not sure about naming of this dish though...

3. Fresh Rigatoni Pasta with Foie Gras Cream, Maitake Mushrooms and Marsala - Great dish. I loved perfect balance of rich Foie Gras cream perfumed by Marsala wine. The Maitake and the pomegranate seeds added great texture to this creamy dish. Arugula on the top added fresh green bitterness. I think it was an exceptional dish.

4. Warm Pear Terrine with Toasted Cinnamon Brioche, Golden Raisin Coulis and Brown Butter Ice Cream - I didn't like it at all. Didn't like the texture nor flavor composition. I didn't eat them.

5. Chocolate tray - They were too creative. Bad flavor combinations and textures.

I didn't like that they put silverwares directly on the table. I did like they warmed their plates like they suppose to.

Even though I did not like and I didn't even finish their "Dorigo: Friulian Wines So Cool, They are Red Hot" wine flights, I appreciate their wine director Ales Fox. He suggested Gruner Veltliner, Hirsch "Heiligenstein", Kammern / Kamptal (Austria), 2005 and Nebbiolo, Cascina Adelaide, Barolo (Italy) 2003 for the dinner. For the dessert wine, I had Scagliola, Moscato d'Asti, Asti, 2006. They were all outstanding! I had a great conversation with him as well. It is sad he is leaving Myth.

I am interested in coming back to Myth when the new chef arrives. I still didn't hear the confirmation that Ron Siegel from Ritz ( )is coming to Myth.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Truffle salt

I was very happy to discover this Italian truffle sea salt at JP seafood. It is packed with full aroma of truffles. I love using it on soft boiled (5 1/2 minutes from boiling) eggs. It is very simple but unbelievably good!


1650 Park St
Alameda, CA 94501
Phone: (510) 865-3474