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 klæder (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

Dining room at Ritz Carlton San Francisco

Ron Siegel is one of my favorite chefs since he used to work at Charles. My other favorite chef Melissa Perello (used to work at 5th floor) calls him her mentor.
After hearing rumors (not confirmed by restaurant nor him – still in negotiation) about Ron leaving Ritz and going to Myth, I had to go there for his tasting menu before his departure. I think if he does a tasting menu at Myth, it would be much more casual since they are supposed to be keeping their theme.

I really like Ron's cooking style. My culinary style is similar to his for:

1. He uses high quality fresh local in season ingredients.
2. His flavoring composition is very graceful. All the ingredients are in harmony.
3. Very neat and interesting presentation. Reminds me of Japanese kaisekiryori style. Using potion sizes of 1, 3, and 5.
4. Good flow of courses and theme

On 1/18/2008 I had his tasting menu with the wine pairing. I was very happy with most of his dishes but there were a few things I would change.

Before the first course: Empanadas stuffed with cranberry beans and truffle. They were warm and great flavor combination. Instead of my usual choice Champagne, I had a cocktail to start. I like the way Ritz serves mixed drink such as Rum & Coke or Gin & Tonic. They bring Soft drink and liquor separately in little carafes to be mixed at the table.

Course 1: Nantucket Bay Scallop ~ dashi gelee, watermelon radish ~ The scallops were fresh and cooked perfectly – browned on all sides and a little rare inside. Good dashi (I think he used bonito broth with soy sauce) to complement the scallops.

Course 2: Quail Egg 64 ~ golden osetra caviar, croutons, cedar smoke ~ I think he slow cooked the quail eggs in lower temperature hot water. Japanese call this egg cooking method "Onsen tamago". The temperature of the hot water is supposed to be between 60 to 65 degrees Celsius (140 to 149 degrees Fahrenheit). I think that is why Ron called this dish Quail 64. I think this composition was brilliant. Real cedar smoke was coming out of the dish below. One problem I had with this dish was he cooked the quail egg too long. The consistency of the egg was not custardy…

Course 3: Blue Fin Tuna Sashimi ~ avocado, Dungeness crab, oyster plant, golden osetra caviar ~ Out of all the tuna variety, I only eat Blue Fin as Sashimi. I believe blue fin has depth in flavor without being acidic like other tuna, so I was very happy with his ingredient choice. At first I thought there were too much going on with the dish but all went well together. However, there were a few fundamental problems. The avocados he used were not ripe and the same ingredient (caviar) served in previous course was repeated in this dish. Avocado is not in season right now and if it was hard to get a nice one, then he shouldn't have used them. It is always the best to use in season ingredients and especially the chef's tasting menus should always reflect the seasonal ingredients. To pair, we had Gruner Veltliner, Rotes Tor, Federspiel, Franz Hirtzberger, Wachau, Austria 2006. It was lovely wine with floral nose but dry finish. No oak aroma. Very nice choice for this dish.

Course 4: Diver Sea Scallop ~ golden enoki mushroom, carrot reduction infused with candy cap mushroom ~ Good thick fresh scallop cooked perfectly. I think the candy cap mushrooms were a little overpowering.
Wine to pair was Confini, Lis Neris, Friuli, Italy 2005. Very interesting mixture of grapes. The wine had sweet aroma of Riesling and went well with the sweetness of candy cap.

Course 5: Maine Lobster ~ red topedo onions, daikon, musquee de provence squash, black truffle lobster sauce ~ This is one of Ron's signature dishes and I was very excited to taste it. Lobster was perfectly cooked in butter and still had nice tight raw texture. You can see Ron Siegel preparing Lobster poached in butter on YouTube. Only thing was I did prefer a little more saltiness to this dish. Another complain I had was that the dish was served with a wrong fish knife. The lobster was too big to eat in one bite and was very hard to cut with the knife. Vire-Clesse, Domaine de la Bongran, Jean Thevenet, Burgundy 2002 was great wine to pair with this delicate dish.

Course 6: Hot Foie Gras ~ Pickled huckleberries, spice bread, apple reduction infused with longpeppe ~ This dish was cooked in the way I like. I think the best way to serve Foie Gras is to slice it into a medallion of 1.5cm – 2.5cm thickness, sear both sides, keep the inside rare and serve it with fruit reduction to balance it with sweetness and acidity. I really enjoyed this dish but I didn't quite understand why the chef served this dish with spice bread. I think the allspices in the bread were overpowering and I felt the dish was complete without the side of spice bread. I was also unhappy that the server destroyed the presentation when he was bringing over the dish and the foie gras slid into the apple reduction and was not on top of the crouton. It was paired with Riesling, Auslese, Saarburger Rausch, Zilliken, Mosel, Germany 1983. The sweetness of the wine went well with the fattiness of foie gras.

Course 7: Crispy Chicken ~ Cilantro puree, persimmon and cucumber compote, heart of palm ~ It had right amount of salt. Good texture of persimmon and cucumber (I think persimmon is off the season now though..) to contrast with crispiness of the chicken. Pairing wine was Chateau Gigognan, Vigne du Regent, Chateauneuf-du-pape, Rhone 2004. Rhone style wine is one of my favorite and I was very happy with this choice.

Course 8: Veal Tenderloin ~ sweetbread medallion, lentils, winter vegetables, madeira sauce ~ Sweetbread (cow thyroid) is one of my favorite ingredient. They were perfectly prepared but I was too full to finish this dish. It was paired with very nice Alexander valley Cab -Lancaster Estate,2003.

Course 9: Blood Orange Sorbet ~ Mint cloud, Satsuma ~ It was very refreshing.

Course 10: Cheese tray The one I loved most were Sottocenere, Veneto, Italy with Ash, Spice and Truffle Cow's milk cheese. Wine paired with cheese were Muscat de Beaumes de Venise, Domaine de Durban, Rhone 2004. It had beautiful aroma of Muscat grape with sweet yet clean finish.

Ending: Fire candy, White chocolate, Dolce de Leche cheesecake and Beignets. They were all tasty.

I was very happy to find out that they serve REAL Japanese Kobe Wagyu beef ( )
They had great wine list including my favorite winery Jarvis. They had Jarvis Melot 2002, Cab Franc 2000 and Chardonnay 2004.

I think the chef Ron Siegel was not putting his 100% to this meal. Maybe he was too busy negotiating a deal with Myth...

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Okonomiyaki お好み焼き

Okonomiyaki is a Japanese pancake with cabbage with meat, seafood, and or noodles.

Okonomi ( お好み) means the way you like and Yaki (焼き) means grill. There are many different variety of Okonomiyaki depends on the region (such as Osaka style, Hiroshima Style and Tokyo style) and families. You can mix and match whatever you like to create your own combinations. Most common ingredients are cabbage (always included), shrimp, cuttlefish (squid), pork, ground beef, and egg.

Hiroshima style Okonomiyaki from famous Kadomae in Shimokitazawa, Tokyo

They cook it on the hot table in front of you.

Teppanyaki 鉄板焼き

Tepannyaki is a Japanese style cooking done on Iron cooking surface. Tepann (鉄板)means Iron plate, and yaki(焼き)means grill. I like this way of cooking exceptionally for stakes. You can appreciate the quality of ingredients better since this is the simplest way you can cook the meat.
I had a great teppanyaki dinner at Musashino in Kichijoji Japan. We usally book their private dining room in the back. They have a great extensive wine list including Romanée-Conti at $7500 (better price than at Enoteca Pinchiorri). Only problem I have with Musashino is that they overcooked my Foie Gras last time I visited them.

Starter Kobe Beef Tataki with consommé gelee, served cold. Tataki means lightly cooked on the outside.

Grilled live Iseebi (spiny lobster ). We Japanese value Iseebi much more than lobster. Iseebi has no clows and has much sweeter and tighter flesh.

Kobe beef Teppanyaki

My other favorite Teppanyaki restaurant is Mon cher ton ton in Roppongi, Tokyo. I like their Foie Gras much better than the one at Musashino.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Japanese New Year Eve at Ameyayokocho

Japanese celebrates the New Year on January 1st (not same as Chinese). The New Year's day is the most important holiday in Japan and the celebration continues from January 1st through 7th. Japanese eat Osechi to celebrate the New Year. Osech, consists many good luck dishes, has a long history started over 1000 years ago in Heian period. Osechi is usually served in luxurious wooden lacquerrd boxes. It is Japanese old custom that you suppose to only eat Osech during the frist 3 days of the new years. One of the reasons behind that was since all of the stores used to be cosed for the first 3 to 5 days of the year. Therefore they used special cooking technique to preserve the food longer.

New years eve is the busiest day to shop for ingredients for the Osechi. One of the most famous and busiest market in Tokyo is Ameyayokocho (Ameyoko) in Ueno.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Awamori 泡盛

Awamori is a liquor produced in Okinawa, Japan. It is distilled and similar to Shochu but much stronger in alcohol level (60+ proof)

It is made of Taiwanese rice and has a special aroma. It become smooth as it ages. Awamori aged over 3 years are called Kosyu 古酒.

One of my favorite smooth Awamori

Yaima and Tamanotsuyu