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

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Ishigaki Beef  石垣牛

Not many people know about Ishigaki beef even in Tokyo. Since Ishigaki Island is located 1,952km from Tokyo, they are very far from major transportation hubs, it is not easy to get unfrozen Ishigaki beef in Tokyo. In addition to their distribution difficulty the production is very limited. Ishigaki cattle grower told me that over 80% of their calves are exported to other part of Japan and less than 20% stay in Ishigaki to mature to become Ishigaki Beef.


Ishigaki beef is one of a Wagyu "brand". There is about 139 Wagyu variety across Japan (concentrated in southern Japan). Wagyu means Japanese beef. Wa=Japan and Gyu=beef Definition of Wagyu is : A cow those of which born and raised in Japan. Wagyu have to come from Wagyu cow with 100% Wagyu parents and have to be grown in Japan.

Most important and known characteristic of Wagyu is it's marblization of fat throughout the meat. Most famous Wagyu brands are Kobe and Matsuzaka. Kobe and Matsuzaka beef grower purchase Ishigaki calves and raise them to become Kobe or Matsuzaka beef.

It is extremely difficult to purchase Wagyu in the US but I found a place on the web that sells Wagyu. They have good information on Wagyu in English as well. ( ).

I am embarrassed to say I didn't care much about differences between Wagyu brands before I first tasted Ishigaki beef. I was shocked how flavorful and different Ishigaki beef were. It tasted very juicy but the fat didn't linger in my mouth like other Wagyu usually did.

I think the biggest diffrence between other Wagyu and Ishigaki beef is that it has nice marblization of fat yet the fat melts at lower temperature hens has cleaner finish in the mouth. Also Ishigaki beef is not just tender but has nice body.

I had a great Teppan yaki Ishigaki beef staek at ANA hotel Ishigaki and amazing Yakiniku at Yamamoto in downtown Ishigaki. Reservations are needed for both of the restaurants.

Yainiku at Yamato やまもと

I think best way to enjoy good quality beef is to simply grill it over charcoal fire. At Yakiniku restaurants in Japan, you cook your own meat at your table. It is great that you can control and experiment how much you want to cook the meat. I believe each meat taste best at different temperature and different doneness.

Yamato uses Shichirin (traditional Japanese charcoal grill ) for cooking.

Their sashimi was amazing!!! I cannot express how good it was.
Yes it is sashimi - that means I ate it raw. Usually, I am not a big fan of eating beef raw, but Ishigaki meat had no "beefy animal smell" and was sweet and clean tasting. Very delicate flavor. I really enjoyed eating it...

Great beef quality. Yakishabu was very nice too. Thinly sliced beef need to be cooked very briefly. Great with thinly sliced onions.

Left side is Jyo (superior) Rosu and right is regular rosu. They were so tasty cooked medium rare. I liked Jyorosu better because it had taster juice flavor when I chewed it.

Happy cows come from Ishigaki Island. Great air, great water, and great weather all year around, they are healthy and stress free.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Fish Market in Ishigaki

Ishigaki is a Japanese tropical island located in Okinawa prefecture.

I was lucky to meet a cab driver who told me about Ishigaki Fish Market.

When I was at the market, I did not see any tourist. The market was very small and was not open to public. I was very happy to see the variety of local tropical fish brought by fishermen for the morning auction. They had many tuna including 2 meter Kajikimaguro (Swordfish). I have tasted Irabucha (blue fish pictured below) sashimi. It had almost see though White fresh which tasted very clean with hint of sweetness. It reminded me the taste of Hirame (Halibut).


                      グルクン (タカサゴ)  

Kuchinaji                   Deep Water Fish ?

                    Large Shrimp (about 50cm)

タコ                     イカ 
Octopus                   Cuttlefish