Jump to content


participating member
  • Posts

  • Joined

  • Last visited

Everything posted by Culinista

  1. I saw this thread too late, everything has been covered. Jason's list is excellent. Did anyone mention tako-yaki, tonkatsu, ramen or yakitori places? Kaiseki and shojin-ryori are also a good way to learn the structure of a formal Japanese meal. Winter one-pot dishes are a real treat. Shabu-shabu and sukiyaki are just a drop in the pot. I would reiterate the need to try a top-notch sushiya or tempura-ya, if only to see what the real deal is. These foods have become almost totally lost in translation. I wish more visitors would get hooked on Japanese fresh vegetables and spices, to make them more easily available abroad. I love the peaches and melons, and I NEED yuzu and kinome! We also need better understanding of live miso culture.
  2. I'm terrible with plants, travel a ton, and live in a London flat, but anyone know if it is possible to grow kinome? I'm that desperate! I get sanshou at Nishiki Market as well whenever I'm there.
  3. I wouldn't call it state-of the-art, at least not compared with Pierre Herme or Paco Torreblanca, but there is a very good little shop in Richmond, William Curley. His execution is beautiful, and the pastries show a strong modern French/Japanese influence. His wife and partner is Japanese, and they have nice little matcha financiers and yuzu chocolate. Their open rustic fruit tarts are particularly strong, but their signature dishes are a chocolate napoleon and things like an Earl Grey/mandarin mousse cake. Closed monday and tuesday, but open weekends.
  4. Just reporting back--Adulis was the perfect recommendation, thank you very much. I'm no expert on Eritrean food, but as far as I can tell, there was very little accommodation for the European palate. The stuffed chilies stung like scorpions, fresh and raw and filled with chopped tomato. The raw lamb was beautifully hand minced, with good quality meat and no visible sinew, excellent balance of seasoning. All the stews were fresh-tasting and well prepared. Best of all, they serve until at least midnight, and til 1AM on party nights. Perfect for after theater. One of the people in the group lived in the neighborhood, and he was stunned. He'd never realized Adulis was there, and I'm a London newbie. The show was also excellent--"Big in Japan," running at the Oval House Theatre through next week. It's a one-man show of autobiographical stories, very sensitively recounted with music and film. It's hard to explain, but it covers friendships, love, and the journey of an all-American boy in Japan. All in all, a fun night in South London. Thanks, eGullet!
  5. My parents believed all music outside the hymnbook was satanic, so I'm losing the thread of this thread. I understand painting better--Ferran compared his food to Cubism following figurative painting, and that is a very good description of his cooking style. lxt, I won't repeat here my earlier posts on El Bulli ad nauseum, since the topic is Mugaritz vs. Arzak and Ferran always seems to suck the oxygen out of every discussion. I don't think Ferran is ONLY about technique, and I believe the idea of "objective" criteria is largely a red herring. However, as much as I have always enjoyed El Bulli, the dishes seem more like sketches than evolved compositions. It's telling that unlike other chefs who are known and imitated for signature dishes, Ferran is imitated mainly in his techniques. There is almost no El Bulli equivalent of the Arpege egg or the Bras gargoulliou. I think it is quite fair to say that he is concept and technique-driven, and that isn't a criticism since that is clearly his intention. He is brilliant and there is no one even close to him. I think the influence of Bras, and possibly even Veyrat, is at least as strong if not stronger than El Bulli at Mugaritz.
  6. If you travel to Spain occasionally or have friends that live there, and you live within the EU, you might be able to strike up an arrangement. I have a friend in Madrid who keeps me supplied with a hand-picked jamon iberico de bellota (usually from the Valle de Los Pedroches). The jamon shop at the entrance to the Boqueria market in Barcelona will also ship within the EU if you make proper arrangements. I know I can buy Joselito in London, but these jamones are cheaper, specially chosen by expert friends and actually more convenient to get home than lugging it through the Tube. What I would really like to know is what it takes to get first-rate bacalao and tripas de bacalao in London.
  7. Tripas de bacalao? They are the salted air bladders of the bacalao and my new addiction. I first had them at da Caino in Italy and brought some back from the Boqueria in Barcelona and tried a couple of recipes that drew raves. Once soaked, skinned, and blanched, they become white and gelatinous. Their cooking water also has huge amounts of natural gelatin. [i add this explanation mainly because this might be a common product here but sold under an English name that is not familiar to me.] I'd also like to find whole loins of dried bonito (kastuo bushi) to shave at home. As for sharpening a Japanese knife (my previous question), I found the answer at The Japanese Knife Company, where they sell and sharpen high-quality Japanese knives. I'm going in soon for a sharpening lesson! Someone suggested a sharpening gizmo instead of using a whetstone. I doubt it would work on my traditional hand-forged knives, which unlike Western ones are sharpened only on one side and are made of a harder steel. It might work on a hybrid knife like Global.
  8. If you are looking for a picturesque setting, La Fromagerie on Moxon St. off Marylebone High St. and Paxton and Whitfield on Jermyn would make a good backdrop.
  9. Is this English humor or a bad neighborhood? I did survive New York in the 80s, though
  10. Thanks so much. Adulis looks excellent and is the likely choice so far. And they are open until midnight! BTW, following Jon's suggestion, I looked in TimeOut, and they list Bar Estrela, Grehla D'ouro, OCantinho de Portugal, and O Moinho as the Portuguese options. (Heh, the thing is that they are listed in Stockwell, and I'm such a London geography newbie that I didn't realize that is within walking distance of Kennington Oval). Rebato (Spanish) is listed under "Vauxhall." Does any one of these stand out? On the map they look farther away than Adulis.
  11. A friend of a friend is coming to perform at the Oval House Theatre, and I'd like to take him for a late supper nearby after the show. That area seems to be totally off the gastronomic map in the guides. Any ideas? Thanks in advance!
  12. I second Kozue. It's fabulous.
  13. My point is that there used to not be such a thing as food plagiarism--it was not an issue since it was accepted practice. It is only in this most recent movement where cooks have wanted to be recognized as inventors that it has become an issue.
  14. This argument is one of intellectual property. I'm not a lawyer, but it would be interesting to hear the legal perspective on patents and copyrights as it applies to food. This controversy arises from the shift from anonymous popular cuisine to "cocina del autor" or signed art. A very similar thing happened to painting, which was largely anonymous or produced collectively in workshops until the Renaissance. Even until very recent times, innovation was not necessarily the basis for artistic acclaim. Now, of course, art must be signed and original, and the artist is a privileged figure. Cooks are also changing status, and practices are changing. Personally, I think it took more innovation to invent mayonnaise than the shrimp noodle, but we don't say that only the inventor has the exclusive right to use mayo. Even dishes of recent invention--say carpaccio or Caesar salad or buffalo wings--have disseminated into the general kitchen ether without an author's signature. Anyone who has worked on a cookbook of popular recipes knows what a nightmare it is to credit sources properly. Recipes have always been passed from cook to cook. I have a long-standing habit of photographing my food for notes (without flash and with a low-noise camera), but lately some restaurants with pretentions to originality have started to object, probably because they fear their signature dishes will be copied. It will be interesting to see what the future holds as cooks try to climb from artisan to artist. Edit: As a writer, I believe in crediting sources and am firmly against plagiarism. However, it's hard to blame a restaurant for doing what cooks and restaurants have always done-copy dishes, with minor changes.
  15. L'Ambroisie couldn't be more different from Gagnaire/WD-50 type places. It is superb, one of my favorites, but very classic nouvelle cuisine. If you're more interested in the contemporary vein, I'd try L'Astrance or l'Arpege. Guy Savoy is another possibility.
  16. Your terrific post deserves a less flippant answer. I think the tourist/traveler vs. local distinction is not relevant. There are only two kinds of diners: those who know how to eat in that particular restaurant or region, and those who don't. Some traveling eGulleters are better eaters than the natives. A good restaurant knows how to please discriminating eaters. A tourist trap knows how to please visitors. Some restaurants manage to do both at the same time. Just because a restaurant has a high percentage of foreigners does not make it automatically a tourist trap, but there is always a dangerous slippery slope in that direction when a restaurant does not have to cultivate a repeat clientele of discriminating diners. And obviously, there are diners with more money than others (no correlation to whether or not they can eat). If a restaurant manages to reach beyond the local clientele to the international audience for whatever reason (good food or tourist appeal), they can and do raise their prices. Many 3-stars today would be extinct if it weren't for luxury global tourism.
  17. I'm Japanese. That means I'm always a tourist Hint to tourists in the UK: Don't call it a fanny pack.
  18. Sorry, too late. It's hopeless Am I the only nut now attempting to shave bonito fresh? I remember my mother using it in the 1970s, but she started using dashi powder as soon as she discovered it. I used powder too until my Venezuelan husband went to Japan and discovered true dashi. Now, even the packaged bonito flakes won't do. I now have a wooden grating box (katsuobushi kezuri-bako), but I still haven't gotten the hang of grating flakes instead of powdered bits. I'm sure I'm grating wrong on the grain, but I've tried every angle. But fresh-grated katsuobushi has the most amazing smell. I also love the smell of the wooden box. And if I have time, I soak the kombu in cold water for about an hour before heating slowly, and then I remove it before it boils. I don't wipe the kombu first-is that bad? I like the flavor of the coating, but it's probably some scary thing. When making niban-dashi, I reuse the first dashi materials, plus a handful of fresh katsuobushi flakes.
  19. I hold my chopsticks correctly. So does my husband, who learned from a Scotsman in Venezuela But is it just me, or are those lacquered ones impossible to use? Don't even get me started on those blunt plastic ones in cheap restaurants. My family just used washable plain wooden chopsticks, which had better grip. Disposable wooden chopsticks are fine in restaurants, but I feel eco-guilt using them at home every day. But the more elegant ones are a pain. We eat with those coarse wooden chopsticks for cooking when it's just us at home I have a Chinese-American friend who can't use chopsticks, but the only Chinese dish she will eat is ma po dofu. I find food tastes different depending on whether I use a fork or chopsticks. Again, is this just me?
  20. Call me provincial, but it has never occurred to me to have sushi with wine. (Actually, sushi purists don't even have sake with nigiri-zushi or rolls, since sake is considered redundant with rice. Sake is considered OK with sashimi.) I can see champagne and white Burgundy maybe working with sushi, but red wine not at all. I can't imagine drinking a fine wine with soy sauce and wasabi. What is that like? Friends took us out for sushi once in DC at a place that it turned out specialized in pairing sushi with Bordeaux, but I didn't know about that while we were there. Darn-missed my chance 60-100 euros is not bad at all for quality sushi. Masa in NY and Urasawa in LA cost upwards of $600 a person. Where did people get the idea that sushi should be cheap fast food?
  21. So what will the shokuiku food education curriculum be? And how will it be tought outside Japan? I plead guilty to being nationalistic sometimes about Japanese cuisine. I can be very open-minded about contemporary experiments and fusion food with any other cuisine, but I am very hard to win over with Japanese fusion. With very few exceptions, it always seems like confusion food to me. However, I will always recognize at the intellectual level that there is no "correct" way to use Japanese ingredients, even if my gut level refuses to do the same.
  22. If the restaurant in Paris is any indication, it will be bad-and that is me being optimistic. Worst food I have ever had, blindfolded or not. The server was wonderful, however. At least in Paris, they are more interested in their concept than in their cooking.
  23. The circus is supposed to be fun and playful. To clarify, I've been to El Bulli in 2000 and loved it, most lately in June 2005 and still liked it very much but less than before. I think the focus is now completely off food per se and onto developing techniques, which they still do better than anyone. Of course, the magic show is exactly why one goes to El Bulli. I don't go to there to eat, I go to watch the master and learn what everyone else will be doing in 10 years. The main circus, however, is not so much El Bulli the restaurant but Ferranism the phenomenon. My comment was to distance Andoni from what has become a disparaging term for those who have been heavily influenced by El Bulli. We've all been to horrible El Bulli imitations, but Mugaritz is differrent. Andoni trained at El Bulli 2 years, not a few weeks like so many of the wannabes. He has a very deep understanding of Ferran's technical approach, mastered it completely, but he is going in a different direction. He also does not have the majordomo media personality that Ferran and Ferranists are projecting now. He is the image of restraint, and that could be hurting him with people hoping to be bowled over by a riot on the plate or a "Son of El Bulli" gastrotech experience. The technique is there, but it does not take center stage the way it does at El Bulli. Ferran is without doubt the biggest media circus everywhere he goes-just watch his standing room only presentations at gastronomic events-but is also one of the humblest and most humane people on earth. Actually, watching Ferran present reminds me of the Beatles. Ferranmania threatens to drown out the music. He is not arrogant nor a show off, just incredibly brilliant and eager to teach others his discoveries. Compare that to Moto, where everything is more copyrighted and top-secret than a NASA lab. People call Ferran the Michaelangelo of modern Spanish cooking, but I'd compare him more to Leonardo, a scientifically minded artist far ahead of his time. Actually, Andoni might be the Michaelangelo, since he is more concerned with pure beauty. I personally think of him as a Basque Zen chef.
  24. Fascinating article, thanks. I wish I had been there. By weird coincidence, I was at a Barcelona conference this weekend discussing the need to educate outsiders about "authentic" Catalan cuisine in the wake of the El Bulli tsunami. A lot of what is called the "modern Spanish cooking" is deemed to have had heavy influence from Japan--the use of kanten (agar-agar), highly decorated multi-course meals taking after kaiseki, etc., etc. From my perspective as a Japanese living in the West, despite the skyrocketing interest in Japanese food lately, very few non-Japanese have more than the most superficial understanding of the foundations of Japanese cuisine. When I was a kid in the US, my classmates were utterly grossed out by my mom's lovingly made bento. Now affluent American schools in California have sushi in the cafeteria. But even after 30 years of eating in Japanese restaurants all over America and Europe, I can count on one hand the number of places that know how to cook rice, make dashi, or cut fish. Except in CA and NY, possibly London, few dishes are well known besides the ubiquitous sushi/tempura/teriyaki, etc--all of which are of relatively modern origin. Even this past weekend in Barcelona, the president of a highly respected Spanish gastronomy association said to me, "There is no such as Japanese cooking, since the Japanese don't cook anything." I should sign him up to the "Daily Nihongo" thread Here are the barriers I see that stand in the way of greater understanding of the full range of Japanese cuisine outside Japan: --Few people travel to Japan. Even fewer chefs train in Japan. They think a few months or a couple of years is fine. Any serious Japanese chef would not spend fewer than 10 years in training. I know of only a couple of foreigners who have done that. You would not believe the number of Japanese restaurants run by people who have never been to Japan, patronized by the same. -Japanese cuisine demands ingredients of a quality rare to find. Either the local fish must be excellent (more and more rare these days everywhere), or you have to import. The good American sushi places fly all their fish from Tsukiji, but even that causes an inevitable deterioration in quality. Most ironic is the case of the excellent CA sea urchin, which is almost 100% exported to Japan, then bought back by CA chefs. Urasawa in LA and Masa in NY each cost more than $500 per person. Few people can afford that. The best non-elite Japanese food I've had in Europe is in Spain, where they are serious about seafood quality even at a popular level. However, on the whole they are not importing good soy sauce and other products that must be bought in Japan. I was surprised by the low seafood quality in Paris, although Parisians would never believe me. I had better sushi in Helsinki than Paris. -Few people understand the internal logic of Japanese cuisine, particularly the importance of rice and seasonality. Japanese restaurants in the west serve the same menu all the time. -Very few people--and I include Japanese on this list-make their own dashi. I found it interesting that Ajinomoto was a sponsor of this "Shokuiku" conference, since they are largely responsible for the fast fooding of Japan. -Japanese food is hard to cook at home for those who aren't used to it. Almost all classes on Japanese cooking are sushi making classes, not home cooking. Therefore, Japanese food abroad is found exclusively in restaurants. Japanese do not eat sushi every day. The health benefits of the Japanese diets lie in home cooking, which is unknown abroad. "Mogi said interest in Japanese food was clearly rising abroad as shown by an increasing number of Japanese restaurants overseas and the adoption of Japanese food items by various cuisines around the world. "But we now urgently need to establish a system for diffusing correct ideas about Japanese food since there is a lot of misunderstanding about it and misuse of Japanese food ingredients," he said." However, it's important to remember that it takes time for the nuances of a cuisine to be known abroad. When talking about disseminating cuisine, we have to realize that it's a lot like disseminating language. When it crosses borders to a non-native speaker, it begins with a few random words here and there. Then we graduate to more complex topics. Real fluency is rare. Sushi/tempura/teriyaki now represent "Japanese" cuisine to Westerners just as spaghetti and meatballs and lasagna represented "Italian" cuisine to Americans in the 1950s. Now we have Tuscan restaurants, Piemonte restaurants--a much more nuanced sensitivity to regional Italian cuisines. But every time I go to say a Tuscan restaurant outside Tuscany, I still get the impression I'm eating in Disney Epcot Center. Any reproduction feels a bit fake or forced. I disagree with Mogi's idea that it is possible to "correct" the misuse of Japanese ingredients. I think once people like Ferran get hold of an ingredient, there's no stopping them--nor should there be. Look at all the odd uses Japanese have found for mayonnaise. "Sushi" is no longer Japanese--it has passed into the global culinary lingua franca, along with "pizza" and "tapas," inevitably getting bastardized in the process. It also is getting enriched--look at the creation of the California roll or spider roll--now very popular in Japan. Contact always creates both confusion and new ideas. Incidentally, I don't think many outsiders know just how much commercial, pre-prepared food is consumed in Japan. Or in France, for that matter.
  25. Wonderful post, and the subject has been very much on my mind ever since I saw a Canadian couple with a serious case of sticker shock in L'Arpege. Clearly it was their first time in a 3-star, and possibly in Paris, and they weren't prepared. Most tourists who are in town for just a few days aren't, yet rather than starting on the culinary bunny slopes, they go straight for the double black diamond. But would they have been better off in a bistro? Whoever says it's impossible to eat a bad meal in Paris hasn't been there for a while. Seems to me that I'm more and more frequently walking out of Parisian places at all levels feeling pinched in the wallet and dissatisfied in the gullet. We're looking at runaway price inflation across the board but food quality that is at best treading water. L'Arpege at last check was the most expensive place in town, but not by all that much (380 euros per when I went in October, Compare that to 2001, when a similar Arpege menu was just over 110 euros.) The high-end bistros can be extremely pricey, and the cheaper ones are still about 50-100 but even spottier in quality. The 3-stars have unconscionably high prices, but maybe half of them offer meals worth every penny to a client who appreciates it. I wish that percentage held true for the midrange. I'd say my midrange chances of having a good meal are maybe 1 in 10, maybe worse if you don't do your homework, for the reasons you so astutely mention. I almost never get away with paying much less than 100 euros per person in bistros, and how many times is it really worth it? Especially once you compare it with what you can get for the same amount in Spain or Italy. The problem now with this hyperinflation is that the better places of 1980 prices cost at least several times that today, if not hundreds of times more. I want to cry when I hear friends talk about eating at Robuchon in 1986 for $15. When I lived in Paris and needed to eat in a midrange, simple place, I mainly stuck to the neighborhood places in the 17th near Ternes. There are a few OK places there that would not be much use to tourists. It's good to look for these long-established well-heeled neighborhoods. The clientele demands a certain consistency of quality in local restaurants. Let's see, what do we have in the low end that isn't too low end? The quiche Lorraine at La Lorraine. Chez Fred has a good cote de boeuf, maybe not as stellar as the one at the former La Gavroche, but respectable. Across the river, Lena & Memille is friendly and good value. Le Poule au Pot is good in the 7th. As for value higher up, I'd say Senderens now qualifies. It's definitely not a 3-star anymore, but I couldn't distinguish the difference between a sechzwan pepper dacquoise that cost 70 euros in 2003 and 17 euros when the restaurant reopened in its new format. The price per person is about 70 euros, and it's terrific value for the money. The wine list still receives a good deal of attention.
  • Create New...