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Everything posted by JasonTrue

  1. Not being from the correct part of the country to know what a Bennigan's was, I had the misfortune of accepting a suggestion to eat at one in Seoul. That was my second most expensive meal on that particular trip (Western food typically fetches a bit of a premium, even if it's awful), and by far the worst food I'd ever eaten on multiple trips to Korea. Corn syrupy tomato sauce and overcooked spaghetti with lots of big pieces of carrots. Bizarre. It made me wish I had ordered a $10 frosty frozen cocktail of some sort, which, as Jeffrey Steingarten says, makes such places bearable. The news stories indicated that franchisees will (possibly) stick around, but that company-owned stores would be shuttered. That's a fascinating strategy; usually, when things look bad for a chain restaurant concept, you'd expect corporate to want to take more control of quality. But franchising is the least capital-intensive way of operating a restaurant business, I suppose.
  2. When we used black beans (osechi style) in ice cream, we pureed them before incorporating them in the ice cream... I don't think I'd put whole beans in an ice cream unless I treated them in some way that would keep them soft. But kuromame in the style of mitsumame might be nice.
  3. I really enjoyed a kona coffee-based sorbet (brewed kona, sugar, a touch of fresh lemon juice) a while back. I suspect that the acidity of kona would be refreshing in a coffee jelly too. I just used an Ethiopian coffee to make an attempt at a coffee jelly. I added three shots of espresso to the boiled ~500-600ml of kanten solution. I didn't try for any particularly elaborate presentation, so no photos, but it tasted pretty nice with a little splash of cream.
  4. I haven't seen too many ice creams with mix-ins in Japan, although they're pervasive in the dairy case in the US; a Japanese play on rocky road, with maybe a white chocolate base, some broken sweet senbei and matcha white chocolate chips as mix-ins could be fun. Probably less suitable for high-end cuisine and more in the family restaurant category, or better suited for US-based Japanese restaurants but...
  5. At a little French place in Nose valley near (arguably "in", like Mitake-san is "in" Tokyo) Osaka, I got a taste of a fantastic yuzu mascarpone sorbet after the meal. We also had a nice sorbet as part of our course, but it was the yuzu one that I remember. I often make sweet potato or kabocha ice cream in the winter and late fall, and ideally serve them with kuromitsu. Hiromi and I made kuromame chocolate with surplus osechi black beans. (We had a lot of leftover beans). Not heavy on the chocolate, but enough to add flavor, it was good with a sweet potato ice cream next to it. I like edamame ice cream with glace edamame in the final presentation. It took several tries to get the right balance of fat because edamame have a fair amount of their own, but it was rewarding. I've had "sakura ice cream" in Tokyo but it was actually basically cherry ice cream with salt-cured cherry blossoms for garnish. Fresh soymilk works pretty well for desserts, and was at least trendy a year or two ago. At Toraya I had a tounyuu pudding served with a matcha creme anglaise. "Rare cheesecake" might be worth exploring; I've done one motivated by NY-style cheesecake that was basically cream cheese, lemon, milk, and a rolled in graham cracker dust when served, but I think it could be tweaked for a more Japanese style flavor. I'd suggest playing with the citrus fruits of other regions, including daidai, shikuwaasaa, dekopon, the sudachi you mentioned, etc. You might even be able to pull off a sweet-savory trick with a touch of soy sauce and call it ponzu-ice. I've not tried this yet, but I wanted to attempt to make an ice cream built on the Korean rice drink shik-hae, which would be a play on Italian style "riso" gelato with a few pine nuts; I suspect that it would be equally interesting to work with amazake. This is all in Kansai? In Aomori we had a nicely presented apple sorbet last spring.
  6. Vios, a unusually good Greek restaurant at 19th & Aloha (Capitol Hill), is probably the best combination of food and child-friendliness in town. It's also a relatively short hop from U-District across the University or Montlake bridge.
  7. While I've generally had good service experiences in Japan, I'd actually say that restaurant service tends to be less professional than in urban US restaurants. Waitstaff tend to be young and poorly paid in Japan, and without tipping, there's perhaps not as much motivation to be remarkably good. Unless you go to particularly high-end places, waitstaff often don't know much about what's in the food, how it's prepared, or other precise details. Also, neither the front-of-house or back-of-house are typically accommodating of special requests, from allergies to vegetarianism to special diets. (I've elected to just be as flexible as I can, though their are religious or dogmatic vegetarians who would suffer quite a bit). On the other hand, at more expensive places, personal eccentricities are accommodated in reasonable ways and other service tends to be much more subtly and deftly handled. Even so, it's often necessary to let the staff know that one would like to place an order, for example, which is generally less necessary in the US. Service is generally efficient and formal, but not particularly anticipatory. In Seattle, sometimes places with particularly obsessive chefs may be less accommodating to special requests, for example, but they otherwise have spectacular anticipation of customer needs. At Lampreia, for example, our every little behavior was quietly scrutinized from a safe distance, and the waitstaff instantly recognized when they should approach to pour water or wine, ask us for our order, or when to get our coats. When I stood up in the middle of the meal, without missing a beat, every single person just temporarily adjusted themselves to guide me to the restroom, with only the last person in that chain needing to speak to give directions down the hall. In the first five or ten minutes at the restaurant we felt a bit intimidated, partially because the space feels a bit austere and cold, but every little thing the staff did was meant to make us comfortable. At the same time, they were very good at being invisible when it was the most appropriate thing. The closest experience I had in Japan to that level of service was at a very high end tempura place, but even there, there was quite a different approach to such things. I'm not sure I've been able to observe slight alterations to dishes to assumptions of personal preferences by chefs, but it's certainly possible. I would be surprised if the waitstaff even communicated much information about the dining party to the kitchen in most places that I've been to. In some places where the chef can see their customers, it's possible that this is the case. However, I suspect that many chefs use their intuition based on what a table orders to judge what's important to them, and may make small adjustments based on that. Most of my incredible service experiences in Japan have been at places other than restaurants, although good ryokan tend to have fairly flawless service. Department stores, ceramics shops and specialty stores are where I've tended to have the best everyday service, with far more attention to detail than I'd ever experience in the equivalent in the US.
  8. I should add that Hiromi recommends Shimbashi for streetside and lowbrow eating.
  9. I lived in a university town in Hessen, but my experiences of salads, as a starving student, were generally at the homes of ordinary middle-class Germans. I'm associating most of my salad experiences with one particular home that I visited right after high school but before my study abroad, so that's probably an inadequate sample. I rarely at restaurants then, although I did have a few decent salads at a vegetarian-leaning restaurant during a rare trek to Muenchen. At that time, I commented to my dining companion that it was the first time to have a nice lightly dressed salad in Germany, rather than one which was more dressing than ingredients... a local woman overhearing us chuckled in familiar amusement. In Seattle, I have access to far better produce than I had in Marburg, but small towns in Germany have, in general, better fresh produce than most small towns in the US. My experiences eating during a brief trip to Salzburg, Austria were not particularly different than my experiences in restaurants in Germany. I'm probably just a bit cynical now. Interesting; I've almost always had wonderful green salads in Austria--excellent quality and variety of greens including lovely mache. I wonder why there would be such a difference! Except for a handful of fast food or extremely touristy places the quality of ingredients in Austria is very high (much higher on average than in the US). I could expect that there would be more variation in Germany but I"m surprised there would be such a difference in quality and aesthetics. ←
  10. non-meat salads in Germany are almost universally awful, dressed with about a pound of dressing per handful of ingredients... so there's probably something to that.
  11. I'd tend to argue that this particular obsession is rare inside Japan; it might be shorthand to indicate that Americans are sloppy enough with chopsticks that they tend to squeeze too hard, rather than using the chopsticks as an extension of their fingers, thus inviting disaster. While I've heard Japanese chefs based in the US assert something along the lines that it is "better" to eat sushi with one's hands, I've never heard that in Japan. Just that it's perfectly acceptable. The sushi chef will neither be offended nor impressed, nor feel like you are doing his art some special kind of justice.
  12. Actually, I think both of them mishandled this. It's absolutely brain-dead to explain the reason for not doing something as simple as indulging a perfectly reasonable request as "store policy". My response would be, should I consider this a particularly misguided request, "well, we've found that adding the espresso to a little bit of room-temperature water before adding it to the ice, rather than letting it hit the ice directly... would you mind trying it our way?" Ghetto latte? Come on. Besides, the east coast affection for using milk instead of half and half (or whole cream) is a bigger travesty. It sounds like the customer's behavior veers obnoxious, but even so, it's always better to defuse a situation with an explanation, rather than using the copout "company policy. Nuttin' we can do."
  13. While I'm sympathetic to this point, in Japanese etiquette, one's primary responsibility is not to an outsider such as a chef, but to one's dining companions.
  14. You probably mean itamae (person in front of the board/plank aka chef) rather than inatame?
  15. I think that depends on the drink, but I was so unexcited by the food that I'm pretty sure that anything which got in the way of my drink was promptly set aside and forgotten. I went to Trader Vic's in the Plaza Hotel many years ago. Do the cocktails still have little umbrellas in them? ←
  16. I think even the Cuban mixed drinks of note were instigated by Hemingway, an American. Finding a national cocktail representative of the whole US would be highly tricky, considering that the cocktail is essentially an American art. (Also, deciding whether mixed drinks that don't involve some form of bitters count is another ball of wax). Like jazz, though, the cocktail and the more general mixed drink have spread globally, so perhaps it's fair to look at the signature mixed drinks of other regions. It's not a mixed drink, but Feuerzangenbowle, a technical variant of Gloeg, is probably the most identifiably German of drinks involving distilled spirits. There's even a movie.
  17. I think the English word for rice oil is "malted rice flour" (or something similar, sometimes malted barley). It's readily available in Korean markets in the US, usually in 1kg+ bags. If you don't have a rice cooker, you can ferment the mixture with a heating pad strategically placed in a big covered bucket, Alton Brown style. I've attempted using a slow cooker, but the temperature gets a little too high (65C/150F) and the results aren't quite right. Actually the rice cooker "warmer" mode is usually closer to 60c/140F, which is slightly higher than ideal, but produces a better result than the cans
  18. Trader Vic's still exists. In fact, a recently opened one in my area is pretty much right across the street from a PF Changs. We went there out of morbid curiosity. I remember liking it when I was about 12, mostly for the atmosphere, but as an adult, I found it kind of insultingly expensive for mediocre, boring after a few bites food. The cocktails were the best thing about the place, and even then, ehh. I've only had boiled (or steamed) vegetable dumplings at PF Changs a couple of years ago after the dust settled from their high-impact opening. Not awful, but far from remarkable. I haven't been back since the first attempt.
  19. I think the question was "what is the correct etiquette" (what is proper) rather than "what is better", and the latter certainly has a different answer. The correct etiquette is rather undogmatic, other than customary Japanese expectations about behavior if one elects to use chopsticks (no licking, no stabbing, no wandering, no pointing and gesturing, no rubbing ) "Proper" has, perhaps, a more ambiguous meaning. But it's acceptable to do either; if you're obsessive, you'll see some culinary value in using your hands. The authority of gourmets is not necessarily normative; plenty of Japanese prefer to dip tempura in ten-tsuyu than the more gourmet-approved salt, even if they know "better." Just as plenty of Japanese prefer to drink shochu or sake with sushi, even if a self-appointed set of sushi experts assert that beer is more suitable. As one of my friends and colleagues has pointed out, it's often better to follow the lead of the people surrounding you when dining out in Japan, just to avoid making them uncomfortable. (You can see a brilliant, if slightly overplayed, example in Tampopo, when a fairly well-traveled young new employee embarrasses everyone by knowing the food better). It's one thing to be confident and authoritative, but even if you "know" better, it's not particularly welcomed in Japan to make a point of one's superior breeding either. (In Germany and the US, on the other hand, it's not at all unusual to argue with people at dinner about the correct way of enjoying something). I'm guilty of judging what is "correct" or "best", but in point of fact, Japan is far more flexible about the manner in which one consumes food than the aristocratic tradition from which Western etiquette derives. The only real gaffes are old taboos that apply to almost all foods, mostly related to chopstick behavior. In fact, although they can appear intimidating for a host, even the rules about placement of plates in Japanese cuisine are meant to make guests comfortable: the direction which chopsticks are placed on the table make them easier to pick up with your right hand, the location of the rice bowl and soup is to make the bowls easier to pick up, and the placement of other dishes all emerge from that pattern.
  20. Street food basically means shops that open out into the street (with takeout windows, more or less) in Tokyo, as almost all of the carts have gradually disappeared. The few remaining carts in-city sell things like yaki-imo (roasted sweet potato) or roasted chestnuts. This is because of various restrictions that have been placed on such carts, particularly the licensing of new ones. If you want more of a street food experience, you can go to the Ame-Yoko in Ueno and you'll find things like this. Things are slightly different in other cities. There's still an occasional ramen vendor near my wife's family's home in Kawasaki, for example; I think that was in a camper or trailer. Otherwise, most street foods are limited to special festivals. If you want a lot of street food, you should consider Fukuoka (Hakata), especially around Tenjin, though that's at the other end of the country. Even there, it's pretty much a disappearing breed. Shinjuku and Shibuya are mostly full of upscale restaurants. Shinjuku feels like it's about 40% Italian restaurants, though I realize that's a bit of an exaggeration. There are certainly restaurants in those areas that are a good value, but they aren't really where you go to get what it sounds what you're looking for. Probably the feeling you are trying to capture is more likely to be possible in "old Tokyo", the areas which comprise Shitamachi (including Ueno, Tsukishima, and areas around there). There's nothing wrong with staying in Shinjuku or Shibuya, and there are certainly plenty of decent izakaya style places, which is close to what you want, but they tend to be fancier than the old-school places that haven't been redecorated since the Showa era. (There are some of those places hidden away in Dogenzaka in Shibuya, though).
  21. Allergies are tricky in Japan, but if your restrictions are pretty simple, things should be manageable. Restaurants may not be as well equipped to understand or accommodate allergies as in the US. Peanuts are mostly used in snacks in Japan, but it's possible you may find peanut oil in some foods.
  22. A tiny splash of mirin won't typically make the goma-ae watery if it's added to the ground sesame seeds, at least if the blanched spinach has been squeezed a bit. If you do prefer a bit sweeter version, you can also boil the dressing a bit before adding it, though it should cool again before using.
  23. Looks like rhubarb to me... I'm fairly sure I've seen a sous vide rhubarb photo somewhere else (maybe the ideasinfood blog).
  24. Actually I tend to give the spinach very little cooking time, because as soon as it touches boiling water it's pretty much done. Basically, just enough time in the water that it wilts. That basically means I push down the spinach into the pot so that everything is submerged. Then I remove it, drain, and try to cool it down as rapidly as possible; with ice if available, or cold water if not. Some people prefer using acidulated water, which is just boiling water with a hint of vinegar and salt in it. Goma-ae does taste better if you toast and grind your own sesame seeds.
  25. If you defrosted a week ago, I'd suggest using it grilled or otherwise cooked rather than raw.
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