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Japanese Is The New French


SobaAddict70
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"The change is that Americans are eating more like the Japanese — seasonal ingredients, small plates, more fish and vegetables." Marcus Samuelsson of Aquavit, whose first new venture in years is Riingo, a Japanese-American experiment expected to open next week, said: "The New York chefs I know have always been obsessed with Japanese food. It's a challenge, because it's so different."

The Furikake Revolution (Julia Moskin) (from today's DIGEST update. You may have to scroll down for the relevant link.)

Japanese cuisine has enthralled Americans forever and a day, and things have never been on the cutting edge of newness as they are now, at least in New York. From izakaya (Japanese pubs that on occasion serve food) in the East Village to new high-end, avant-garde restaurants such as Sumille, Riingo and Matsuri, to takoyoki (octopus fritters) and okonomiyaki (seafood/meat/vegetable pancakes), several options exist that tease and delight the palate that did not exist before.

What have your experiences been like in this regard?

Soba

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My experience has been that Spain is the new France. So it Japanese is the new French, what are they speaking in Madrid these days? Or is the question "what are they eating in Madrid these days?"

I appreciate what she's saying and I've enjoyed her articles, so I suppose I'll just have to allow her some journalistic license here, but thirty years ago, no one was referring to French American fusion food if only because French food dominated the best cross the board restaurants, was an influence in the top restaurans of NY for at least a century and French culinary techniques dominated in the most banal intitutional kitchens as well as the best hotel kitchens.

That there's a hot trend this year, is something else. For all the talk about Japanese restaurateurs and their sources of provisions, I think the reason Spanish restaurants have not succeeded well here is that the cuisine is so dependent on the raw materials we don't have. I've yet to visit Batali's new places in the Gramercy Park area. Perhaps I'll have more to say after I read the article which appears to be informative and interesting at least in discussing the new places.

Robert Buxbaum

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Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

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From izakaya (Japanese pubs that on occasion serve food) in the East Village to new high-end, avant-garde restaurants such as Sumille, Riingo and Matsuri, to takiyoki (octopus fritters) and okonomiyaki (seafood/meat/vegetable pancakes), several options exist that tease and delight the palate that did not exist before. 

I enjoyed reading this article, how Japanese food beccomes very popular in NY and many New Yorkers have a great exposure to non-sushi Japanese foods.

One thing I have to point out, though, is the spelling error of the word Takoyaki -- octopus fritters. It's not Takiyoki, it's Takoyaki. Tako means octopus and yaki means something fried or grilled as in Yakitori, Okonomiyaki, or Teriyaki.

Check out the latest meal!

Itadakimasu

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My experience has been that Spain is the new France. So if Japanese is the new French, what are they speaking in Madrid these days?

Bux, I think her assertion that "for 2004, Japanese is the new French" is with respect to the New York restaurant scene. And it doesn't seem much of a reach to suggest that Japenese food is more important, more pervasive and influential and more well-developed in New York City than Spanish food. Indeed, I don't see how one could possibly make the argument for widespred Spanish influence in NYC.

Anyway, rather than talk about Japanese versus Spanish, which is a discussion for another thread, let us talk about the rise of Japanese and Japanese-influenced food in New York City. In particular, I'd be interested to hear what people think are the best Japanese and Japapanese-influenced restaurants in the city. Also, what distinguishes a Japanese restaurant from a neo-Japanese restaurant? What do we think accounts for the rising popularity of Japanese food in the City? Has this been driven by an increase in immigration from Japan, or do we agree with Marcus Samuelsson that "Americans are eating more like the Japanese — seasonal ingredients, small plates, more fish and vegetables?"

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One thing I have to point out, though, is the spelling error of the word Takoyaki -- octopus fritters.

The NY Times is a big newspaper. There are always going to be a number of misspellings on a given day -- and that's for the English words. :smile:

So... what did you think about the article. More to the point, what do you think about Japanese, neo-Japanese and Japanese-influenced food in NYC? This is something I have always wanted to know about.

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So... what did you think about the article.  More to the point, what do you think about Japanese, neo-Japanese and Japanese-influenced food in NYC?  This is something I have always wanted to know about.

What is your definition of neo-Japanese and Japanese-influenced food? Sushi Samba is a kind of neo-Japanese?

I enjoy the idea of Japanese food becoming very popular because that's the taste that I grew up with and I am familiar with. Not just soy sauce and miso, but ponzu dressing, plum vineger, sansho, etc, it's amazing how those ingredients are adapted to American cooking and also adaptable to any cuisine. Some chefs do excersize their creativity using those ingredients. (sorry! I cannot think of any particular dish or restaurants right now.)

The NYT article put a spotlight on Japanese street food that some people are not familiar with. I still do not understand is why Japanese now. I have no complain, but I just wonder why now.

Check out the latest meal!

Itadakimasu

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Not just Japanese street food, but also the increasing influence that Japanese cuisine has on the restaurant industry, at least in New York -- as evidenced by the openings quoted in the above article -- and not just any old restaurant openings, but restaurants that are or will be steered at the helm by respected chefs in New York food scene.

I would say the Japanization of the East Village has a lot to do with it. Soba-ya, Jewel Bako, the izakaya on St. Mark's Place, Panya, and all of the other eateries are a significant increase in establishments specializing in one aspect or another of Japanese cuisine, a presence which was not quite as significant two years ago -- at least to the extent that it is now.

Thoughts?

Soba

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Two years, Soba? OK, there have been a few new Japanese restaurants opening in these parts, but this has been a major Japanese restaurant area for some time now.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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So... what did you think about the article.  More to the point, what do you think about Japanese, neo-Japanese and Japanese-influenced food in NYC?  This is something I have always wanted to know about.

What is your definition of neo-Japanese and Japanese-influenced food? Sushi Samba is a kind of neo-Japanese?

To me Japanese food would be just that: strict attempts to recreate Japanese dishes. Neo-Japanese would be taking an interpretive step away from that, but still making food that seems "Japanese" or is clearly based on a Japanese model. Any incarnation of sushi would be either Japanese or neo-Japanese. Japanese-inspired food is a much larger category. On the one hand there are places like French Laundry with its 20 course tasting menus that consist of only a few bites each (based on kaiseki), but otherwise unlike Japanese food. On the other hand are restaurants that include distinctively Japanese ingredients or treatments, but within the cooking traditions of another country. I think we have examples of all three in NYC.

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Two years, Soba? OK, there have been a few new Japanese restaurants opening in these parts, but this has been a major Japanese restaurant area for some time now.
a presence which was not quite as significant two years ago -- at least to the extent that it is now.
is what I believe I said.

Two years ago was when Jewel Bako was all the rage in NYC -- or at least it was on eGullet. It was around then that the increase in Japanese restaurants began in that area...which probably coincided with the increase in student population at area colleges (SVA, NYU, etc.) from Japan. This is just a theory/opinion.

Regardless, in answer to ankomochi's query, it's probably a significant enough critical mass such that it warranted a news piece at this time, but probably not say, a year or two years ago.

Soba

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I didn't mean to split hairs, Soba.

I guess I don't know much about how newspapers and reporters pick feature stories. There have been stories in previous years about the East Village as a place replete with sushi bars, but this is definitely taking things to another level and I do agree that what's happened in the last couple of years is relevant.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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look, first of all neo-japanese is overated bad sushi and sorts i.e. sushi samba, fusha, etc. And as for Japanese being the new French, well I cant agree with that because I've eaten countless times at morimotos restuarant in philadelphia and expected it to be something close to any of the nobu's or for that matter an iron chef tasting and he pleased me with maybe 2 dishes. Now nobu is a different story. As far as cultures and countries being the "New France" well there will never be one just the new Japan or the new Spain similar technique different country.

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Right, but Japanese food is so much more than just sushi and sashimi, which I think was the thrust of the article. The title of this thread is a metaphor which likens the increasing influence of Japanese cuisine in the New York food scene to that of the re-introduction of French cuisine to America in the mid-1970s, when things improved in terms of quality; when it was new, exciting and daring. At Asiate for example, what you have is a chef who applies French technique to Japanese ingredients. Quite ambitious, for starters.

I'd wager that given a few months or even a year, you'll have some chef experimenting with furikake and turning it into the trend of the moment. Who knows, they may even be doing it even as we speak. :biggrin:

Soba

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