Monday, September 30, 2013

Back in Japan (September 2013)...Feels like home

Miso lunch set at Suju Dining

Weekend lunch was with my very old friend in Shibuya. We met at a Japanese restaurant inside of Shibuya Hikarie complex. Hikarie is a newly-built commercial high-rise tower where the old Tokyu Bunka Kaikan used to be. I was feeling a bit sentimental coming to this completely changed modern high-rise tower, since I used to walk through the old building every single day from Shibuya Station to go to school (both high school and university) many years ago. Nevertheless, the lunch was great. We ate at Suju Dining, which is run by a miso shop, based in Karuizawa, Nagano prefecture. I had their daily lunch set, which consisted of many miso-flavored dishes.

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Dinner was at a local sushi place in Urawa. I enjoyed the super seasonal dishes with family.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Back in Japan (September 2013)...From Chinese to Italian to French

Unique hidden dining - Osteria T
On a sunny day, my sister took me to Hei Fung Terrace at Peninsula Hotel in Yuraku-cho for elegant dim sum lunch.

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In Tokyo, just like many other cuisines, there are so many top quality authentic Chinese (many are high end) restaurants. Hotel Chinese restaurants are always among the popular destinations for their elegance. Hei Fung Terrace is no exception. I enjoyed every dish so much. A noodle chef made piggie ornaments for us with the noodle dough! They were so cute.

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In the evening, I met a friend at a hidden Italian wine bar/ restaurant in Yotsuya 3-chome. It's situated on a small alley and you walk up a narrow steep stairs to enter the place on the 2nd floor. The restaurant is by reservation only and there are only 10 counter seats plus 1 table for 4 people.

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The place is called Osteria T and the owner/ chef, Tsujita-san, runs the whole operation by himself. He is an Italian food and wine expert, and once we sat down, there is no menu or wine list. We just enjoyed what he served to us. Tsujita-san is such a fun and entertaining person. We had a great time talking with him and other customers over many dishes and many wines. I especially loved his pasta with onion sauce...onion was cooked over 8 hours to become very rich sauce.

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The next day, I had another Chinese lunch! It was at a tiny place at another obscure location in Shinjuku. This place specializes in xiao long bao, made by a trained Chinese chef. Their freshly made xiao long bao were quite big and super juicy. Superb.

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Back in Urawa, I joined a luncheon with the wine tasting group my mom and sister participate in. They get together once every 1-2 months. It's organized by a sommelier at a French restaurant in the neighborhood.

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The theme of the day was Alsace, and I enjoyed mariage of those Alsace wines and elegant French dishes, including fresh in season porcini mushroom risotto, foie gras, isaki fish, and duck confit, made by the chef.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Back in Japan (September 2013)...Soba and moon viewing

Tender crisp "Yanaka Shoga" (stem ginger) with miso dipping

I'm updating my blog for the first time in over a week!
I've been back in Tokyo since last week and just returned to LA yesterday.

It was another busy stay, but I had a good time there.

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The first lunch after I arrived in Japan was with family at a local soba restaurant. I had cold soba with walnut sauce. Really nice. It was near the end of Yanaka Shoga, which is a famous type of "stem ginger". It's a tender crisp young ginger, which is normally sold with stems and leaves attached. You can eat it raw (chilled) and enjoy the fresh spicy flavor. I was happy to find it in the menu, as it was near the end of its season.

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Duck "tsukune" yakitori and "hamo" (pike eel) tempura were so nice, too.
Every time I go back to Japan, I appreciate the fact that something "normal" at a normal local restaurant have high standard. Even their homemade soba was made from special flour from Gunma prefecture.

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In the evening, since it was an annual "Jugoya" moon viewing night, we enjoyed watching full moon in the clear sky. Traditionally, we serve "tsukimi dango" (dumplings for moon viewing), so did a simple ceremony and enjoyed tasting them afterwards with Champagne.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Roots 2013...Team Donabe Presentation!

Team Donabe!

Monday, September 9

It was Day 2 of Roots conference.

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I started a busy morning preparing for the presentation with Chef Kyle Connaughton. We (a.k.a. Team DONABE) were going to give a presentation about donabe cooking! Kyle harvested all the vegetables from The Chef's Garden and prepared for a vegetable hot pot with classic style donabe, "Iga Ame-yu".

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Our presentation was the finale of the conference. The theme was "The Present and the Past: How understanding history makes us wiser people and better chefs". To be honest, I was quite nervous before the presentation in front of all the top level of culinary professionals, but once I started speaking, I really enjoyed it! I talked about the history and culture of donabe, and I made rice with double-lid donabe rice cooker, "Kamado-san", to give tasting samples for the audience. It came out to be especially special rice, as I used Koshihikari rice from an organic farm in Uruguay, grown by a Japanese master rice grower, Mr. Ichiro Tamaki. Mr. Tamaki and Mr. Morihiro Onodera (master sushi chef in LA) are the partners of Uruguay rice project and this was their first commercial harvest to be available this fall. The rice is a real premium quality, and it was cooked so beautifully in the donabe. Everybody fell in love with it. With this rice was a little sprinkle of "Moshio" seaweed salt from Hiroshima, Japan! The producer of the "moshio" sea salt kindly sent me a boxful of sample packets, so everybody who were at the presentation got to take home a little gift.

I really had a special time.
Below are some additional photos, taken by The Chef's Garden.

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I feel extremely honored to have been able to participate in this special event. And, I am extremely grateful to Farmer Lee Jones and his amazing team.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Roots 2013...Native American Feast By The River

The longest communal table I've seen!

Sunday, September 8

The evening of the first day of Roots conference was something really special.

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From The Chef's Garden, we walked through the woods to a wide spread field by Huron River.

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There were almost 150 people of us, who gathered for this special evening. We did a group was taken by a photographer on a crane!

After the already super awesome passed hors d'oeuvres and aperitifs, we sat down at the one stretched table and the feast has began. It was a special Native American Dinner, created by the top chefs of Native American Cuisine. They prepared this meal all day, and even dug a big whole on the ground to make a pit to roast meat, etc.

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Course after course, it was as if I was dreaming. Every bite was so magical and really special. I fell in love with all the dishes which really showed the power and meaning of the food. I wish I could take pictures of all the dishes. I was too busy enjoying the food!

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After the dinner, we took a tram back to the garden and enjoyed campfire and s'more!

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Truly powerful night...I feel so honored.