Thursday, May 19, 2016

Kumamoto Relief Event and Dinner at Paley

Last weekent, at my friends beautiful shop, Tortoise General Store in Venice, there was a charity sales event to support the Kumamoto earthquake recovery efforts. I had a pleasure to be part of the event along with other local vendors and artisans to sell products to raise fund for Kumamoto relief.

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I made matcha onigiri (green tea rice balls) topped with pickled cherry blossom flowers (recipe from my DONABE Cookbook). This is the same onigiri as I made at the Sakura Matsuri (cherry blossom festival) in DC last month and was very popular. So, I wanted LA people to taste these rice balls, too. I started prepping a night before and woke up very early in the morning to make 110 onigiri! Of course, all were made in my double-lid donabe rice cooker, "Kamado-san"! Rice made in Kamado-san taste just so special and it makes really delicious onigiri. I used nice Uji matcha (green tea powder) from Kyoto and plum-flavored "Amabito no moshio" seaweed salt from Hiroshima, and Sakura no Shiozuke (pickled cherry blossoms) from Okayama, and put tons of love from me!

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My husband, Jason, who was finally back from work travels joined me to help the event.

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There were also Chef Kuniko's dan dan mein, Chef Shiho's matcha ice cream bonbons, Chef Yuko's graham crackers, and arts and crafts from many other artists/ vendors. Kuniko's dan dan mein was so delicious!

The event lasted two days (I joined Sunday), and about $6,500 was raised! All the proceeds will be donated to Kumamoto earthquake relief fund. I had a great time and am thankful to everybody who came to support Kumamoto!

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After working full day (and spending all afternoon under the sun at the shop's patio), I was pretty tired and also hungry for a nice dinner. We had a reservation at Paley, a brand new stylish restaurant in Hollywood. We started with seafood plateau, which made a wonderful start of the night.

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Butter lettuce and English peas salad. Beef tartare (seasoned with miso and gochujang). Both were so fresh and tasty. I loved the flavor combination of tartare and grapefruit.

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Since my body needed a lot of energy, for my main course, I had dry-aged Manhattan steak. It was perfectly cooked to rare and the flavor was so rich in umami and delicious! The winner dish of the night.

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Dessert was dark chocolate cremeux tart with yuzu gelee and blood orange compote. Very nice.

I really enjoyed the dinner and look forward to coming back again. I would love to try their brunch next time, too.

It was a wonderful day and I felt so fulfilled!

Happy donabe life.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Back in Japan (April 2016)...More Seaweed

A short and intense week was over, and I left Japan to return to LA again.

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I flew United this time, and requested Japanese meal, as they were featuring a menu created by a famous restaurant called, Kazura, from Hiroshima.

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Sawara fish was served in a paper wrap.

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breakfast omelet was not bad this time.

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It's been only a month since my last trip back to Japan, but I still brought back so much stuff...yes, a lot of seaweed, too...including fresh aosa seaweed. I also brought back a piece of Mom.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Back in Japan (April 2016)...Elegant Dinner at Jushu

Kamado-san donabe with the chef's knives

On another evening, I met Akiko in Nishi-Azabu for dinner.

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We had a reservation at Jushu, a very small hidden Japanese restaurant in a residential block of the area. At Jushu, Chef Senzaki offers one seasonal omakase dinner course menu every night. He is from Saga, Kyushu and had an extensive experiences cooking at fine dining in Osaka. He moved to Tokyo and opened Jushu a few years ago.

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Hotaru ika (firefly squid) and spring green cabbage in s-miso (vinegar miso) sauce. Anago (sea eel) nigiri sushi.

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Steamed ai-name fish with bamboo shoot and wakame in dashi broth. Sashimi plate of kombu-cured kinme-dai (skin was broiled), shima-aji, bai-gai, and kensaki-ika.

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Fried sakura-dai and taranome. Simmered abalone and bamboo shoot.

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Grilled Saga beef ichibo (marbled bottom) and nodoguro fish.

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At Jushu, Chef Senzaki cooks special Saga rice in our double-lid donabe rice cooker, Kamado-san!! I actually didn't know about it until I came here, so it was a wonderful surprise and the rice was INCREDIBLE.

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Dessert was caramel ice cream monaka (stuffed in thin rice wafers).

It was a real incredible dinner and every dish was so memorable. I would really love to come back here again.

Happy donabe life.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Back in Japan (April 2016)...Modern Chinese at Jasmine

I had some time for shopping in Nihonbashi. Since Coredo Muromachi shopping complex opened a few years ago, I hang out in this area more often.

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At casual Japanese restaurant by Ninben, famous dashi ship, they serve lunch set menus. I loved the soup with different vegetables inside. The dashi broth had a very nice flavor, indeed.

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For dinner, I met Rie, Yoshiko & Atsuko in Ebisu. We had a reservation at Jasmine, a modern Chinese restaurant. We had their dinner course menu. I think their appetizer plate was the most impressive among all the courses we had. The appetizer included Yodare-dori ("saliva chicken" - steamed chicken with Szechuan-style hot sauce), smoked duck, and drunk prawn.

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Braised shark fin, and Peking duck with foie gras.

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Sawara fish with fermented napa cabbage puree, and fried pork spare-rib in black vinegar sauce.

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Mapo tofu (my choice), chicken noodle (Atsuko's choice) and dessert.

I had a wonderful time with close friends.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Back in Japan (April 2016)...Local dining in Urawa

This time, my stay was only for a week and I spent most of my time in Urawa neighborhood. That's where my family homes (mom's and Tomoko's) are located.

As I've written many times before, Urawa is an old town with a lot of good restaurants. Unagi (eel) is especially famous.

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Lunch at Masuya, small lunch-only Una-ju (charcoal grilled eel over rice) and Una-maki (rolled eel stuffed omelet). So good.

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Soba and soba. Every soba restaurant has its own soba style.

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Famous Tori Soba at Issa. I'm normally not very into ramen, but this one wowed me!

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Then, my ramen switch got turned on. I also got to try Urawa location of Ginza Kagari. I later learned that this ramen place is also picked up by Michelin guide. It was very good.

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This hidden yakitori place in the middle of the residential area is called Bettei Torisei.

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Our regular sushi spot, Ninomiya.

Every place we went, Tomoko and I were mostly talking about how much we miss Mom...