Monday, July 18, 2016

Summer nights at Otium

Hiramasa ssam wrap, served in donabe

The other night, I got together with Akiko, who just recently came back to LA after a little over a year in Tokyo. We celebrated her return at Otium in Downtown. Yes, t's one of my favorite restaurants in LA. We enjoyed different dishes off the menu.

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Amberjack. Corn agnolotti and lobster nage and shaved black truffles from Australia.

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Octopus. Cuttlefish.

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Bucatini. Lamb.

Over different wines, we enjoyed every dish so much (There were a couple more dishes but I forgot to take photos). Every time I'm at Otium, the experience is so special.

Another night in the same week, I was back at Otium with Evan, Jeanna, and Jason (my husband). Evan and Jeanna were visiting from New York, as Evan had some photo shoot in So. Cal. I requested Chef Tim to do a special donabe omakase dinner for us.

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Hamachi, coriander, avocado, lemon, dill.

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Hiram's, romaine, Korean chili, shishito, ponzu, served in our donabe steamer, Mushi Nabe. Once the lid was removed, water was poured through the steam grate, then the cold smoke started to come out. I had no idea there was dry ice underneath. What a creative presentation to serve a cold dish in the donabe steamer!

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Little gem, heirloom tomato, purslane, pita, sumac. Burrata tart, tomato, basil, curry, truffle.

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First donabe smoker, Ibushi Gin dish was Smoked ham, melon, shishito, charred onion, arugula.

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Bucatini, crab, buckwheat, scallion, lime. Cuttlefish, hearts of palm, button mushroom, chile, thai basil.

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Cajun octopus, hushpuppy, corn, pickled green tomato, were served in tagine-style donabe, Fukkura-san. Then, Iga-yaki grill, Yaki Yaki San was brought with sizzling Pork belly, fried egg, ponzu, rice cake, with extra rice on the side.

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The second smoked dish of Duck, leeks, apricot, black sesame, cashew, in donabe smoker, Ibushi Gin.

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Ice cream sundae. St-Honore, coffee, salted caramel, hazelnut.

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Mignardises were all served in different donabe lids. How creative!

Wow, every dish was so unique and so wonderful. I'm constantly amazed by what Chef Tim and the team offer...and their donabe creations are so amazing! I feel so honored that our donabe are used in so many different and creative ways by such talented chefs.

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And, the other day, I had another wonderful lunch there. Here's such an unique dish made with donabe steamer, Mushi Nabe! Lightly smoked and steamed fish on the top layer, then the steam grate was removed. Inside was a stew of hamagiri clams, scallops, etc. Amazing!

Happy donabe life.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Independence Day 2016

My asparagus & hijiki donabe rice (Photo by Jeni Afuso)

Last year, we hosted a pretty big July 4 BBQ party at home. I cooked all the dishes and we had a great time.

This year, Jason and I were playing with the idea of hosting again, then we realized there was no way, considering the crazy schedules we had been in and we had been quite burned out.

Then, our friends, Dylan and Jeni (they came to our BBQ last year) invited us to a BBQ at their home. Asami and Steve, who just returned to LA from 2-year residency in Nagoya, Japan, also joined. We all cooked and it became a fantastic gourmet July 4th BBQ dinner with friends.

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Appetizers...I made watermelon salad (with Kyoto shichimi peppers and vinegar) and Thai-style grilled eggplant salad. Asami's kiriboshi daikon (dried daikon strips) and spinach salad was so tasty.

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Skillet corn and crab meat by Dylan. The dish was seasoned with beer, nan pla and a dash of dukkah.

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Grilled sausages and turmeric chicken by Asami & Steve. I loved the chicken so much.

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Shichimi Chimichurri marinated skirt steak by Dylan. Wonderful texture and flavor.

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I made asparagus and hijiki mochimugi rice with double-lid donabe rice cooker, Kamado-san. (Photo by Jeni) I was glad everybody loved it! I added a packet of mochi mugi barley (considered to be a superfood: even more health benefit than conventional barley) to the rice, because I love its texture and flavor. But, you can make it only with the rice, too. Please find the recipe below.

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Such a fun evening of celebrating America's birthday with wonderful friends! (Photo by Asami)

Asparagus & Hijiki Rice
(Serves 4 - 6)

Equipment: Kamado-san (3 rice-cup size)

5 ounces asparagus, tough bottom trimmed
Generous 1 tablespoon short dry hijiki seaweed
2 rice-cups (1 1/2 US cup or 360 ml) short grain rice, rinsed and drained
1 1/3 cups (320 ml) vegetable stock
2 tablespoons sake
1 tablespoon usukuchi shoyu
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

  1. Shave off 1/3 end of the asparagus skin. Cut the asparagus into 1/4" (6 mm) thick pieces, except for the tips.
  2. Soak dry hijiki in a bowl with generous amount of water for 30 minutes. Rinse, drain and gently press out excess moisture. Set aside.
  3. In Kamado-san, combine the rice with the stock, sake, and soy sauce and sea salt. Let the rice soak for 20 minutes.
  4. Spread the hijiki over the rice. Cover Kamado-san with both lids and cook over medium-high heat for 13 - 15 minutes, or until 2 - 3 minutes after the steam starts puffing from the top lid.
  5. Turn off the heat and let it stand, undisturbed, for 15 minutes.
  6. Quickly open both lids and spread the asparagus over the rice. Cover with both lids again and let it rest for additional 5 minutes.
  7. Uncover and fluff with a spatula. Serve into individual bowls.
***For mochi mugi barley version, add a packet (2 oz/ 60 g) of mochi mugi and 1/2 cup (120 ml) stock in step 3. Increase the amount of salt by a pinch.

Happy donabe life.