Sunday, August 25, 2013

Dreaming of Sushi Nakazawa

I am pretty sure one of the most pornographic films I have ever seen is Jiro Dreams of Sushi - the food shots are ridiculously gratuitous and have forever ruined the concept of sushi for me.

But I'll still eat it.  Especially now that Daisuke Nakazawa (Jiro's apprentice in the film shown mastering tamago after several months of dedicated practice) has opened up his own shop in West Village, Sushi Nakazawa, after working with another Jiro protege in Seattle over the past year.

You can tell Nakazawa is excited about his brand new, squeaky clean restaurant, sharing smiles with excited patrons throughout the night.

Through early September, Sushi Nakazawa is serving only omakase at the ten-seat sushi bar.  The dining room is expected to open later next month.  Reservations can be made online for parties of two though all seats appear to have been taken.

Luckily, we snagged one on Saturday so now you can have a first look!

The omakase is about twenty pieces of nigiri for $150, with optional sake pairing for $40 or $70 for wine.  We received about six different types of sake, and found it wonderfully complementary to the nigiri.

The omakase began with two types of salmon: Alaskan, topped simply with sea salt and concealing the biggest pop of freshly ground wasabi which cleared our sinuses instantly and rendered us momentarily speechless,

and king salmon, that was buttery.

The Maine scallop was one of my favorites, smooth and succulent.

The geoduck was cut with fine hatchwork, tenderized and handbroiled, but still retained a hard, chewy texture.


Steamed abalone was a touch more tender.

The Japanese jack mackerel, kissed by ginger, was deliciously oily and flavorful.

Baby shad was tender and slippery under tongue.  (I always liked when we were told the fish was a baby. Can't tell if that makes me a bad person to so gleefully eat them up.)

Whitefish from Long Island.

Sea kelp marinated fluke was an unexpected stunner, the taste of the ocean unfolding in our mouths.

Baby cuttlefish was a beautifully glossy gem, sweet with slight chew.

My seat was in front of the bowl of live mantis shrimps.  Creepy creatures with a million legs, and I couldn't wait to eat them.

The shrimp and octopus are both steamed under a lid of bamboo leaves.

Nakazawa said, "Sayonara!" as he dropped a handful of mantis shrimps inside.

Peeling the shrimp.

Definitely the most gorgeous piece of nigiri I have ever seen, and also the tastiest.  Sweet and succulent with a hint of spice from the wasabi.  Incredible !!  We could've easily eaten just twenty of these as an omakase and been ridiculously happy.

Two "sake sommeliers" work with the 10 patrons and describe how the sake is selected by type of seafood. We retained none of the knowledge, but easily drank everything.  The pairings were near perfect, with the exception of one that was good, but did nothing to enhance its portion of the meal.

Swordfish with soy.

Skipjack from Japan, enriched with deep smokiness, and simply amazing.

Boston blue fin tuna, a bit plain.

Medium toro, fatty and delicious.

Full toro, more fatty and more delicious.  Melt-in-your-mouth wonderful.

It was fun watching the assistant throughout the meal as he handled this most giant tentacle, steamed in the same pot as the shrimp.

The octopus was beautifully cut, white as snow, and sprinkled with sea salt.  The result was more chewy than tender, and the flavor very subtle.

Salmon roe was completely fun, popping instantly as each egg hit the tongue.

The unago melted immediately in our mouths, sweet and soft.  Just faintly fishy and fully delectable.

A tuna handroll wrapped in Japanese nori was the length of my hand.  The tuna was fresh and wonderful.

And finally, of course, Daisuke's triumph at Jiro, the tamago - sweet egg omelet.  It tastes like dessert, so sweet, dense and so fun to eat.

The toasty underside.

After the team clears our plates and removes our chopsticks, it's like we lost a friend that I immediately missed.  As the amazing meal came to an end, they brought out wedges of supersweet honeydew and hot tea.

It's a little hard to eat honeydew with a spoon, but who's really complaining?  I'll dew it.

As a sidenote to our whole experience, we were disappointed to be the only patrons at our seating to be served exclusively by the assistant sushi chef (all other 8 patrons received service from Nakazawa), and while sharing cuts of fish may result in similar results, I do believe the assembly of nigiri by chef does vary - amount of wasabi, sauce, formation of rice, etc., and some of our pieces did feel heavy-handed with wasabi, but the meal in its entirety is undeniably spectacular.

Han's Nonsensical Rating: Simply stunning meal with some unbelievable pieces of seafood.  Try to grab seats away from the far end (away from the pots and prep) to receive service directly from Nakazawa!

Sushi Nakazawa
23 Commerce St
New York, NY
Sushi Nakazawa on Urbanspoon

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Christine's 30th at UFORGE with Mei Mei Street Kitchen

A few months ago, Sean threw the most amazing surprise 30th birthday party in the history of mankind for his lovely bride to be, Christine. It was a night of local art, ridiculously delicious food, friends and family (who were all clearly infatuated with the birthday girl), and – literally – magic!

The event was at UFORGE Gallery in Jamaica Plain. It’s an intimate space, and I loved the pieces by local artists that lined the walls. Here’s the big surprise and ensuing mingling:

Sean, being a perfect example for all fianc├ęs, had other surprises up his sleeve. The first was that the event was catered by Mei Mei Street Kitchen – Sean and Christine’s favorite food truck.

I absolutely loved the carrot soup, and that’s saying something since I rarely eat anything carrot unless the word ‘cake’ is involved.

With a light, soft texture, the soup was pleasantly refreshing, and the bourbon cream was an ingenious complement.

My favorite dish of the night was the honey, pesto, cheddar & feta scallion pancake. I know. Could it sound ANY better?

It was equal parts crispy, gooey, and heavenly. The addition of honey gave it a pleasant sweetness that really hit it out of the ballpark. YUMM-O. I kept harassing the awesome Mei Mei folks for more. They’re such good sports. Exhibit A – “when you see it” in the picture above…

Mei Mei also set up an awesome buffet.

First up, the roasted beet salad. Super solid... and beautiful!

Then… trifecta beer mac ‘n cheese.

You’re drooling now, because that is the only rational reaction. The crumbs atop the mac ‘n cheese gave it a nice little crunch, the cheese was slightly sharp (which is how I like it!), and the macaroni was not at all overcooked.

Then… caramelized onion bread pudding.

I loved the delightful browning, and the onion flavor was spot on throughout.  I also enjoyed the fluffy, almost eggy texture.

There were also two types of dumplings – tofu and beef.

Makes me wanna jump right into this pile of dumplings.

Mei Mei also made us macarons! The holy grail of any baker.

These were incredible, especially the cinnamon ones with bourbon buttercream. The meringue cookie texture was the perfect balance of chewy and crumbly… morphing exactly how a proper macaron should after a single bite.

Christine’s friend also baked her a beautiful cake and cut it in a most professional way.

Color me impressed. (And satisfied – the cake was delicious!)

The second surprise of the evening was that we were to be entertained by magician Darren Yong.

We all loved his different tricks, and of course we all said to ourselves multiple times, “How did he DO that?!” It was all pretty amazing. I will forever remember Darren bending and twisting a fork by the force of MY OWN HAND. Mind. Blown.

So, here’s to Sean and Christine… after a fabulous event like this one, I can’t wait to see you in September for your wedding!

767 Centre Street
Jamaica Plain, MA 02130

Various Locations
Follow them on Twitter to find out where!
Mei Mei Street Kitchen Food Truck on Urbanspoon