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Posts Tagged ‘kurobuta’

The first thing you’ll notice about this post is the lack of pictures. Yuki took me out last night for my 34th birthday (damn I’m gettin old!) and my recent experience, I’m sure you’ll agree, has not been good using my cell phone’s camera in dim restaurant lighting. While I have no problem using my regular camera when traveling, I feel weird pulling it out here at home, like a tourist in my own city. That said, here is how our night at the highly acclaimed Naha Restaurant went last night.

We had a 7:30 reservation and showed up right on the dot. The hostess informed us that they were running a little behind and it’d be about 15 minutes before our table would be ready. No worries, we understand that sometimes this happens. So, we sat at these extremely uncomfortable built-in benches along the wall and waited…and waited…and waited. 15 minutes goes by and nothing. Once 8:00 rolled by I went up to inquire how much longer it’d be. I was told that 3 tables had already paid and they were just waiting for them to leave. Ok, however, the assistant hostess rolled her eyes at me for asking. Sorry, but that’s about as rude as it gets when it’s way past our reservation time and we still have not gotten our table. Fortunately for her our table was ready about 2 minutes later; I didn’t have to get the manager.

We get to our table and the interior was quite nice. Very simple and elegant with windows covering all of the exterior walls. Yuki sat on the cushioned bench, so I don’t know how comfortable that was, but the wooden chair I sat in was extremely uncomfortable. There was an ill-placed wooden bar that dug into my spine causing me to hunch over the entire time. On top of that it was way too cold in that restaurant. They could have turned the air conditioner down a good 10 degrees. I noticed most of the women around us were all kind of clenching due to the temperature. I’m pretty hairy, and even I was cold, my natural fur coat wasn’t enough insulation.

Here we are sitting at our cold, uncomfortable table waiting…waiting…waiting. It took more than 10 minutes for the busser to come over and offer us our choice of water. It took another 10 minutes for our server, Albert, to come over and greet us. 20 minutes before an appearance from our server! He even made a dumb comment, “Sorry, I know you’ve been sitting here for 2 or 3 minutes.” Try 20, buddy! I put in the order for some Cava and that came out alright.

After sipping on the Cava for a few minutes Albert came back over once he had taken the order from the table on my left as they were seated shortly before us. He asked if we had ever been there before. When I said no he proceeded to explain just about every dish on the menu. Go to Naha’s website and read the menu, every single dish is well articulated, we don’t need a recap. Not to mention, it was already an hour past our reservation time and we were damn hungry, just take our order! Before we could get our order in he disappeared again. Dude, we’ve been sitting for over a half and hour looking at the menu, our minds were made up over 20 minutes ago!

Finally, we got our orders placed. Then, we waited…and waited…and waited. We’re sitting there waiting; meanwhile, the table to my left who had ordered just 5 minutes before we did was chomping away at their appetizers. I commented to Yuki that they’ll get their entrées before we get our apps. I was right. During the wait Albert avoided us so I couldn’t even inquire. I was getting pissed!

When our appetizers finally came our stomachs were rumbling. Yuki got the Risotto with Blue Crab, Oyster Mushrooms, and Lobster Bisque. The crab was pretty good, nice and moist, but the risotto and bisque were way too salty. She cleared her plate out of sheer hunger more than anything. I got the Gnocchi with Braised Oxtails, Spanish Chorizo, Rapini, Montelerriana Cheese, and Basil. I do have to say that this was a great dish. The gnocchi were nice and soft, the chorizo added a nice compliment to the mild oxtail, the rapini a nice bitterness, the cheese the right amount of salt, and basil a refreshing note.

While we were in the middle of our apps a new table was sat to my right. They ordered right away and got their apps before we finished ours. Did the hostess have a vendetta against us for asking how much longer it’d be to get our table? Then, even though we did finish our apps before them they got their entrées before us, way before us. Shoot, they almost finished their entrees before we got ours.

During our wait between apps and entrées I was finally able to flag down Albert after the wait hit a half hour. He just kept apologizing and saying that kitchen is backed up. Sorry Albert, but that’s no excuse. My little quail should take no longer than 5-8 minutes to roast while Yuki’s brisket was either braised the day before or that morning. It should never take that long between coarses. I told him how I noticed that the tables on either side of us were getting their dishes in a timely fashion and his response was childish and defensive, “Sir, it’s not a competition.” Albert, man up and admit your service sucked. I was merely using the other tables as a reference point, not for some competition you may have going on in your feeble little head.

We just about lost our appetite because so much time had passed. Right when I was about to tell Albert to forget it, we’re leaving, the entrées showed up, more than 45 minutes from the time they cleared our apps.  

Yuki had the Braised Brisket with Hen of the Woods Mushrooms and, honestly, I forget what else was on that dish. We couldn’t get past how salty the braising liquid and mushrooms were as well as how tough the brisket was. They should have called it brisket jerky. I kept watching Yuki try to saw away at that thing just to get a bite. I think it was sitting under the heat lamps for about 20 minutes back in the kitchen. At least that’s how it tasted. I got the Roasted Quail with Kurobuta Pork Belly, Duck Egg baked in La Quercia Prosciutto, and Purple Potatoes. The quail was alright, a little dry, but not terrible. The pork belly was way too sweet, and I do mean sweet. The egg and prosciutto was so damn salty! Doesn’t Chef Nahabedian know that when you cook prosciutto you’re concentrating the salt by removing the moisture? She did nothing to control the salt level. The fact that the yolk of my duck egg was solid and not runny tells me that my dish probably sat under the heat lamps for too long as well. On top of that the three main components had absolutely nothing to tie them together. I was intrigued by the combination on paper and quite honestly, it just didn’t work on all fronts. I kept imagining what Chef Tom Colicchio would say on Top Chef about editing a dish and pulling back on ingredients. Also, there was nothing on either of our plates that justified the price. Brisket is a cheap cut of beef and quail, pork belly (literally three bites worth), and duck egg don’t cost that much either. We clearly didn’t pay for execution as nothing was balanced or cooked properly.

When we finished the entrées it was already 10:00 and we were ready to go home. Albert came by and asked if we were up for dessert and I told him, “We don’t want to be here for another hour, we’re ready to go.” He tried to joke around and said the dessert was on him. We really didn’t care for his nonchalant attitude. We’re two very pissed off diners, not friends.

Another comment on Albert’s service, not once did he come over to see how our food was. He ignored us during our apps and he ignored us during our entrées.

He left to get us the bill and the manager, Terry, came by to apologize. I told him my exact thoughts. If the service had run at regular restaurant speed we wouldn’t have waited the initial half hour to get our table not to mention the snails pace of everything else. It should never take more than a half hour to get apps, and it should never take more than 45 minutes to get an entrée from the time apps are cleared. He also blamed it on the kitchen which is a terrible cop-out. Whether deliberate or shear incompetence, our entrées clearly seemed to have been sitting in the kitchen under heat lamps for a long period of time.

When Albert brought the check he also brought a dessert, Vanilla Ice Cream Parfait with Drunken Fruit and Brioche Pain Perdu, with the obligatory “Happy Birthday” written in chocolate. It was comped, but we clearly told him we did not want dessert and just wanted to leave. The correct move would have been to just take care of some of our wine and not force us to stay there any longer. A free dessert was not enough to get the usual 20% tip we tend to leave.

I do have to say that Yuki had her doubts about Naha months ago when I mentioned that this is where I wanted to go for my birthday dinner. She thought the menu looked pretentious and unappetizing. Once again, she was right. I should have known better. Most chefs worth their grain of salt, especially those who claim to be farm-to-table chefs, are trending towards simplicity, fewer ingredients to showcase the quality of the food. Chef Nahabedian is stuck in the trends of a decade ago. Besides that, the service was clearly lacking. If you want to go out for a nice dinner with fantastic food, trust me, there are hundreds of better options than Naha where you’ll be paying their rent instead of buying a good dinner experience.

Thanks for a horrible birthday Naha!

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The other night I made a Japanese classic with some of my own additions. I made Shogayaki, ginger pork. Typically made with just thinly sliced pork, ginger, soy sauce, mirin, and sake, I added a few vegetables into the mix instead of serving vegetables separately. This is an easy dish to make and very flavorful.

We picked up some really nice Kurobuta (Berkshire) sidebelly while at Mitsuwa. It came thinly sliced which is prefered for this dish. It doesn’t necessarily have to be thinly sliced, nor does it have to be belly. You could get some nice chops and cut them thinly yourself, just try to make them no thicker than about 1/8 inch. I cut the pork sliced in half since they were as long as bacon. That wasn’t necessary, just what I felt like doing.

For vegetables I sliced half an onion, cut a carrot into half moons, sliced half of a yellow bell pepper, and slices a bunch of mushrooms.

For flavorings I, obviously from the title, used some minced ginger, a couple of minced garlic cloves, and a sauce of 3 tablespoons soy, 2 tablespoons sake, and 1 tablespoon mirin.

I started by tossing the ginger and garlic into a hot pan with 2 tablespoons of sesame oil and 2 tablespoons of soy oil. I let that go for just a few minutes until it became fragrant.

Then I added the onions for a few minutes. Followed by the carrot for a few minutes. Then the pepper for a few more minutes. And finally the mushrooms for another few minutes.

Once the vegetables were mostly cooked I added the pork. I mixed it all together and let it go for, you guessed it, a few minutes.

Then I dumped in the sauce along with some black pepper. I covered the pan and turned the heat down to medium once the sauce started to boil a little. Every few minutes I stirred everything around. After about 15 minutes I uncovered the pan and let the sauce reduce a little. I served it once the pork and vegetables were evenly coated by the slightly thickened sauce.

While the sauce was thickening I put a couple of baby bok choy that I had cut in half into the steamer. I let them steam for about 6 minutes. They were served next to the shogayaki with some white rice.

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Last night we made Okonomiyaki for dinner. Well, Yuki made it, I was her sous chef. She also made a Korean spiced soup to get more vegetables into the meal. That and she loves soup.

To start off she cooked thin slices of Kurobuta Pork that we got at Mitsuwa in a little sesame oil. Any pork will do as long as it’s thinly sliced. You can also bacon or any bacon-like substance. Or, no meat at all.

Then, she poured the batter on top to make a pancake. I’m not real sure what kind of flour she used, we have a few different kinds on our pantry, but all-purpose will do, about a cup. She mixed it with about 3/4 cup water and a couple of eggs. Then she mixed in a bunch of thinly sliced green onions and a cup of thinly sliced Napa Cabbage.

Instead of making 4 smaller ones, we made two big ones. I had to use a plate to get that thing flipped over when it was time to cook the other side. It’s ready to flip when the bottom is a nice golden brown color.

While the bottom is cooking you pour the on top. First pour on Bulldog Sauce. A popular sauce in Japan commonly used on Tonkatsu, fried pork cutlet. Then squeeze on some mayonnaise.

Feel free to paint your okonomiyaki with the sauces.

Then top it with a bunch of katsuo-bushi, dried bonito flakes.

Finally, top it off with some ao-nori, ground seaweed.

For the soup, Yuki started by boiling some light dashi broth. She added some green onions, thinly sliced carrot, enoki mushrooms, aburage, broccoli, komatsuna (Japanese Mustard Spinach), and small diced tofu. Once everything was cooked  she swirled in a couple of tablespoons of tobanjan paste (Korean hot chili paste). It was that simple.

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After making a run to Mitsuwa for some Japanese ingredients (some staples in our kitchen) I let Yuki do the cooking last night. She made a dish called Jjigae Don. Well, that’s what she calls it anyway. Jjigae is an old Korean recipe (you see Ira, Yuki doesn’t have anything against Korea), a stew typically made with kimchi. She didn’t use any kimchi but did use Tobanjan, a Korean fermented chili paste.

First, she made a broth out of miso, tobanjan, and dashi. She simmered some green onions, carrot slices, and baby bok choy until soft and tender. Then she took those vegetables out and cooked some thinly sliced kurobuta pork. By thinly sliced I mean deli meat thin. You can purchase it that way at Mitsuwa and some other Asian grocery stores. It’s typically marked for use in Shabu-shabu or dishes like that. The pork cooks quickly since it’s so thin. Be careful not to cook it more than a minute or two because the meat will get tough if overcooked. Once the pork was cooked she took it out and then cooked some shimeji mushrooms in the broth.

While all of this was going on we had pressed the water out of a package of silken tofu. Once the tofu was firm enough we cut (she did the cooking I did most of the cutting, I’m her sous chef as I love to use the hand-carved Japanese steel she got me for my birthday a few years ago) it into smaller pieces and then cooked it in the broth.

After everything was cooked we put some rice in the bottom of our bowls and then topped it with all of the ingredients. While we did that Yuki cooked some shungiku in the broth. You have to cook that last as it turns the broth a darker color. That way the veggies and meat keep their natural colors. Once the shungiku was cooked that went in the bowl with everything else.

No extra fats, just the natural fat from top quality pork, were added to this dish. Along with the variety of fresh vegetables and white rice this is an extremely healthy dish. Absolutely delicious as well.

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