Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘okra’

The other night Yuki and I met up with a bunch of her ex-coworkers who have moved back to Tokyo. They got a table at a modern, hip Yakitori joint in the Hibiya neighborhood. If you want to buy a brand new Hermes bag, Hibiya is the place for you. It’s a very swanky area filled with great food. The place they met us at is called Yakitori Akira. It’s in the basement of a large office/shopping building along with a handful of other slightly upscale food joints.

When you walk in you take your shoes off and walk past the open counter where the chefs prepare the chow. The tables are sunken. I was a little nervous at first because the tables were floor level and my knees are terrible. But, the floor was recessed making them regular table height, something that is becoming more common in newer restaurants, sort of fusion if you will.

The first dish, after a cold draft beer of course,  was a salad of raw Nappa cabbage swimming in a mayonnaise-based dressing and topped with sliced kombu.

After that came some natto topped with sliced green onions and nori seaweed. Natto is a love-hate food. You either love it or you hate it. It’s a type of fermented soy bean and has a really pungent odor, like ripe armpits. It also has a very sticky texture. It’s commonly eaten with Chinese-style mustard to mask some of the smell. Yuki loves it, I don’t prefer it. Very few Westerners can tolerate it and, these days, not so many of the younger Japanese do either. But, I had to try it since they put it in my face. Needless to say, I took one bite and the quickly proceeded to chug some beer!

Then we had some chicken karage, Japanese-style chicken nuggets. Unlike your McDonald’s variety of processed crap, this is big juicy chunks of thigh meat. I have no idea what kind of sauce this one came with, but it sure was tasty!

This here is the dish I was most looking forward to…rare chicken meat! The meat from the neck was quickly seared, almost completely raw (the pink you see in the picture is indeed raw chicken), on a hot skillet and served with some yuzu kosho. Rare chicken is extremely controversial, for obvious reasons, but given the upscale atmosphere I was certain they were using fresh, high quality birds. Since I have yet to get diarrhea or vomit profusely, I’m pretty sure the meat was clean. Flavor-wise it tasted like chicken, oddly enough. The texture was a little chewy, chicken al dente. Honestly, it’s nothing really special, it’s just chicken meat.

Avocado sautéed in some sort of shoyu sauce came next. Coming from Chicago I’m used to Mexican preparations of avocado. This was a nice change to what my taste buds are used to. The sauce carmelized a little while the avocado stayed nice and soft.

After the Avocado we spiced things up a bit with some kimchi. It was served with some chopped green onion, julienned daikon, and a shiso leaf.

Next came what is probably my favorite snack of the night, deep-fried chicken skin. Japan’s answer to chicharones. Crispy, buttery, all-around chickeny goodness! I may have to make this a staple of my future diet.

What tour around the bird would complete without some chicken wings? These were deep-fried with either basil or shiso in the batter, I couldn’t really tell. With a squirt of lemon they were delicious.

The main course of the night was the table-top charcoal grill. Instead of eating yakitori style (chicken on skewers) we ate yakiniku style (grill yourself). The first pieces we grilled were breast meat wrapped in shiso leaf.

The other pieces of chicken we got were neck meat, 2 parts of the heart (heart skin and heart meat), meat that was dangling off a piece of cartilage (I think the breastplate), and skin. We also had a few pieces of okra to grill.

Once the meat was grilled we dipped the pieces into an onsen egg. Basically it’s just an egg that’s been barely soft-boiled to the point where the whites were just set and the yolk is still runny. To me, this is natures most perfect sauce.

After all of that chicken we decided to get a few cuts of pork for shits and giggles. We got shoulder, cheek, and side meat and grilled them all the same as the chicken.

As Yuki and I were leaving due to having Otis back at grandma and grandpa’s, everyone else ordered up some soup. I really have no idea what was in the soup, but I imagine it was miso. From the pic I took here as I left I can definitely tell you it was topped with nori and had a shtickle of wasabi.

All in all, I thought Akira was a great izakaya. They call themselves Yakitori Akira because the chef’s specialty is chicken, but to me it’s not a yakitori restaurant at all, even though they do serve yakitori. The menu is much too diverse to be called yakitori. Since they serve up numerous small plates and whatnot with a nice beer and sake list, its pure izakaya to me. That said, what’s in a name? An izakaya by any other name’s chicken would taste is sweet.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Saturday night I got a free pass from diaper duty to go out for a few hours. Ever since doing the Playboy Pilot and meeting my new friend Melody there I’ve had a hankering to give DMK Burger Bar a whirl. You see, she works there and talked that place up to no end. I figured that Saturday would be a great time to go since that’s one of her work nights. I had a buddy all set to join me up until the last minute when he bailed. That wouldn’t deter me though. When I have a burger in my sights nothing is going to stop me! So, I headed up to Lincoln Park all set to sit at the bar and fill my belly with beef…and beer. Happily, Melody was able to join me at the bar. When I eat a burger alone, I prefer to be by myself. But, I prefer to not eat a burger alone. It all worked out.

French fries with parmesan and truffle cream started the meal off. Good starchy potatoes home-cut, fried to a nice crisp with pillowy innards, and topped with some parmesan cheese. A thing of truffle cream on the side. Funny, that’s exactly what the menu said it would be. The truffle cream was pretty good. Just enough earthy truffle oil mixed in to let you know that it’s there. Honestly though, I love that expensive swine found fungus and would not have minded a little more truffle oil. But, you do get what you pay for (except for in Lincoln Park usually) and the price was right for the amount. Good french fries.

We also got deep-fried okra with herb ranch. Again, exactly what we were supposed to get. The okra was fresh and there wasn’t too much coating allowing the okra flavor to stay in the forefront. Simple, but tasty.

We split two different burgers so that I could enjoy two different flavors and see just what DMK had to offer. The first was number 1 on the menu. A grass-fed piece of ground up cow topped with aged cheddar, smoked bacon, charred balsamic red onions, and Rufus Teague’s BBQ. First, the good. The quality of the ingredients were fantastic. I’m a big fan of the real beef flavor of grass-fed bovine. Nature did not create any of the multiple stomachs to digest corn. With grass-fed you get a more natural flavor from a usually healthier animal (one that does less damage to Mother Earth as well). The toppings were high quality as well. I have a Rufus Teague sidenote for you at the bottom of this post. The bad, the patty was a little bit too thin. I’m a believer that you don’t need a 1 pound patty, that’s just way too American and unhealthy. But, a little more beef wouldn’t hurt me at all. I mean, I did have some beer to thin my blood and counteract the cholesterol intake. Honestly though, that’s my only gripe as the burger was damn tasty.

The other burger was the number 11, grass-fed lamb with sheep’s milk feta, olive tapenade, greek salad, and tzatziki. Again, really high quality ingredients full of natural flavor. However, this one tasted a bit too much like a gyro for me. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good gyro as much as the next guy (sometimes even a bad one will do). But I wanted something a little more creative than a gyro with olive tapenade smeared all over it. That’s not a huge complaint though as I’d eat this burger any day of the week. I’m just pickin knits here.

Overall I will say that DMK Burger Bar does serve up some tasty grub, as well as a really nice beer list. If it were closer to my humble abode I’d probably make it over there on at least a semi-regular basis. As it is, with my friend Melody working there, I will probably make it back over there anyway. They are pretty much true to what they try to be and I applaud the use of grass-fed animals. It’s also not overpriced like much of its surrounding neighborhood. Even though the burgers aren’t ginormous, at $8 a pop you’ll be satisfied. That is unless you’re one of the 63% of Americans who are obese (only 30% of you were in 2002!).

Now, on to my Rufus Teague story. Way back before Binny’s corporate take-over of Sam’s Wine and Spirits I used to get little birthday gifts from Sam’s. They’d send me a card before my birthday telling me to stop by their meat counter. One of those gifts was a little jar of Rufus Teague Blazin Hot BBQ Sauce. Binny’s doesn’t do that, one of the many reasons I miss Sam’s. The hot sauce was fantastic though! I slathered that all over chicken and shrimp before grilling ’em up. I never thought about using Rufus on beef though. It did work pretty well, probably because of the smoky bacon. Whatever the reason, there’s a soft spot in my heart for my boy Rufus. Plus, Rufus is just a fun name to say.

Read Full Post »

For Meatless Monday last night I made a Dahl, an Indian-style lentil stew. I had a handful of okra left from the farmer’s market this weekend, so I decided that this would be a good way to use them up.

My ingredient list included the okra (cut into 1/2 inch slices), 1/3 cup of red lentils, a 14 oz can of diced tomatoes, one medium onion diced, an inch of ginger, two garlic cloves, and one medium russet potato that I skinned and diced. I also used one cup of water and about a teaspoon of turmeric along with salt and pepper.

Over med-high heat I melted about a tablespoon of ghee and grated the ginger and garlic into it. Once they became fragrant, about 30 seconds or so, I added the onions. Those sautéed for about 5 minutes and then I added the potato. A few minutes later I stirred in the lentils just until they were fully coated with the ghee and then I poured in the water. I let the water come to a boil and then scraped up the garlic and ginger that stuck to the bottom of the pan. Then I added the turmeric, salt, and tomatoes and let that all come to a boil. Once boiling, I turned the heat down to med-low, stirred in the okra, covered the pan, and let it all simmer for about 30 minutes. After that, I added some black pepper and adjusted my salt. A garnish of halved cherry tomatoes and it’s ready to eat.

Besides the okra, I also had a few baby carrots from the farmer’s market that I needed to use up. Even though their skin was purple, the flesh was either orange or yellow. They were so tender and sweet, possibly the best carrots I’ve ever cooked with. I didn’t want to take away from their natural sweetness so I kept it really simple. After skinning them I quartered them length-wise. I drizzled some olive oil all over them, then sprinkled some cumin, salt, and pepper. I put them in the oven at 375 degrees for about 15-20 minutes. To serve, I just layed them on top of a mixed green salad.

As happens more often than not in my kitchen, white rice was served on the side.

Read Full Post »

Somen noodles are typically eaten in a cold broth in Japan. It’s the perfect lunch or light dinner on a hot, humid Tokyo day. Seeing as the days here in Chicago have been hot and humid Yuki decided to make a somen dish for lunch on Saturday.

Somen noodles are packaged just like soba, wrapped in individual servings. So, she first boiled two servings of the noodles and then cooled them down in some ice water.

While the noodles were cooling she hard-boiled a couple of eggs and steamed (maybe boiled, I wasn’t paying close enough attention) some okra. When the okra was cool to touch she thinly sliced them.

In a bowl, she mixed equal parts water and yamaki mentsuyu (soy sauce that’s been seasoned with dashi). She also added a few dashes of ponzu to give it a little bit of citrus tang. Then she divided up the noodles and topped them with the okra and hard-boiled eggs. We also had some cherry tomatoes so she cut some of those in half and put them in as well.

That’s all there is too it. Delicious, refreshing, and fully satisfying.

Read Full Post »

The only other meal worth blogging about from our trip last week was our final dinner. We used Las Vegas as our start and stop point simply because the cheapest flights were to Vegas and we were able to make a nice circle out of there. Anyone who knows me has heard me tout the brilliance of Mike Mills’ ribs. He’s the owner of 17th Street Bar and Grill in Murphysboro, IL. When my mom and step-dad attended law school at SIU they turned me on to his ribs. He’s a 5 time rib champion of the Memphis in May BBQ contest, 2 of those times also taking the Grand Champion trophy. Bon Appetit Magazine has him ranked right at the top of BBQ Ribs. For whatever reason, he opened up 3 locations in Vegas and named them Memphis Championship BBQ. I was looking forward to those ribs to close out the trip ever since we booked the flights.

We started off with a jar of beer each and some rolls with honey butter.

Slabs and half slabs of ribs each come with two sides. We quickly realized that it’s cheaper to share a slab and then order two extra sides, which still turned out to be a bit too much food for us. Also, the sides aren’t all the same price. So, we included fried okra and steamed vegetables with the slab since they were the two most expensive and then added an order of mashed potatoes and, what BBQ meal is complete without them, baked beans. The okra came with a dipping sauce made with Mike’s famous Magic Dust, a spice blend recipe handed down to him from his grandmother. The vegetables were simply a mixed bowl of steamed vegetables. The potatoes had bacon them as well as Magic Dust in the gravy. And the baked beans also had bacon as well as his BBQ sauce.

On to the ribs. A nice full slab of slow-smoked baby backs. We got there at about 9:30 at night and our ribs were probably at their peak about 6:30-7ish. They were slightly dry, but still fantastic! Still better than any other rib you’ll get at a restaurant. We devoured those meat popsicle about as well as any vulture could. MMMMMMMM!

Read Full Post »