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Alright, last night I was able to knock out one more Iron Chef from my list as Yuki’s parents took us along with her sister to Iron Chef Italian Masahiko Kobe’s restaurant, Ristorante Massa. It’s located in a very cool neighborhood of Tokyo called Ebisu tucked away off a main street. It’s a simple little restaurant that seats only about 25-30 people. It was full when we were there, and probably is most nights due to his celebrity status and fantastic food.

There were two pre fix menu options. The one we opted for was the less expensive of the two (approx $65 compared to $85) as it offered one less dish than the other. Since none of us are fat Americans it seemed like the right choice. We could chose one from each category of Antipasto Freddo (3 choices), Antipasto Caldo (three choices), Primo Piatto (5 choices), Secondo Piatto (4 choices), and either a Dolce (5 choices) or Formaggio Plate (pick two out of 4 cheeses) followed by either tea or espresso. We washed down the meal with some Chianti Classico. I have pics of everything, but I’m only going to mention what I ordered otherwise this post will be way way way too long. This is already one of the longest introductions I’ve written. So, on to the food!

We each started off with the Oyster starter that was not part of the Pre Fix. It is probably the largest oyster I’ve ever eaten in my life! So fresh and clean it was simply served in its own juices with a little squeeze of lime and some rock salt. What more does a good oyster need?

Then they brought out an amuse bouche. Baked pasta filled with ricotta cheese, a little slice of pear, and an Italian parsley leaf. It almost reminded me of matzoh with cream cheese, a treat dear to my stomach for one week out of the year.

The Antipasto Freddo I ordered was a foie gras terrine with chamomile. It was served with smoked Ishikawa potatoes, a yuzu consomme jelly, Italian Arugula, and sprinkled with flaked red pepper.

My Antipasto Caldo of choice was a bit of a mis-translation. I thought I was getting duck confit, when it showed up we thought is was duck balls, but it turned out to be chicken gizzards. I actually preferred it to be balls since I’ve never eaten bird balls, but it was still outstanding! The gizzards were served on top of a kabocha puree with thinly sliced red onions that were soaked in cold water, a shishito pepper, and a pea pod.

The Primo Piatto, pasta course, I ordered was chitarra with cremini sauce. The sauce was as simple and delicious as could be…olive oil, garlic, and minced cremini mushrooms. There were big slices of sautéed cremini in it as well. With Kobe being the “Prince of Pasta” it was easily the best pasta in my life. Cooked to perfection, nice and al dente.

For the Secondo Piatto I got the beef, of course. A perfectly grilled strip loin to medium rare covered in a light mustard sauce and served with asparagus, a shiitake, a pea pod, and a slice of red pepper. Uichiro, Yuki’s dad, ordered his with black truffles on top. I wish I knew I could do that. He gave me a few of the truffles and they made an outstanding steak even better…as truffles always do.

I opted for the Formaggio instead of a Dolce. I chose the parmigiano and taleggio. He served it very typically with some dried fruits and sliced nut bread. I washed it down with lemon tea instead of espresso as I wanted to sleep later on.

Maki, Yuki’s sister, couldn’t finish her Tirimisu so I took it upon myself to not waste any food. It was served with kiwi sorbet and fresh fruit. Of course, it was the best tirimisu that I’ve ever digested.

Overall, this was by far the best Italian food I’ve ever eaten, hands down. And I’ve been to Italy. I’m sure there are places as good in Italy, but when Yuki and I went there we couldn’t afford any of the top restaurants. We ate some pretty damn good food there, but nothing as refined as this.

I have also said before that I didn’t think modern Italian food existed. I said that due to the lack of creativity and refinement of Italian food in Chicago (although, I have yet to eat at Spiaggia). At home it’s mostly humongous bowls of pasta with thick rich sauces that weigh you down. Nothing like Ristorante Massa where the portions were clean, fresh, perfectly sized, and creative modern takes on classics. I have a newfound respect for Italian food.

While I have eaten at Sakai’s, Michiba’s, and Chen’s restaurants, this is the first time that an Iron Chef has actually cooked for me. It was very exciting to see Kobe back in the kitchen when we walked in. I think there are two reasons Kobe was cooking for us. First, he only has one restaurant while the others all have numerous. So you know where Kobe will be when he cooks as opposed to it being a crapshoot for the others (I missed Sakai by 4 hours back when Yuki and I went to La Rochelle). Second, he’s still young at only 40 and still wants to create. Michiba is an old man and doesn’t cook anymore and I don’t think Sakai cooks too much anymore either.

No more Iron Chefs this trip as we head back to cold Chicago tomorrow. Next trip I’ll visit Iron Chef Japanese Nakamura Komei and maybe Honorary Iron Chef French Ishinabe Yutaka. Morimoto will have to wait as his Teppanyaki restaurant here in Tokyo starts at approx $300 a head!

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One thing that being unemployed is teaching me is that you don’t have to spend a lot of money in order to eat right. To me, eating right doesn’t mean counting carbs, or taking supplements, or any of that nutritionist crap (I’m a believer in Michael Pollan). There’s nothing wrong with eating animal fat, or bread, or dessert. There is everything wrong with eating too much and eating processed foods brought to you by the Big Food Industry.

At any rate, last night I made some of the best Lasagna you could ever pass through your tracts (and pass it through my tracts I did!). I did it using only fresh, high quality, organic ingredients, and I did it on the cheap.

I don’t buy much at Whole Foods since their prices are sometimes ridiculously high. However, I won’t buy meats from normal chain grocers because they sell meat from sick, hormone and antibiotic pumped animals. In order to save a few shekels The Big Farm Industry feeds livestock unnatural diets causing them to get ill. In turn they need to inject large amounts of antibiotics because the feed is unhealthy to them, not to mention the extremely unsanitary living-quarters. On top of all of that the animals are fed hormones to speed up growth, this causes even more health issues. Basically, if you’re not eating organic naturally fed, humanely raised animals, you’re eating sick animals. Would you eat a moldy tomato? So why eat a moldy cow?

But I digress. I headed over to Whole Foods and got some really nice, fresh ground chicken thigh meat. I opted for chicken instead of the usual beef because I grilled skirt steak (from Olympic Meat Market) the previous night. Variety is the spice of life. I went for thigh meat for a few reasons. One, it’s cheaper. Two, even though it’s higher fat it’s actually healthier for you since it’s heart-healthy unsaturated fat. Three, it has more flavor. 

While there, I noticed that organic zucchini was on sale. A perfect match for lasagna. They also had high quality parmigiano on sale. I had a jar of organic pasta sauce that I got for $2.19 from my last trip to Whole Foods sitting in my pantry. Otherwise I would have made my own sauce that would have cost me roughly the same amount, maybe another dollar or two.

Back home, I also had some lasagna noodles in the cupboard already. One thing when you have no income is that you try to eat what you’ve already bought and stocked. I picked some basil from my back porch garden. I also had some mushrooms that I bought at Stanley’s, where I buy most of my fruits and veggies.

So, I whipped up a bechemel sauce. I, for one, do not think that putting butter, flour, and milk together is too much fat. As long as the dairy comes from good cows and the flour isn’t processed or enhanced or anything unnatural. Then I cooked the ground chicken with onions, garlic, and some of the tomato sauce. I thinly sliced the zucchini and mushrooms. Then I put it all together.

Turned out to be enough for 4 full servings (I try to cook for 4 even though it’s just my wife and I, that way we have a good lunch the next day as well)when paired with a simple mixed green salad with sliced tomatoes. When I add up the costs of everything and divide by the 4 meals I got out of it I ended up making delicious healthy food for about $4 per person. I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather eat that than a $5 foot-long.

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