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Posts Tagged ‘pastrami’

Ah yes, horse, the other red meat. You know, I’ve never understood why horse meat was off-limits in America. I mean, it’s an animal not all that dissimilar to deer or elk and we certainly have no problems eating them. Is it because we ride horses? Would you eat a cow if you rode it? I don’t know. I do know that many other places in the world do eat horse, and Japan is one of them. While it’s not a prominent animal in the extremely large, diverse, and interesting encyclopedia of animals consumed by the Japanese, it is featured in various areas where other meats might not be as readily available. As such, in places like Tokyo, there are restaurants dedicated to serving this animal on a platter rather than saddling it up for a gallop. The other night I finally got my first opportunity to enjoy the succulence of these animals when a friend of mine asked me if he could take me out for a horse. Not only is that the first time another man had ever asked me that questions, but that was a proposition I was only too happy to jump on. So, we headed out to the Ebisu district of Tokyo and headed to a place called Uma Yakiniku Takeshi. Uma is horse in Japanese, yakiniku is the style of grilling meat at your table, and Takeshi is the name of the proprietor of this establishment, he also happens to be a well-known Japanese comedian. Before I get to the food, one thing I love about Ebisu is that there are numerous interesting little izakaya’s serving up weird and exotic cuisine that you would never find unless you stumbled upon them. We ended up walking around for about 15 minutes before finding our destination.

When we sat down we were greeted with a cold glass of draft beer and some lightly pickled cucumbers with salted kombu. I’m not a big pickle or cucumber guy by any stretch of the imagination, but honestly, this wasn’t too bad at all. I even think my younger brother, he who has even stronger negative feelings toward pickled cucumbers than me, would eat this. At least he would if he was hungry enough to eat a horse.

We started off with horse tataki. Rolled in black pepper and lightly seared on all sides, this piece of meat (what part of the animal is still up for debate, but I think it’s the tenderloin) was covered with in thinly sliced onion and chopped scallions.

After a quick dip in ponzu (the horse meat, not me) here I am about to have my first taste in equestrian delights. MMMMMMMMMMMM! Honestly, it reminded me of kosher pastrami. I could throw this on some rye bread, slather on the mustard, and wash it down with a Dr Browns and be a happy man. Very delicious and surprisingly familiar to me. I had heard that horse tasted quite a bit like beef, but I think it’s a little more like bison as the muscles don’t have as much fat as cow does.

Next up was horse sashimi. Just think of this as beef carpaccio, except that it went nay instead of moo. A bit of fresh grated ginger and garlic, a splash in some tamari, and down the hatch. A little sweeter than beef, and much more tender than I expected. I can’t recall ever eating a beef carpaccio that I enjoyed as much.

Then we got the yakiniku going. The first plate had some napa cabbage, eggplant, the green part of the scallion, and, of course, some horse meat. This part of the animal comes from the belly/rib area. Think of it as thinly sliced ribeye.

Here’s our tabletop grill in full effect. I didn’t get a pic of it, but we each had a dish with three different dipping options for the grilled meat. There as a ponzu-based sauce that was my favorite, some sea salt, and some rice vinegar.

For the next cut of horse to be grilled my friend thought he’d throw me curveball, something I’d be hesitant to shove down my throat. He was wrong as it turned out to be one of the most delicious pieces of meat I’ve ever grilled yakiniku-style…the heart! I’m telling you, this was so tender and sweet, with a bit of black pepper it was heavenly! I’d jump a fence to get me some of this.

So good, the heart was (that’s my Yoda speak), that we had to get more on our next plate. Besides the heart and horse food (vegetables) this dish also had blood pipes. I don’t know if they were arteries or veins, but they were also delicious. A little rubbery, but after a few chews the clean flavor of the animal really came through. It was almost like eating thick intestines, but clean intestines. Very good indeed.

We put the grill aside after that and got a plate of horse weiner. No, not that kind of weiner, I don’t have that big of an appetite. This was a plate of weiner-style sausages. Again, a little sweet, but a very deep, rich flavor. It was also very juicy.

Our final dish was horse fried rice. With a little scrambled egg and some scallions this was a very typical fried rice, but with horse meat.

I have to say, Americans are a weird bunch. We shun so many different food items that the rest of the world consumes. As I write this blog it becomes clear to me that the reason we’ve not been exposed to things like horse as an edible creature is solely because of politics. If the beef lobby wasn’t so powerful I think we’d be eating all sorts of other animals…guinnea pig, various insects, horse, etc. It really is a delicious animal, and one that doesn’t contribute nearly as much to Climate Change as cows do. If we open our minds as well as our mouths, there’s a lot of tasty things out there we could enjoy. Mr Ed, sorry, but you are one delicious creature!

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eleven-city-diner

 

 

Those of you who watched the episode of CheckPlease that I was on know that I ripped Eleven City Diner apart. Well, actually, I ripped everything apart except for my beloved Café Hoang. But hey, it makes for good TV. Anyway, about a week prior to the episode airing a couple of my dear friends threw a little wedding party for Yuki and me since we got hitched in Japan and none of our American friends find us important enough to have made the journey to the land of the rising sun (Just kidding, you know I love you all, well, at least some of you). So, they had a little party for us here in Chicago. Not knowing that I reviewed Eleven City Diner, one of my friends had gotten Yuki and me some gift certificates there as a gift. I asked him if it was a joke and his response was, “It’s Jew food, I thought you’d like it.” He’s of Persian decent (He claims Persia not Iran) so there’s an ongoing racial joke exchange between us. He didn’t know, it was a very nice gesture and much appreciated. Ashkan, love ya babe!

 

So, Yuki and I invited a couple of friends to join us there for lunch today in order to utilize the gift certificates. I was a little excited/nervous to see what kind of reaction I’d get from Brad, the owner, when he saw me walk through his doors. Much to my dismay, he’s out of town. I was looking forward to kibbutzing with him, oh well.

 

Funny thing is that we got the same waitress from when I went there for CheckPlease. She had a weird look on her face when she saw me. I think she recognized me from the episode. Needless to say, the service was impeccable! The food, well, the food was pretty much the same from my last visit.

 

Yuki and each ordered the Schwartzy sandwich, brisket piled high on a challah bun. The challah was great! They don’t make the bread though, so I can only compliment them for purchasing a good piece of leavened dough and not making it. The brisket on the other hand was absolutely butchered! They sliced it thin and served it with au jus. What Jew in their right mind would do that to a perfectly good brisket, slice it thin? Poor piece of brisket. That took away all of the characteristics of the piece of meat. Brisket should be sliced thick to showcase the wonderful texture it gets when slowly cooked allowing that nice layer of fat to melt into every little microscopic crevice of the meat. My mouth is watering just typing that sentence. The way it was served it could have been any old roast beef. I’m beginning to wonder if Brad really is Jewish or if it’s just a marketing scheme to push large sandwiches on people.

 

Our friends shared a large cobb salad and a pastrami sandwich. The salad was, well, it was a large cobb salad. Nice fresh ingredients, but nothing special. We found a hair in it, but that was only after we divided it onto different plates so that hair could have been one of ours (not Peter’s, mother-nature made sure of that). No real complaints there. The pastrami was about the same as it was on my CheckPlease review, really good quality meat, but lacking that brininess and thick coating of pepper that pastrami should have. Not bad, just not really good.

 

When the check came that’s when I remembered exactly why I don’t eat here. Three sandwiches, one salad, one side of fries, and two orange juices……$60! Brad, come on man, you’re not serving food in an airport terminal. The prices are way too high for what is served. I say that, but the place is always full, so I guess he doesn’t need to lower the prices. It’s just not good value in my humble opinion (yeah right, my opinion is anything but humble). I mean, he has a Chicago-style Vienna dog on his menu for $8.95! At that price all wieners should be satisfied. Potato Latkes for $7.95, I’m sorry, but no potato costs eight bucks.

 

It was funny, when we left one of the servers came up to me and asked, “Was anything good?” He had a big smile on his face when he asked. I can definitely appreciate the sense of humor.

 

This may be the last time I ever go back to Eleven City Diner. There isn’t too much wrong with the food aside from improper seasoning and weird utilization of various cuts (not to mention his rather large, flavorless balls….matza balls that is). For the money however, I just can’t fathom spending what it takes to eat there, especially when Manny’s is just down the street serving properly seasoned pastrami as well as latkes for a buck. Good thing I had the gift certificates.

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