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Archive for the ‘Japanese Food’ Category

Sorry for how long it’s been since my last post, but nowadays, leisurely meals at a restaurant become a huge production once you add a toddler into the picture. Let’s just say Cherry and I have become meticulously selective of if and when we decide to eat out. Last night happened to be my birthday, so we figured that was a reason as good as any to dine out. We also had fortune of Grandma watching Rylie for the evening! Cherry surprised me with a dinner at a spot I’ve had on my radar for quite some time; Mashiko! Mashiko is a sushi restaurant that practices and focuses on sustainability. Making sure the fish they serve is not only fresh and local, but responsibly caught and not of the massively farmed variety. It is a small restaurant with simple décor that shows the sushi bar in the back along with the daily specials. I will also preface this post by saying that a majority of my experience with sushi/sashimi/nigiri is from AYCE sushi spots in the Seattle area as well as Vancouver BC.

mashiko entrance

entrance off california ave

The Food:

Cherry and I opted for the omakase or “chef’s choice” meal. At Mashiko, they have four different omakase meals. We ordered Nami ($70 for two) , which included an assortment of sashimi, ten pieces of nigiri, one grilled fish, rice and dessert. I could tell Cherry was a little apprehensive, since anything raw beyond ahi (tuna) is outside her comfort zone. But she handled everything like a champ and I’mvery proud of her. Next time I’d like to step it up to their Honkaku meal; which has the disclaimer,“Novices need not apply.”

 

mashiko tako sashimi

first course: tako sashimi over a bead of sunomono

All of the tako I have ever consumed prior to this meal has been chewy and relatively flavorless; however it’s always been one of my favorite foods. However, the tako here threw everything I knew about it out the door. It was outrageously tender and simply delicious. I felt like Neo when he was unhooked from the Matrix and using his eyes for the first time in the real World.

 

mashiko.sashimi

second course: (from top going clockwise) white king salmon, tombo, gulf prawn, red tuna, rainbow trout, saba,(middle) tako (hood) mussel with wasabi mayo

Each piece of sashimi was incredibly fresh and very delicious. I won’t go into detail into each piece of sashimi, but I will highlight a few of my favorites. The gulf prawn had a pleasantly sweet flavor and the saba was very rich and flavorful. The mussel was also extremely fresh and the wasabi mayo added a creamy texture and additional layer of flavor. My absolute favorite piece on this plate was the white king salmon. It had a wonderfully subtle flavor that you find with fresh fish but had the texture like butter! It literally melted in my mouth. Experiencing such a delicate texture flushed all  preconceived notions and past experiences of sashimi down the drain.

 mashiko.nigiri

third course: (clockwise from back left) uni, sanma, iwashi, tombo, coho salmon

Again only highlighting my favorites, which happen to be the entire back row. The sanma, or Pacific saury was local and had a very rich fishy flavor. The iwashi or sardine was also locally caught. Like the sanma, it carried a richer fishy flavor that I thoroughly enjoyed. “Fishy” flavors tend to carry a negative connotation in Western culture, but that isn’t so much the case in Asian culture. There is also a big difference in stinky fish flavor and fresh fish flavor. Both these fish had the latter. The uni was probably my favorite. Behind the gelatinous texture that may hinder people from trying it, it carried such an awesome flavor that I can only describe as, fresh & clean ocean.

 

mashiko.ling cod

fourth course: grilled ling cod with miso sauce on bed of sunomono

This dish was more down Cherry’s alley. Simply and perfectly grilled fish topped with a savory sweet miso sauce and a side of rice. Ling cod is already a light and subtly sweet fish so it doesn’t need much done to it. The miso highlighted the sweetness of the fish while also adding umami to each bite.

 

 mashiko.brownie

fifth course: coconut tempura brownie & green tea ice cream

Our meal concluded with a perfect desert. The brownie, which is from a local bakery, was rich but not overly sweet. The coconut tempura was fried perfectly with the batter providing great crunch and texture. The green tea ice cream was great in adding a contrasting creamy texture and earthy sweetness.

My Conclusion:

Everything about our experience at Mashiko was excellent. Our server was extremely attentive and did a great job explaining what each item within each course was. The food was fantastic; expertly prepared and impeccably fresh. Chef Hajime is definitely master in his craft and his team truly exudes that excellence.

 

 

 

 

 

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Cherry and I were driving past UW and decided to get a bite to eat. She had a fixin’ for some teriyaki, so we stopped at Itadakimasu. The exterior is a very unassuming building located between NE 50th and NE 47th in the U-District. As we parked and walked toward the entrance, there was also a small sandwich board with a “Grand Opening” sign, but more on that later. The interior was dark with black tables and chairs and pink accents throughout. There was a nice bright mural painted on the wall of large cherry blossom trees. It did have a modern izakaya feel, just with a smaller bar. We were greeted, seated and given our menus. Right before our server left, I curiously asked, “So how long have you been open?” to which she replied which a grin , “…a year and a half…” Clever. Very clever 😉

 

itadakimasu_entrance

entrance off brooklyn ave

 itadakimasu_cherryblossom

cherry blossom trees

 itadakimasu_bar

the bar

 

The Food:

 

itadakimasu_chickengyoza

chicken teriyaki / gyoza combo special $8.5

 

Cherry’s go-to at any teriyaki joint is the chicken. She originally was just going to order the regular chicken teriyaki, but our server informed us of the daily special – which had a little less chicken but was also cheaper. The unique thing about Itadakimasu is that the teriyaki doesn’t automatically come with rice. “Teriyaki that doesn’t come with rice?! What is this treachery?!” No. Each dish comes with either one or two sides and you can opt for rice or try something else. Cherry went with the white rice and a fried egg. The chicken was well cooked and had a flavorful glaze. The marinade they use for the chicken was also rich and well balanced. The gyozas were your standard fare that you can find in the frozen section of a grocery store, but that didn’t make them any less satisfying.

 

 

itadakimasu_katsu

chicken katsu $9

 I ordered my go-to as well, chicken katsu – also with white rice and fried egg. The katsu was fried nicely, providing a nice crunch on the outside and a tender bite underneath. The sauce added a savory component that was a little on the tart side. I often add a fried egg to many dishes I cook at home, so having it as an option here, gave it a comfort food quality for me. Oh, and if you couldn’t tell by the pictures above, the portions here are extremely generous!

 

 My Conclusion:

Itadakimasu is a very nice spot providing well made teriyaki. They also do a great job catering to the college neighborhood offering large portions at a very reasonable price. In addition to all this, they also offer Korean influenced dishes that I am eager to come back and try!

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The last time Cherry and I did Seattle Restaurant Week (SRW), was two years ago, so you could imagine I was bursting at the seams with eagerness and excitement to participate this year! In a nutshell, restaurants participating in Restaurant Week, offer a 3-course lunch menu for $15 and a 3-course dinner menu for $28. It’s an excellent opportunity to try restaurants you wouldn’t normally visit. With so many restaurants participating and so little time, I narrowed down the enormous list to one, TanakaSan! This newest addition to Tom Douglas’s restaurant empire is led by TD’s long time Executive Chef and Partner, Eric Tanaka. Located on 6th Ave and Lenora, TanakaSan occupies a large portion on the bottom floor of a residential tower. Cherry and I came for lunch and made the mistake in not making reservations. We ended up having a little wait before being seated… c’est la vie!

 

tanakasan_outsideoutside dining area

tanakasan_insideinside dining floor

tanakasan_kitchenopen kitchen across the hall

 

The Appetizers:

 

tanakasan_friedchicken 2 twice fried chicken wings: smoked Korean chili, franks hot sauce (l) & salty caramel, serrano chile (r)

The serving size of the chicken wings was a little smaller for SRW (3 pieces), but they were still able to split them up for me. The first thing I immediately noticed when I took my first bite was how crunchy the skin was! It reminded me like biting into a fresh chicharrón from Mexico! The meat underneath was juicy and perfectly fried. The salty caramel wing was more salty than sweet. It actually tasted like it was tossed in fish sauce. Still quite tasty, but to me, the taste didn’t match what the menu read. I had mixed feelings about the smoked Korean chile wing. On one hand, the Korean chile’s had a great smokey flavor with a subtle spice. On the other hand, the extremely bright and vinegary flavor of the Franks hot sauce completely overpowered everything. The concept was great but I feel a hot sauce that carries more heat and less vinegar flavor may be better.

 

tanakasan_braisedbeefgeneral tso’s spare ribs: blistered chilies, scallion, orange, puffed rice

These spare ribs were awesome! The meat was literally fall of the bone tender and full of flavor. I really liked their version of general tso’s sauce. It had a much deeper, richer, and sophisticated flavor, than what I’ve had at other restaurants. The scallions added a bright note to each bite and the puffed rice provided a pleasant little crunch. This dish was a highlight of the meal.

 

The Entrees:

 

tanakasan_teriyakichickenteriyaki chicken: savoy cabbage, pickled carrots, furikake

This was a well prepared dish. The chicken thigh was tender, juicy and nicely gilled. The teriyaki sauce they used as a glaze (I believe?) had a nice balance of sweet and savory. Cherry would have liked to have seen a little less char on the edges, but I don’t mind it. She chose their potato mac salad which was also very good. They use a sriracha mayo as their base and it worked well.

 

 

tanaksan_coconutbeefcarmelized coconut beef: jasmine rice, coconut sambal, crispy shallot, pea vines

The beef was nicely braised, tender and carried a very subtle coconut undertone. The pea vines added nice color to the dish, but I especially enjoyed their coconut sambal. At first, I didn’t know what the little white pieces were mixed with the sambal – I had to re-read the menu again. Once I read coconut sambal, I had that, “aha!” moment. The rich flavors of the beef combined with the heat of the sambal, creamy flavor of the coconut and the slight bitterness of the pea vines, came together like a well trained orchestra, and was quite palatable.

 

 

The Desserts:

 

tanakasan_coconutpietriple coconut cream pie

Cococonut, on coconut on coconuts! The triple coconut cream pies served at TD restaurants all originate from Dahlia Bakery. I’ve already reviewed the pie, here. Do yourself a favor and try a slice!

 

 

tanakasan_spongecakeyuzu pudding cake: shiso cream, sweet and sour rhubarb, yuzu curd

I felt guilty breaking this plate down and eating it – it just looked so pretty! Each individual element was delicious on its own, but when combined – perfection. The shiso cream had a very mild sweetness to it, the yuzu curd tasted like an egg custard you find a Chinese bakery, but with a much lighter texture. The cake was moist and airy and the sweet and sour rhubarb was awesome in providing a bright touch on an overall very creamy dish.

 

My Conclusion:

You cannot go wrong participating in SRW and you definitely cannot go wrong with any of Tom Douglas’s establishments. He and Tanaka San have created a wonderful new spot showcasing Asian-influenced dishes with fresh ingredients from the Northwest. Word to the wise, if you do decide on participating in SRW, reservations are strongly encouraged!

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Making its debut last night, Kraken Congee is the newest addition to Seattle’s pop-up scene – started by a trio of local chefs; Tyler Robinson and Garrett Doherty of The Ruins, and Irbille Donia of Ray’s. According to an article by the Seattle Met,  the three of them met at culinary school and since then have come together to create this new venture.

kraken.welcome

the kraken welcomes you

kraken.essentials

the essentials

The Food:

kraken.beeftongue

 steamed bun, beef tongue, apple fennel kimchee $8

The bun was soft and the beef tongue was clean and tender. The apple kimchee was bright with nice crunch, but I would have liked it to have had  much bolder spice and pickled flavors.

kraken.squidink

 squid ink congee, pork stuffed squid tubes, ginger, thai chilis, fried shallots, roasted peanut, cilantro $ 15

If it weren’t for the cilantro sprinkled atop, this bowl of congee looked visually… meh. Unfortunately, there isn’t any color in a cooked squid tube and the squid link ladled around, looked like a pen broke in someone‘s pant pocket. The pork stuff squid was cooked well and provided the majority of the “heft” to this bowl. The thai chilis brought a satisfying heat to my lips and the roasted peanuts provided a subtle crunch to each bite. The ginger also provided an additional layer of flavor to the bowl. Lost in the mix, were the shallots

kraken.dunkconfit

xo congee, five spice duck confit, cracklings, bok choy, egg yolk $15

This bowl looked very appealing – more so than the squid ink congee. The bok coy was rich and green  while the bright egg yolk sat wide-eyed, asking to be opened like a gift on Christmas morning. The duck confit was seasoned well (though I’m not sure I got a full duck leg… more like ½ a leg)and the egg yolk provided a creamy richness to the bowl. The cracklings were savory and worked well with the other ingredients. I did have the unappetizing pleasure of biting into a piece of star anise that wasn’t removed… which has a flavor of black licorice.

kraken.chefs

the chefs

My Conclusion:

In terms of turnout, this pop-up was a success – it was a packed house when we entered and people were still coming in as we left. I think these three are onto something great! I also really like the idea of shining light on an Asian staple that is, congee. Growing up in a Chinese household, congee was a regular for me. I especially love the plethora ingredients and side dishes you can add to each bowl. When it comes down to it, congee is just porridge of rice and water. The things you add in it or on top of it are what give it flavor and appeal – so I have a tough time wrapping my head around are the steep prices. I place congee in the same category as pho (minus the hours spent making the broth.) They’re both satisfying on a cold day, provide big flavors, perfect for the morning after a night on the town, and cheap! … Well sorta… A $15 bowl of congee is like a $20 bowl of pho.

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