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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

NYC: Takashi

456 Hudson Street

Complimentary starters awaiting consumption on the grill
This is the kind of Japanese spot I will frequent anytime I’m in the West Village neighborhood.   It’s not only the food, but it’s the authentic Japanese toilet, the TOTO Washlet. Warm seated, various bidet options, and kind enough to open or close the lid at the appropriate time. But less bathroom talk, more food talk. This is an all beef menu, and some items are more adventurous than others. Vegetarians beware! It was fate that I was at their doorstep at 6PM sharp right as they opened, and so it began….
For a more personalized approach to sake, you may select your own glass from an assortment of mix-matched eclectic glasses. After some sake, out came three complimentary appetizers, kimchi, cabbage, and bean sprouts with peanuts.
A beautiful presentation of beef tartare

To start, we ordered Yooke. Thin shredded chuck eye tartare with quail egg yolk, toasted sesame seeds, and Korean seaweed.  Being that I usually eat my meat cooked, the texture threw me off at first. However it didn’t take long to start enjoying the mixture of flavors.
Pre-cooked short rib (bottom) and tongue (top)
To grill at the table, we had kalbi (short rib) and shio-tan (tongue).  Dipped in the special sauce and cooked by yours truly. A side of bakudan rice bombs covered in Korean seaweed and pickled sesame leaf completed the dish. So delicious I could shed a tear.

Finally, to end on a high note, Madagascar vanilla ice cream with rice dumplings and salted caramel syrup. Topped off with an edible flake of gold, which the waiter explained actually benefits our health in some way. I stopped listening when I felt its instantaneous health benefits kick in by inducing me into a heavenly food coma. 

To experience a TOTO Washlet, click here to find the closest one to you.
Let me know if you get as excited as I do over it.

Friday, January 27, 2012

San Francisco: Fairmont Hotel, Caffe Trieste, Dosa Indian

950 Mason Street

Me in the closed Tonga Room

I spent my Tuesday in San Francisco, it was strictly a pleasure trip. Mom and I stayed at The Fairmont Hotel, particularly because I wanted to sip some Mai Tai's in their tiki bar called the Tonga Room. Upon check in, my dreams are squashed and I'm told the Tonga Room is closed on Tuesdays. The perky receptionist suggests I'll just have to come back for a visit again soon! I'm not amused. Eventually I got over it and we took a walk into town.

Rewarding view after a long uphill walk

How do people live in San Francisco? Don't get me wrong, it's beautiful, the people are friendly, the climate is perfection, and there's a surplus of choices for food and drink. You see, what I'm talking about is the feeling of walking down streets so steep I might as well wear a harness so I can repel down like its a cliff. It's the downhill part that gets me the most. At least after walking uphill I can count on that post-workout feeling in my butt and thighs so I can justify this day of carb and fat overload.

601 Vallejo Street

 After an early wake up call, 6 hours of flying, and a good chunk of walking, it was time for my afternoon IV drip of espresso. We take a locals suggestion and head over to Caffe Trieste, a pretty famous spot in North Beach. Back in the 1950's it was the first place for espresso on the West Coast, or so they tell us. This is the opposite of Starbucks. It's full of artists and musicians sipping on beer or espresso. We sit down with a frothy cappuccino and map out the rest of our day.

1700 Fillmore Street

As our day turns to night, we found ourselves at Dosa on Fillmore, an Indian restaurant. Believe it or not, I've never eaten out at an Indian restaurant. This was a curry puff delight. We had samosas, lamb kebab, lentil dumplings, and lamb chops.
Samosas 'North & South'
South filled with caramelized onions and veggies
North filled with spiced potatos
Beautiful chandelier at Dosa

Monday, January 23, 2012

Sumo Wrestling in Tokyo

Sumo Wrestling match in Tokyo with my brother Mike.

Thanks to our new friends we met at the bar next to our hotel, we got to experience sumo wrestling live in action. Our buddies suggested we meet at the train station and make our way down to the match. Quickly we learned this is a well respected sport and it's taken seriously. We walk inside, and immediately spotted the bar. Out of respect, we ordered a sufficient supply of alcohol and got to work...

Today's sumo match enhanced by....

+ Japanese whiskey
+ Japanese beer
+ Bento box
+ Mike & Jon, our new NYC friends 

Monday, January 16, 2012

Tokyo: One Bite, No Soy Sauce...

5-2-1 Tsukiji, Chuo, Tokyo Prefecture, 104-0045
+81 3-3547-6797
Right before leaving for this trip I was proud of my newly acquired fish-friendly palate. No longer was I just a chicken and beef girl. Bring it on, Tokyo! Guess what, I eat salmon now! Sushi bars here I come....
Fugu AKA blowfish. Potentially fatal if eaten without being properly prepared.

Okay so I lied. I forgot that there are over 400 different kinds of seafood sold at the Tsukiji fish market, and I was about to go for a sushi breakfast right next door. The famous, Sushi Dai was open for business and it was quite obviously the place to be. The line ran around the block with people waiting on seating at this tiny 10-seat sushi bar. Lucky for us, we had an hour and a half of anticipation while waiting on line for a table.

We are slowly approaching our turn at the sushi bar, and a waitress comes outside to ask us for our orders in preparation. The choices? 7 pieces, or 10. I quickly realize my amateur order of 1 spicy tuna roll and 1 cucumber avocado roll simply won't fly. I hesitatingly glance into the window to see what everyone inside is eating, to mentally prepare myself for what's to come.
First sighting: About a tablespoon of rice beneath a wiggling chunk of akagai (live red clam). I heave.

We sit down at the sushi bar. Three chefs prepare each piece one at a time to place on the wooden counter top with specific instructions. Too often I heard, "One bite, no soy sauce". The first piece was fatty tuna. I can handle that! The next was raw squid. Couldn't handle it. I chomped down several times to find out that raw squid doesn't exactly melt in your mouth. Ashamed of my obvious struggle and amateur palate, I abruptly swallowed the remaining chunk followed by a gag and a heave. The good news is, the squid never came back up for an encore despite its brutal attempts. The bad news is, I felt physically and emotionally spent from that last bite, and it's time to let my brother take over the eating for me.

In the end I tried fatty tuna, squid, shellfish, and BBQ eel.  It was a small step for me in the right direction. I hope by next time I visit Tokyo I can enjoy all the beautiful seafood that they prepare like artwork.

Kohada (Plaited Gizzard Shad)
O-Toro (Fatty Tuna)
Suzuki (Sea Bass), Uni (Sea Urchin Roe)
Fatty Tuna Rolls, Shellfish Cucucumber Rolls

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

36 Hours in Hong Kong

November 2011. We started in the Detroit airport and danced our way through the streets of Hong Kong.

Our first stop, a local spot for some noodles and beer right next to our hotel, Harbour Plaza Resort City in New Territories. To drink? The local brew, Blue Girl. A beer of German descent, but brewed in Hong Kong for the past hundred years. Not bad, not bad at all....

Cheers to our first chow down