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Sushi Seki A sushi restaurant that never stops evolving “Sushi Seki”, in Times Square

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By Aya Ota

The very Japanese-looking façade of a restaurant that stands out on a busy street called the “Restaurant Row” in Times Square’s Theater District, catches your eyes. It is “Sushi Seki”, which is well known for its high-quality fresh seafood that they serve, and creative sushi, full of seasonal ingredients that you can enjoy.

Seki Shi, the owner/chef, is from the Fujian Province of China. He went to Tokyo to study at the age of 17. There, he opened his eyes to cooking, and distinguished himself. He went to New York in 1991, and worked at various notable restaurants including “Sushi of Gari” before he became independent, and opened “Sushi Seki” in the Upper East Side District.

Then, he opened two more restaurants 2 years in a row, the second one in Chelsea in January of 2014, and the third one in Times Square in October of 2015. Opening of another in Brooklyn is also in the works. People usually believe that the more authentic the sushi restaurant is, the harder it would be to expand the business to multiply, because in order to have such success, it heavily relies on the capabilities of artisans. I wonder what kind of dynamic power has been supporting this unstoppable advance.

“The Times Square restaurant is hugely different from the other two. It is positioned as the flagship, which represents integrated forms of various styles,” says Yasuyuki Suzuki, the General Manager.

Inside of this restaurant is a luxurious space with 80 seats on the first floor, and 70 on the second floor. Once you step inside, a spacious counter and tables open up in front of you. There is a space called the“Kappo Room” in the back, where a counter, tables, and a communal table are situated facing the open kitchen. On the second floor, there is a bar, where you enjoy mostly Japanese whiskey drinks, terrace tables by the windows, a private Japanese room, and a hide-out-like space where you enjoy omakase-style sushi. This place can accommodate every situation; business meetings, family get-togethers, large groups, couples on a date, or a single customer.

The menu, which used to contain mostly sushi, has been largely evolved. The Kappo cuisine aspect was launched due to Chef Seki’s strong hope and intention to take “restaurant cooking” as a whole, seriously. They serve a wide variety of seasonal a-la-carte dishes. Among them, the “Special Kappo Counter Menu” (from $85), full of both land and ocean ingredients of each season, changes the contents monthly. There are also dishes from which you can feel the changes of Japanese seasons, which you can rarely find in the US such as “Ayu ‘Sweet Fish’ Sansho-Ni”, and “Kogomi ‘Fiddlehead Fern’ with Sesame Sauce”.

There is a menu item, which is unique due to the condition, which is that the restaurant is located in the Theater District. The “Mini Omakase” ($55) is a popular item, which cleverly satisfies both the needs of theater-goers who don’t have much time to eat before shows start, and also the smooth running of the restaurant.

“It is not easy to fill this many seats in this location. To try a vast variety of styles means that it is required to accommodate every customer’s need,” tells Mr. Suzuki about the difficulty of realizing it. He met Seki Shi at “Sushi of Gari” in 2000, when he started his career as a manager. He joined the launch and the operation of the first “Sushi Seki”, but left them for a while between 2005 and 2012, building his career by working for various famous restaurants including “Megu”, “15 East”, and “Sakamai”. When Seki Shi was preparing to open the second Sushi Seki, he was asked to join the project again.

Mr. Suzuki is in charge of managing everything for all the restaurants in the chain except cooking. He acquires customers, hires staff members, teaches them how to serve, and even creates the ambience of each restaurant. By being a leading sake sommelier of New York, he put his strong efforts into creating their drink menus, and contributed to help them win the fabulous “NYC50” award in the “Wine and Spirits Magazine” 2 years in a row. It is very rare that a dink menu from a Japanese restaurant gets selected. In 2017, they were the only Japanese restaurant winner. I was so impressed with not only the good balance they show in every field, the great variety, and the depth, but also the contents which skillfully offer customers the ease of selection, and for the staff to make recommendations.

Mr. Suzuki is supporting the restaurant’s super success by being the other wheel of Seki, by creating drink menus to enhance Seki’s cooking, and handling the management, etc. With his principle, “there is no manual for hospitality”, he produces a superbly comfortable space which possesses both a home-like atmosphere and sophistication.

I would really like you to try “Sushi Seki”, which continue to evolve all the time.


決して進化を止めることのない寿司店『すし石』タイムズスクエア店

タイムズスクエアの劇場街、“レストラン通り” と呼ばれる賑やかな通りに、忽然と現れる純和風の店構えに目を奪われるーここ『すし石』は、高品質で鮮度の高い魚介類を使い、季節感あふれる創作寿司を楽しめることでよく知られる店だ。

 オーナー・シェフの石氏は中国福建省出身。17歳で東京へ留学、そこで料理に目覚め頭角を現した。1991 年にニューヨークに渡り、『Sushi of Gari』をはじめとする名店で活躍後、2002 年に独立。アッパーイースト地区に『すし石』を開店した。

 そして、2014年1月に2店舗目となるチェルシー店、2015 年10 月には3 店舗目となるタイムズスクエア店を立て続けに開店。近々、ブルックリンでの開店計画も進行中だ。本格的な寿司店ほど、職人個人の技量に頼るところが大きく、多店舗展開が難しいと思われがちだが、この快進撃を支える原動力とは一体何だろうか。

 「タイムズスクエア店はこれまでの2店舗とは大きく違う。さまざまな形態を総合的に展開するフラッグシップ店として位置づけている」と語るのは、ジェネラル・マネジャーの鈴木康之氏。

 1階に80席、2階に70席という贅沢な空間。一歩足を踏み入れると、広々としたカウンター席とテーブル席が続く。奥には「Kappo Room」と呼ぶ空間があり、そこにはオープンキッチンに面したカウンター席、テーブル席、コミューナル・テーブルが配置されている。2階に上がると、日本産ウィスキーを中心に楽しめるウィスキー・バー、窓際のテラス席、座敷の個室、おまかせ寿司を楽しめる隠れ家風の空間が存在する。商談、家族連れ、団体、デート、一人など、あらゆるシチュエーションに対応できる仕様だ。

寿司が中心だったメニューも大きく進化。「レストランとして真剣に“料理” に取り組みたい」という石氏の強い意向で割烹料理を開始した。月替わりで、四季折々の山海の恵みが満載の「割烹おまかせ(85ドル〜) 」のほか、バラエティ豊かなアラカルトを提供。稚鮎の山椒煮やこごみの胡麻和えなど、米国ではなかなか味わえない日本の季節感だ。

 また、劇場街という特殊な立地ならではの試み「ミニおまかせ(55 ドル)」も提供。観劇前で食事時間が十分取れない客からの要望と、店側の運営円滑化を見事に両立させた内容で、好評を博している。

 「この立地でこの席数を埋めるのは簡単ではない。さまざまな形態に取り組むということは、あらゆる客のニーズに応える必要があるということ」と、その難しさを語る鈴木氏。同氏は、マネジメントとしてのキャリアを開始した2000年に『Sushi of Gari』で石氏と出会った。その後、『すし石』1 号店の開店・運営に携わった後、いったん離れ、2005 〜12年は『Megu』『15 East』『Sakamai』など、数々の名店で実績を重ねた。そして、石氏が2 号店の開店準備を進めている時、「再び一緒にやってほしい」と請われた。

 鈴木氏は、全店で、集客、スタッフ採用・教育、接客、店の雰囲気作りに至るまで、料理以外のマネジメントを統括する。さらに、ニューヨークを代表する酒ソムリエでもある同氏は、飲料メニューにも力を注ぎ、『Wine and Spirits Magazine』で2 年連続「NYC50」に選ばれるという快挙を成し遂げた。日本食店の飲料メニューが選出されるのは非常に稀で、2017 年は同店のみだ。それぞれの分野でのバランスの良さ、種類の多さや奥深さに驚かされるだけでなく、客にとっての選びやすさとスタッフにとっての勧めやすさを両立させた内容は、「さすが」の一言に尽きる。

石氏の料理を引き立てる飲料メニュー、シェフとしての石氏を支えるマネジメント…という具合に、鈴木氏が両輪のひとつとなり、同店の快進撃を支える。「ホスピタリティにマニュアルはない」という信条で、家庭的な雰囲気とお洒落さを併せ持つ、絶妙な居心地の良さを演出する。

 常に進化し続ける『すし石』、ぜひ足を運んでみてほしい。



Sushi Seki
(Flagship-Times Square)
365 West 46th Street
New York, NY 10036
Tel: (212) 262-8880
http://www.sushiseki.com/

Mon. 5:00pm-11:00pm
Tues.-Sat. 5:00pm-12:00am
#alljapannews #sushi #SushiSeki #NY #restaurant

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A popular sushi restaurant proudly known for having fresh ingredients sent directly from Tsukiji and Fukuoka

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By Elii sSekine

Hayes Valley, which is known as the place where a gourmet culture started, is also a highly competitive place for the restaurant business. During the recent real estate development, many new condominiums and business buildings have been built, and the area is becoming even more desirable. Many foodies who want to eat out live there, and also some culture/art facilities for performing arts such as symphony orchestra concerts, ballet, Jazz performances, art museums, etc. are in the nearby areas. Restaurants in the area, therefore, need to accommodate to a wide variety of preferences as well. There is only one real authentic sushi restaurant in the area, and that is “Tsubasa”. They have gained many excellent reviews through word of mouth on social media, and have been given a Bib Gourmand rating by the Michelin Guide. They are supported by local sushi lovers for their high-quality a-la-carte, and omakase menus, and the approachability.

The owner, Irene Ouyang, is a Chinese American. She has been a fan of Japanese cuisine for a long time, and was motivated to start and run a Japanese restaurant called “Sushi House” 20 years ago. She later opened “Naked Fish Sushi Grill & Wine Restaurant”, which attracted a younger generation of sushi fans, taking advantage of the pop culture-like sushi boom of that time. Its innovative style, in which a drink bar and sushi are combined, has been copied by many restaurants since, and has become one of the standard styles. Then, 3 years ago, she opened “Tsubasa” on a busy street of Hayes Valley where people are always keeping their eyes on restaurants.

Last summer, the restaurant welcomed Peter Pae as the executive chef, and refreshed the menu. Mr. Pae is a non-Japanese sushi chef, who has 20-years of experience in cooking at Japanese restaurants. He learned the basics of sushi and sushi making techniques from Osamu, the owner of “Sushi Sam”, a popular restaurant which has been leading the sushi boom in San Mateo. He is also carrying over his craftsmanship. He says, “The most important thing about sushi is freshness, and enjoyment of dining is enhanced by having seasonal ingredients.” It is so obvious that such a philosophy is reflected on the menu. He is very particular about the fish he buys, and 90% of it comes directly from Tsukiji and Fukuoka. A wide variety of ingredients and freshness are their selling points.

The menu contains a wide-variety of dishes which include a-la-carte dishes, traditional nigiri sushi, sushi rolls, the original “Fusion Roll”, and options of temaki (hand rolls). The signature items are the “Chef’s Choice”, and “Tsubasa Daily”, for which nearly 30 different kinds of seasonal freshly caught ingredients are described daily. Evening time is mostly filled by reservations, but some walk-ins are accepted on some nights. For lunch time, there are items for quick-eats such as chirashi sushi and negitoro donburi, but they have recently added omakase style dishes on the lunch menu, which are welcomed for business lunches and “Tsubasa” fans. This time, I tried a course meal, and some dishes from the regular menu items. The appetizer, local oysters, were flavored in a Japanese way, and colorfully arranged with momiji oroshi (tinted grated daikon) and green onions, and boosted my appetite. Nicely tender and sweet ankimo (monkfish liver) ($11/each) and Nasu-no Nibitashi (cooked eggplant dish) went very well with Junmai sake. Chawan-mushi (steamed egg custard), a popular dish ($9〜$14) had a slight fragrance of sakura-ebi (tiny dried shrimp), and the fluffy custard made with tasty dashi was bringing out the goodness of rich and creamy uni (sea urchin) from Hokkaido. The main dish, “Special Sashimi” ($80) was colorful, and presented like an art for the decoration of your table. You can easily imagine the freshness of the ingredients by just looking at them, and the skillfully cut pieces and tasteful presentation showcase the craftsmanship well. Well-thought colorful arrangement of that day consisted of fish from Japan, shimaaji, hotate (scallop), inada, kinmedai, kamasu, hotaruika (tiny squids), muki-hotate, etc., and sakura-masu (trout) was decorated and favored with cherry leaves. The nigiri plate looked high class and gorgeous with gold dusted o-toro and zuwai-gani (crab) served with kani-moso (crab brain), which give you the ultimate pleasure of sushi tasting. The menu contains a wide selection of ingredients from standard fish to rare fish from Japan’s nearby seas, which you rarely see at other restaurants, hence can accommodate all sushi eaters from beginners to experts. You can imagine how prominent this place is from serving hon-maguro, because it is supplied to only a limited number of Japanese restaurants.

The restaurant is medium size, having a total of 50 seats. On the left after entering, you see the sushi chef counter, and bar tables, which were filled with many single customers. As for the alcoholic drink selection, Japanese sake brands dominate it. They are sorted by dryness, crispness, and smoothness. Next is wine, beer, and craft beers. Here, the sushi dining that should start with a drink, which Ouyang believes in, matches the eat-out culture spirit of Hayes Valley, and is collecting a lot of sushi fans every day.


築地、福岡直送の新鮮なネタが自慢の人気寿司店

グルメ発信基地としても知られるヘイズバレーはレストランの激選区。最近の再開発で新しいマンションや商業ビルが次々と建ち、益々魅力的な街へと変貌を遂げている。レストランに出かけるフーディーな客が多く、シンフォニーやバレエ、ジャズホール、美術館などの文化芸術施設が隣接するため、店側も多種多様な対応が求められる。その中で唯一の本格的な寿司屋、「Tsubasa Sushi」は、SNS の口コミで常に多くの星の数を獲得し、ミシュランガイドではビブグルマンにも選ばている。アラカルト、オマカセ共に高品質なのに通いやすさが寿司ファンに支持されている。

オーナー、 Eileen Ouyang 氏は中国系アメリカ人。昔からの日本食好きが高じて20 年前にレストラン「Sushi House」の経営を始めた。その後オープンした「Naked Fish Sushi Grill & WineRestaurant」は、当時のポップな寿司ブームに乗り、特に若年層を惹きつけた。ワインを加えドリンクメニューを充実させた画期的なスタイルは、今では多くの店が取り入れ定番となっている。そして3年前、いつも注目を浴びるヘイズバレーのおしゃれで賑やかな通りに「Tsubasa」をオープンした。

去年の夏、エグゼキュティブシェフにPeter Pae 氏を迎えメニューも一新された。Pae 氏は、日本食レストランでの料理人歴20 年になるノンジャパニーズの寿司職人。San Mateoで寿司ブームを牽引して来た人気レストラン、「SushiSam’s」のオーナー、おさむ氏から寿司の基本と技術を伝授され、その職人気質も継承している。「寿司は鮮度が命。そして季節のネタが並ぶ事で、食べる楽しみが一層豊かになる」とPea 氏。その哲学はメニューを見れば一目瞭然だ。毎日仕入れる魚にはこだわりがありその90%近くが日本の築地や福岡からの直輸入。ネタの種類と新鮮さがウリとなっている。

メニューは、一品料理、伝統的な握りとロールにオリジナルの「フュージョンロール」手巻きのオプションが加わるバラエティーな内容。看板は、「Chef’schoice」と30 品目近くの旬のネタが毎日書き換えられる「Tsubasa Daily」だ。

夜は予約客がほとんどだが、日によってはウォークインでも入れる。昼メニューはさっと済ませられるチラシ丼やネギトロ丼物などもあるが、最近「オマカセ」もランチメニューに加わり、ビジネスランチや“Tsubasa ファン” に好評だ。

今回、コースとレギュラーメニューの一部を賞味した。アペタイザーの牡蠣は地元産で和風に味付けし、もみじおろしやグリーンオニオンの彩も良く食欲を唆る。適度な甘さで柔らかいあん肝(各$11) とナスの煮浸しは純米酒との相性も抜群。人気アイテムの茶碗蒸($9 〜$14)は桜えびの匂いがほんのり漂い、良い出汁で仕上げたフルフルなカスタードが北海道産の濃厚でクリーミーな雲丹を引き立てている。メインの「SpecialSashimi」($80) は、色彩豊かでプレゼンテーションがまるでアートの様にテーブルを飾る。ネタの新鮮さは見た目で想像できるが、その切り身とセンス良い盛り付けに職人技が光る。この日は、シマアジ、ホタテ、イナダ、キンメダイ、カマス、ホテルイカ、ムキホタテなど色合い鮮やかで、サクラマスは桜の葉で飾り香り付けをするなど工夫が凝らしてある。

握りは金粉を飾られた大トロと蟹味噌を挟んだズワイ蟹で高級感が漂い寿司の醍醐味がたっぷり味わえる。メニューは定番の寿司から他店ではお目にかかれない日本近海のネタが揃っており、初心者から寿司ツーまでを満足させる内容。また、本鮪の仕入れは日本食レストランの中でも限られているため、同店の盛況ぶりが伺える。

店内は全50席のミディアムサイズ。エントランスを入った左側には寿司シェフカウンター、バーテーブルがあり、個人客も多く見かける。アルコールは日本酒が圧倒的に多く、ドライ、クリスプ、スムーズの口当たり別で表示してある。次いでワイン、ビールを多種揃える。ここでもOuyang 氏がこだわるドリンクから始まる寿司ダイニングがヘイズバレーの外食スピリットにマッチし、毎日大勢の寿司ファンで賑わっている。



Tsubasa Sushi
429 Gough St.
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 551-9688
http://www.tsubasasf.com/

Tues.-Wed. 5:30pm-10:00pm
Thur. 11:30am-2:00pm
5:30pm-10:00pm.
Fri. 11:30am-2:00pm
5:30pm-10:15pm
Sat. 12:00pm-2:45pm
5:30pm-10:15pm
Sun. 5:30pm-9:30pm
#alljapannews #TsubasaSushi #SF #restaurant #Tsukiji #fukuoka

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A new place that carried over a legendary kappo restaurant tradition

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By Elli Sekine

During the last half of the nineties in San Francisco, people were enjoying the economic growth, and traditional washoku such as high-end sushi, kappo, and kaiseki-style Japanese cuisine was beginning to gain attention. Corporate businessmen were the main target demographic, and "Kiku of Tokyo" in the Hilton Hotel, and "Kyoya" in the Palace Hotel in downtown where the convention center is located, were enjoying their popularity as the typical restaurants of that type. In the year 2000, the washoku boom entered into the fusion phase, and after 2010, the "Sushi Kaiseki" and "Omakase" era began. Now, such high-end washoku culture has settled in, and non-business people are also acquainted with the culture. Such achievements made by legendary chefs who triggered the washoku boom, are still thriving in San Francisco's restaurant industry, decades later.

In 2008, after "Kiku of Tokyo" closed, Chef Gomi opened the freestanding "Kappou Gomi" in the Richmond District, and entertained us with authentic Japanese cuisine at a reasonable price. Unlike the restaurants in the downtown hotels, there was no feel of a high-end place, private tatami rooms, etc., but Mr. Gomi seized the hearts of business people who used to know him, and of local American regular customers as well. However, finally, in October of last year, the long-lived washoku legendary restaurant in San Francisco came to an end. While everybody was reminiscing and missing the legend, Mr. Son Minh, Mr. Gomi's former favorite disciple during his "Kiku of Tokyo" days, opened "Akira", the only restaurant where his master's teachings have been inherited, and it became a popular topic of conversation.

The owner/chef, Minh was born in Vietnam. The co-owner and wife, Ms. Judy Young, was born in Laos, and came to the US as a refugee in the seventies. They met through a refugees' circle activity, and later got married. They both overcame discriminations and hardships in life. Since graduating from college, Judy has been working as a counselor for poor people and immigrants. On the other hand, Son met his master, Gomi at a washoku restaurant, "Kiku of Tokyo" where he worked as a temp while going to school. Son was working diligently, and got noticed by Chef Gomi, who told him, "If you like to cook, I can teach you how to cook washoku, starting from the basics." After the training was done, he worked as a sous-chef for a while.

After that, he worked at "Hanazen", and "Kiji" as head chef. The mater/disciple relationship between him and Mr. Gomi continued over the next 20 years, and still ongoing even now.

The name "Akira" was also given by the master. The name represents a positive and progressive approach. "Akira", which has been open for one year, is located in a residential area slightly away from Japan Town. "Akira" meets neither conditions for what a successful washoku restaurant should have, a "good location" and a "Japanese chef", but it has gotten off to a good start as if overturning such cliché. The first reason is its price setting.

Minh's transpicuous personality and diligence that shows in his words: "I would like my restaurant to be the kind of place for everyone to be able to have a reasonable meal", seem to be reflected upon how he runs the restaurant. The second reason is its menu structure. It is unbelievable for a restaurant with a mere 38 seats to have such a rich variety of items. Its line-up of popular items from the eighties such as traditional style sunomono, karaage, donburi, tempura, noodles, sashimi etc. can accommodate any customer. The third reason is the service. Every staff member is friendly, and although they are not Japanese, they have the right knowledge, and the omotenashi spirit is embedded into theirs.

While increasing the number of his original menu items, Mr. Minh always maintains traditional items as well. For example, they offer items like Shokado Bento ($17, lunch only), Chawan-mushi ($10), and Matsutake Dobin-mushi, which you don't see anywhere else. He makes dashi delicately as he has been engaging in Japanese cuisine for a long time.The fluffily strained chawan-mushi, dobinmushi with fully extracted shiitake mushrooms' flavor and umami, etc. satisfy the customers who remember "Kiku". The Shokado-Bento is one of their popular joyful lunch choices. It contains plenty of fresh sashimi, and the price is reasonable, and has become a very popular item for the Japanese people who live in a nearby residence community for Japanese Americans. At dinner time, an omakase course ($65) is offered in addition to the a-la-carte dishes. It is a kappou-style washoku course with 7 items including a small bowl of appetizer, sashimi, and fruits.

Lately, in the Bay Area of San Francisco, older Japanese owners/chefs are retiring one after another, closing the restaurants, and the generation is transitioning to non-Japanese chefs. In such a time, I can say that Mr. Minh one of the lucky ones who were able to inherit traditional Japanese cuisine techniques from a craftsman chef. I can see that a new era of washoku culture is beginning to rise at the same time while the good-old days are carried over.


割烹レジェンド店を継承する新レストラン

90年代後半、好景気に沸いていたサンフランシスコでは、寿司なら上ネタ、割烹、懐石料理といった伝統和食が注目を浴び始めていた。そのターゲットとなったのはビジネスマン達で、コンベンションホールがあるダウンタウンに位置するヒルトンホテル内の「キク オブ トウキョウ」、パレスホテル内の「京屋」はその代表店として人気を誇っていた。2000 年になると、和食ブームはフュージョン期を迎え、2010 年代に入ってからは「寿司懐石」や「オマカセ」時代となる。今やハイエンド和食は定着し、ビジネス以外の客も引き込んでいるが、その火付け役となった伝説のシェフ達が残した功績は、時代を超え今でもサンフランシスコレストラン業界に息づいている。

2008 年、「キク オブ トウキョウ」の料理長だった五味シェフは"Kiku" の 閉鎖後、リッチモンド地区に独立店舗「割烹五味」をオープンし、正統派の和食料理がリーズナブルな値段で味わえると話題を集めた。ダウンタウンのホテル内とは異なり、プレミアム感や個室の座敷などはないが、五味氏を知るビジネス客と地元アメリカ人の常連客を掴んでいた。しかしついに去年10 月、長年に及んだSF の和食伝説は幕を閉じた。誰もがその存在を惜しんでいたところ、「キク オ
ブ トウキョウ」時代、五味シェフの愛弟子だったソン・ミン氏が師からの伝授を継承する唯一の店「アキラ」がオープンした。

オーナーシェフのミン 氏はベトナム生まれ、共同オーナーで妻のジュディ・ヤング氏はラオス生まれで、70年代、難民としてアメリカに移住してきた。二人は難民サークルで出会い、やがて結婚をした。お互い差別や生活苦を乗り越え、ジュディは大学を卒業した後、現在まで貧しい人や移民のカンセリングをしている。一方ソン氏は、同時代にアルバイトをした和食レストラン、「キク オブ トウキョウ」で師匠の五味氏と出会った。真面目に働いていたソン氏に「料理が好きなら和食を基本から教えてあげよう」と声がかかった。修行後はスーシェフとして2軒の店を支えた。その後ソン氏は、「花膳」、「キジ」の料理長を勤めている。しかし五味氏との師弟関係は、20 年以上に及ぶ今でも続いている。「アキラ」という店名も師からの授かりもの。明るく漸進的な姿勢を表している。

開店から一年となる「アキラ」は、日本町からは少し離れた住宅街に位置する。成功する和食レストランの法則である「良いロケーション」と「日本人シェフ」のどちらも持ち合わせないが、それを覆すかのように幸先の良いスタートをきっている。その第一条件は価格設定だ。

「誰でもリーズナブルに食事がでる店にしたい」とソン氏の気取らない性格と勤勉さが店作りに反映されているようだ。第2 はメニュー構成にある。メニューの多さは38 席の店の規模からは想像しがたい内容だ。昔ながらの酢の物や唐揚げ、丼、天ぷら、麺類から寿司など人気アイテムの数々が並びどんな客にも対応できる。第3 にはサービスが挙げられる。スタッフは皆フレンドリーで、ノンジャパニーズでありながらも日本食の正しい知識を持ち、おもてなしの精神も継承されている。

ソン氏はオリジナルメニューを増やしながらも、伝統メニューも必ず残している。例には、松花堂弁当($17 ランチのみ)、茶碗蒸し($10)、松茸土瓶蒸しなど他店には見られないアイテムがある。日本食に長年携わったシェフらしく、出汁の取り方は繊細だ。フルフルとした茶碗蒸しのこし方やしいたけの香りと旨味を引き出した土瓶蒸しは"Kiku" を懐かしむ客を喜ばせている。松花堂弁当はランチタイムのお楽しみの一つ。新鮮な刺身も含めた盛りだくさんの内容でお値打ちとあって、近隣の日系施設に住む日本人の人気メニューとなっている。一方、夜はアラカルトの他、オマカセ($65)も提供している。小鉢からお造り、水菓子まで7品目提供する割烹風和食コースだ。

今やサンフランシスコベイエリアでは、往年の日本食オーナーシェフ達が続々リタイヤで店を閉め、ノンジャパニーズの世代へと推移している。そんな中、ソン氏は職人シェフから伝統的な日本食を受け継いだラッキーな一人かも知れない。古き良き時代を追随しながらも新しい和食時代を築き始めている。

Akira
1634 Bush Street
San Francisco, CA 94109
(415) 800-8498
http://www.akirasf.com/

Lunch
Mon.-Fri. 11:30am-2:30pm

Dinner
Mon.-Thurs. 5:00pm-10:00pm
Fri.& Sat. 5:00pm-10:30pm
#alljapannews #akira #SF #restaurant #kappo #bento #kaiseki

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A restaurant particular about ingredients, run by a chef from Matsuhisa

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By Keiko Fukuda

There is a restaurant on the first floor of a modern building that stands out facing Melrose Avenue. It is UMEDA, run by Mr. Takuya Umeda who used to be a chef at Matsuhisa, and became independent.

There is a pond under the glass floor of the entrance of the restaurant, and the ceiling is designed to look like waving water. You feel the special thoughts of the designer that were put into both the exterior and interior. I heard that the owner of the building took charge of the designing of the building. Mr. Umeda was introduced to this building during its construction.

He was drawn to its good location, and decided to close the deal. At the time, he expected to open the restaurant in about 6 months or so, but it actually took 3 long years to open due to taking a long time to acquire various licenses. You can say that this is a typical hardship that every owner who wants to open a new restaurant in Los Angeles experiences.

Mr. Umeda is from Hokkaido. After working for a restaurant in Sapporo, an acquaintance contacted him about a position opening in a Japanese restaurant in London. He went for the interview because he had always been interested in working overseas. He passed the interview, and got hired in 1987. In 1997, he moved to NOBU London. NOBU London is the second NOBU after NOBU New York was established by the charismatic chef, Nobuyuki Matsuhisa.

After that, Mr. Umeda moved to the Beverly Hills Matsuhisa, andgrew his experience and career under Nobu-san for 20 years. I asked what he absorbed from his master. "I learned from him, the techniques as to how to apply something extremely innovative on something very basic. The way he thinks of how to create something new from ingredients from all over the world that influence him is fantastic".

As such, he finally reached the point of opening the restaurant UMEDA in March of 2017. UMEDA has very extensive menu for both lunch and dinner. The best seller at lunch is the Bento Box ($42). For dinner, in addition to various dinner items, 4 omakase-style dinners are served; tasting ($100), sushi and sashimi ($120), chef's choice ($150), and the highest course which includes a Miyazaki beef dish ($170).

From the stand point of applying innovative arrangements to basic Japanese cuisine, you can say that the Matsuhisa style is deeply embedded into Umeda's cooking. However, now that he became independent, he also tries to develop his own color in his cooking style. Especially with his original sauce, "Koji salsa", to accentuate fish and meat, for instance, he is striving to establish the Umeda style.

Moreover, since he is from Hokkaido, he is particularly picky about seafood ingredients, and many ingredients are sent directly from the Tsukiji market. "You can place orders to Tsukiji directly now, which allows for fresher fish in less time, and cheaper acquisition. Someone actually goes to the market to buy wholesale and send to us, so it is very easy to deal with because we can convey our opinions directly," says Mr. Umeda.

After starting his career in Sapporo, he wandered through various places - London, Beverly Hills, Melrose, and now has 35 years of experience. Umeda-san's idea is to just create the kinds of dishes which are wanted by customers, and would please them. He also shows his flexibility by saying, "If requested by a customer, I would like to challenge it with my experience and knowledge without being conservative and declining to make it, even if it is not a Japanese dish. A new thing could be born unexpectedly like that, couldn't it?"

Lastly, I asked him what kind of restaurant he would like to see UMEDA become 5 years from now. He said, "I would like it to be a place where customers enjoy vividly with their favorite food and drinks - like the image of an English pub." They say that for British people, pubs are an essential part of their lives. I look forward to the day when UMEDA becomes such a place for the people around the Melrose area.


松久出身のシェフが手がける食材にこだわるレストラン

メルローズ・アベニューに面した一際モダンな建物の1階にあるのは、松久のシェフから独立した梅田拓也さんが手がける店、UMEDA 。エントランスのガラスフロアの下には池、店内の天井はまるで波打つようにデザインされている。外観、内観ともにデザイナーのこだわりが感じられる。聞けば、建物のオーナー自身が設計も担当したのだそうだ。梅田さんはこの物件の建設中に案内され、ロケーションに魅力を感じて契約。しかし、半年程度で開店できるだろうと踏んでいたのが、実際は諸々のライセンス取得に時間がかかり、オープニングまでに3年もの年月を要した。ロサンゼルスで新規のレストランを開店させるオーナーには付き物の苦労と言えるかもしれない。

梅田さんは北海道の出身。札幌市内の店で勤務した後に、知り合いからロンドンの日本食店で料理人を探していると声がかかった。以前から海外に興味があったことから迷わず面接を受け、採用された。それが1987 年のことだった。さらに、1997 年にはNOBU ロンドンに転職した。カリスマシェフの松久信幸さん(以下ノブさん)がNOBU ニューヨークに続いて、2号店として手がけた店だ。 その後、梅田さんはビバリーヒルズの松久に移り、20 年にわたってノブさんの下で経験を積んできた。どのようなことを師匠から吸収したかを聞いた。

「ベーシックなものがあって、その上で、非常に斬新なアレンジを施す点を学ばせてもらいました。世界中の食材から影響を受けて、それからいかに新しいものを作り上げるかというアイデアが素晴らしいのです」

こうして、2017 年3月に開店にこぎ着けた UMEDA では、ランチ、ディナーともに多彩なメニューを揃えている。ランチタイムに一番出るのは弁当ボックス(42 ドル)。夜は各種ディナー以外にテイスティング(100 ドル)、寿司と刺身(120 ドル)、シェフズチョイス(150 ドル)、さらに宮崎牛の一品が含まれる最上級コース(170 ドル)の4種類のお任せを提供。

日本料理の基礎の上に斬新なアレンジといった点では、松久スタイルが染み込んでいるとも思える梅田さんの料理だが、独立したからには自分自身の色を料理で出していこうとしている。特にオリジナルのソース「麹サルサ」で魚や肉にアクセントを加えるなど、梅田スタイルの確立に努めているとのこと。

また、北海道出身であることからも魚介のネタにはこだわりがあり、築地直送の食材を多数取り寄せている。「今は直接、築地に注文を入れられるので、鮮度がよく、時間も短く、値段も安くなっています。何より実際に市場で魚を買って卸す人が送ってくるので、どういう魚がほしいかといった、こちらの意見も直接伝わる分、非常にやりやすいです」と梅田さん。

札幌に始まり、ロンドン、ビバリーヒルズ、そしてメルローズと各地を渡り歩きながら、シェフとしての経験は35 年になると言う。そんな梅田さんが理想とするのは、あくまで顧客が食べたいと思う料理、喜んでくれる料理を作ることだと語る。「お客さんがリクエストしてきたら、それは日本料理じゃないからと保守的にならずに、自分の経験と知識を駆使して挑戦したいと思います。新しいものとはそうやって意外なところから生まれるものではないでしょうか」と、フレキシブルな姿勢を見せる。 最後に5年後のUMEDA をどういう店にしたいかを聞くと、「好きな料理とお酒でワイワイと賑やかにお客さんに楽しんでもらえる店にしたいですね。イメージはイギリスのパブです」と梅田さんは答えた。イギリス人の生活にパブはなくてはならないものだと言われるが、メルローズ界隈の人々にとってUMEDA がそういう存在になれることを楽しみに待ちたい。

UMEDA Restaurant
6623 Melrose Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90038
(323) 965-8010
http://umedarestaurant.com/

Mon.-Sat. 12:00pm-2:30pm
6:00pm-10:30pm
Sunday close
#alljapannews #umeda #restaurant #pub #LA #bento #Japanese #sushi

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WOKUNI Spreading Japan’s high-quality fresh seafood to the world

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By Aya Ota

“WOKUNI”, an innovative restaurant which offers fresh seafood cultivated directly from their own self-operated aqua-farm in Nagasaki, appeared in Midtown in late October, and has become the talk of the town.

“I would like to spread the Japanese food culture in which people eat fresh seafood, to the world,” says Daiichi Sakamoto, President of Tokyo Ichiban Foods (the company is listed with the first section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange). This company opened a fugu (blowfish) specialty restaurant called “Torafugu Tei” first in 1996 in Shinjuku, Tokyo, and since then, they have developed a restaurant chain of 50 restaurants specialized in seafood in the Kanto area including “Torafugu Tei” and “Uohkuni”, etc.

With the company’s philosophy, “to serve high quality food ingredients at reasonable prices”, they launched their own aqua-farm in 2011. They are Japan’s one and only food service company which handles everything by themselves including producing, processing, and selling of seafood.

The sales points of “WOKUNI”, their first overseas development, are undoubtedly their own brand tuna and adult yellowtail. Their own aquafarm is located in a cove flourishing with nature, where the clear stream of Yasumandake, the highest peak of Hirado City, Nagasaki prefecture, and Tsushima Ocean current meet. They conduct an environment-friendly sustainable cultivation by not catching young fish until they grow to become as large as 50 kilograms or more, etc. They also follow through with quality control by feeding fish with human-consumable fresh sardine and mackerel. I was impressed to know that they produce tuna and yellowtail, considering American customers who do not care for the fishy smell by making adjustments with the foods for the fish. They are the most particular about freshness. Normally, it would take 5 days for the fish to arrive at the restaurant if distributed through the fish market, but for them, it takes only 48 hours because they use their own distribution route to directly send fish from the aqua-farm. The fish are never frozen in the direct shipping, so the quality and taste stay its best. Cultivating fish in its own fishing ground makes consistent supplying possible, and also their own distributing system allows them to keep the prices as low as 60 to 70% of the normal distributing system. In addition to their own tuna and yellowtail, other naturally-caught fish is procured through their own distribution system every week from Tsukiji and various Kyushu areas, and overall, 80 to 90% of their fish is from Japan. The rich variety on the menu that includes not only sushi and sashimi, but also hot grilled, fried, and BBQed dishes, and cold dishes such as tartar, carpaccio, etc., allows you to enjoy the goodness of seafood fully. 30 brands of Japanese sake are strictly selected with the view of “best pairing with the seafood” in mind. From the end of November, they started to serve lunch, and the items such as seafood bowls, chirashi sushi, unagi bowls, etc., are served with reasonable pricing.

“There is no other country but Japan in which such high-quality seafood can be caught naturally or cultivated. I would like to spread the splendidness of Japanese seafood culture from New York, which can be called the Capital of the world,“ says Mr. Sakamoto as his reason to have chosen New York as the base for the company’s first overseas development. While popularity of sushi and sashimi grows bigger, fish consuming population seems to grow every year by one hundred million globally. “I am surprised that customers’ fish consumption is much larger than I originally expected. I feel that we must set our future prospects by looking at the world from now on,” continued Mr. Sakamoto. At “WOKUNI”, most of their customers are local Americans. After the grand opening,they have been making adjustments in the details of the menu structure, food volume, presentation, tastes, etc. according to the customers’ reactions. Their American customers are speaking highly about the restaurant, saying “It is a place where you can eat high-quality sushi and sashimi at reasonable prices”.

In the future, he wants to expand not only the restaurant business, but the company’s own brand of tuna and yellowtail wholesale business, basing WOKUNI. They keep challenging the world as a general fisheries company. He is very enthusiastic about becoming the base of spreading Japanese food culture itself, not to mention seafood.


日本の高品質な鮮魚を世界に向けて発信

長崎の自社漁場から直送する鮮魚を提供する画期的な店『WOKUNI』(うおくに)が、2017年10月末、ミッドタウンに登場して話題になっている。

「新鮮な魚を食する日本の食文化を世界に広めたい」と語るのは『東京一番フーズ』(東証一部上場企業)の代表取締役社長、坂本大地氏。同社は、1996年に、ふぐ料理専門店『とらふぐ亭』を東京・新宿に開店して以来、現在では、関東地方中心に『とらふぐ亭』や『魚王KUNI』など、魚介料理を強みにしたレストラン約50 店舗を展開している。同社では「こだわりの食材を手頃な価格で提供したい」という理念を持ち、2011年に自社漁場に着手。魚類の生産、加工、販売まで一貫して手がける日本唯一の外食産業だ。

同社の海外初進出店となる『WOKUNI』の目玉は、なんと言っても、自社ブランドのマグロとブリだ。自社漁場は、長崎県平戸市最高峰の安満岳の清流と対馬海流が流れ込む、自然の恵み豊かな入り江に位置している。稚魚の乱獲をせずに50 キロ以上になるまで大きく育てるなど、環境にも配慮したサステナブルな養殖方法を採用。そして、人も食べられる鮮度のイワシやサバを餌として与え、品質管理を徹底している。魚臭を苦手に感じる米国人顧客を意識して、餌を工夫して、魚臭が少ないマグロやブリを生産していることにも驚かされる。一番のこだわりは鮮度だ。通常、市場を介して流通した場合、約5 日かかるところ、自社ルートで漁場からレストランへ直送するため、たった48 時間で到着するという。一切冷凍せずに直送するため、品Interior Exterior質や味の点でも引けを取らない。自社漁場で生産するので安定供給も可能で、市場を介さず自社流通するため価格も約60 〜70%に抑えられる。このマグロとブリ以外にも、独自の流通ルートを通して、築地市場や九州各地から天然魚を毎週取り寄せており、店全体で使う魚介類の8 〜9 割が日本産だ。メニューは、寿司や刺身はもちろんのこと、焼き物、揚げ物、串焼きなどの温菜から、タルタルやカルパッチョなどの冷菜まで豊富に揃い、魚介類の魅力を味わい尽くすことができる。日本酒は“ 魚と合わせて美味しい”という観点で厳選し約30種類用意している。11 月末からはランチもスタート、海鮮丼やちらし寿司、ウナギ丼などを手頃な価格で提供している。

「天然も養殖も、これだけ高品質な魚介類が捕れる国は、日本以外にない。世界の食の首都とも言えるニューヨーク、世界中から多くの人が集まるニューヨークから、日本の魚介類のすばらしさを発信していきたい」と、坂本氏は海外初の拠点をニューヨークに定めた理由を語る。寿司や刺身の人気が高まる中、世界的に見て、魚食人口は毎年1 億人ずつ増えていると言われている。「お客様が魚を食べる量が、当初予想していたよりもはるかに多くて驚いている。これからは世界を見据えていかないといけない」と坂本氏。同店では、顧客のほとんどが地元米国人。グランドオープニング後は、顧客の反応を見ながら、メニュー構成や、ボリュームや盛り付け方、味付けなど、細かい点で見直しをかけているという。米国人客からも「高品質な寿司や刺身をリーズナブルに食べることができる」と好評だ。

今後はこの『WOKUNI』を拠点に、レストラン事業だけでなく、自社ブランドのマグロやブリの卸売り事業を広げていきたいと考えている。“ 総合水産企業”として、世界へ挑戦し続けている。魚介類はもちろんのこと、日本食文化そのものの発信拠点にもなりたいと意欲的だ。



WOKUNI
325 Lexington Ave.
New York, NY 10016
(212) 447-1212
http://wokuninyc.com
Dinner Mon.-Fri. 5:00pm-10:30pm
Lunch Mon.Fri.11:30am-2:45pm
Sunday Closed
#alljapannews #wokuni #NY #restaurant #seafood #sashimi #sushi #Japanese

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Shibumi Oita Fair held at a trendy kaiseki cuisine restaurant

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By Keiko Fukuda

It was right after their 2016 opening when the restaurant became the talk of the town as a “Japanese restaurant in downtown, to which people pay a lot of attention”. They won second place in the “101 Best Restaurants 2016” by Jonathan Gold. It is “Shibumi”. David Schlosser is the owner/chef there.

The first time I visited Shibumi was in September of 2016 when a JETRO event was held with David’s skillful cooking, using produce from the Oita prefecture. The restaurant is located in the Midtown district of Los Angeles where a lot of renovation is going on, and it is located at a corner of a building which does not have any visible sign. The impression I got from such a location and its appearance is that this place is like a hide-out which is supported by customers who visit just to taste his cooking. However, as mentioned before, David’s skills
which developed through experiences through working in Kyoto, etc., have been highly claimed, and so exposed on many media outlets, that he cannot just stay hidden quietly.

David was born in Santa Monica, California. He explained how he became interested in Japanese cuisine as follows: “There are many people in California who basically are health conscious, and I also have been leading a lifestyle with a very healthy eating habit. While I was traveling around Asian countries in 2000, I visited Japan, which gave me a strong impression, and Japan became a special place for me. I was touched by the people I met, Zen, and the foods of Japan.” He was a chef of French cuisine. He accumulated his experiences in Japanese cuisine in Tokyo and Kyoto, and then worked in a famous Japanese restaurant in LA after returning to the US. In July of 2016, he opened the long-awaited Shibumi restaurant.

“For Americans, Japanese cuisine is no longer something rare. However, to me, focusing on sushi for example, Japanese cuisine served in the US has been transformed to suit Americans’ tastes. I opened this restaurant hoping to offer true authentic Japanese cuisine to Americans. Therefore, I dare not serve sushi, and set up menu items that are non-fusion and have real Japanese tastes loved by the people of Japan.” The realization of Oita’s produce event in the fall of 2016 was led by his hope to deliver genuine items to America, which met the purpose of JETRO to deliver more Japanese ingredients to the American market. Then, in December of 2017, another Oita Fair was held at Shibumi, which lasted 10 days. At this Fair, a special menu – an original recipe created by David using Bungo-gyu (beef) sent directly from the Oita prefecture, yellowtail, and shiitake mushrooms was offered to the customers for tasting. The menu, which is a realization of the collaboration of Oita ingredients and David, had 2 courses, one for $75, and the other for $40, which included salt-grilled Bungo beef with yuzu pepper, yellowtail tataki with kabosu citrus sauce, and miso soup with sweet potato/shiitake balls.

David commented on the Oitamade food ingredients at the Fair as follows: “I was able to produce a very rich and deep taste thanks to the dried shiitake mushrooms I used with konbu for dashi of the miso soup. Bungo beef is considered to be in between Miyazaki beef, which is known for its light-tasting fat, and Kobe beef, which is well-balanced with fat. Bungo beef is relatively not as well-known as the other two in the US, and it will require some effort to make it more known here in the future. The characteristic of the yellowtail is its simple taste.”

Personally, I was most impressed with the miso soup with shiitake mushrooms. It reminded me of Dango-jiru, an Oita local favorite, which has a comforting taste that heals your body and soul. I freshly felt astonished and touched again to know that such very profound Japanese cuisine was being made by an American without showing any deliberate eccentricity. The Oitamade yuzu-kosho (pepper) served with the Bungo beef exquisitely brought out the umami of the meat. A special freshtasting cocktail made with Oita shochu brand “Ichiko” with kabosu juice was also served there.

Based on the success of the 2017 Oita Fair, David is looking forward to and is enthusiastic about a 2018 Oita Fair, saying “I would like to present a recipe using Sekiaji, Sekisaba, and again Bungo beef next time”. I heard that he is also planning to go to Oita to visit production sites before the next Fair.


話題の懐石料理店で大分フェア開催

その店が「ダウンタウンにある注目の日本食レストラン」として話題になったのは、2016年にオープンして間もなくのことだった。ジョナサン・ゴールドが選んだ「101Best restaurants 2016」では第2 位に選出された、デビッド・シュロッサーさんがオーナーシェフを務める渋味だ。

最初に訪れたのは、大分県の物産を使ってデビッドさんが腕を振るったJETRO のイベントが開催された2016 年9月。再開発が進むロサンゼルスのダウンタウン地区にあり、ビルの一角にある同店には目立つ看板も掲げられていない。ロケーションといい、外観といい、料理を目当てに訪れる客によって支持されている隠れ家的な店だという印象だ。しかし、前述のように、京都でも料理人経験があるデビッドさんの手腕が評価され、ひっそりと隠れているわけにはいかないほどに多くのメディアで取り上げられてきた。

デビッドさんはカリフォルニアのサンタモニカ生まれ。日本料理に興味を持ったきっかけを次のように語る。「カリフォルニアにはもともと健康志向の人が多く、私自身も非常に健康的な食生活を送ってきました。2000 年にアジア各地を旅行した時に、日本に立ち寄り、私にとっては特別な場所だという強い印象を持ちました。特に、日本で巡り会った人々、禅、そして食に深い感銘を受けました」

もともとフランス料理のシェフだったデビッドさんは、東京や京都で日本食の経験を積み、アメリカに戻ってからもロサンゼルスの有名な日本食レストランで料理人を務めた。そして2016年6月、満を持して渋味を開店した。

「アメリカ人にとって日本料理はすでに珍しいものではありません。しかし、寿司を中心に、アメリカで出されている日本料理はアメリカ人の舌に合うように変容したものになっていると思います。私は本来のオーセンティックな日本料理をアメリカ人に提供したいという思いで店を開けました。ですから、あえて寿司は出さず、フュージョンではない、日本人に愛されているリアルテイストの日本食をメニューに並べています」 本物をアメリカで届けたいという思いが、日本産の食材をよりアメリカ市場へというJETRO の目的と合致し、2016 年秋の大分県の物産のイベント開催につながった。そして、2017年12月には10日にわたり、渋味で大分フェアが改めて開催された。これは、大分県から直送された豊後牛。ハマチ、シイタケを使って、デビッドさんがオリジナルレシピを考案し、テイスティングメニューとして顧客に提供するという内容。75 ドルと40 ドルの2種類のメニューが用意され、塩でグリルされた豊後牛の柚子胡椒添えやハマチのタタキのカボスソース、またシイタケが入ったさつまいもの饅頭の味噌汁をはじめ、大分の食材とデビッドさんのコラボレーションが実現した。

同フェアで取り上げた大分県産の食材について、デビッドさんは「味噌汁の出汁に昆布と共に使った干しシイタケのおかげで非常に豊かで深い味を出せました。豊後牛は、さっぱりした脂が持ち味の宮崎牛と脂が乗っている神戸牛との中間に位置します。神戸牛や宮崎牛に比べてまだまだアメリカでは知名度がないので、今後、知らせるための努力が必要ですね。ハマチはシンプルな味が特徴」と評価した。

個人的に最も印象に残ったのはシイタケを使った味噌汁。大分の郷土料理、団子汁を思わせる、心も身体も癒されるホッとする味だった。奇をてらうことなく、非常に奥深さを感じさせる日本食がアメリカ人によって作られていることに、改めて驚きと感動を覚えた。

また、豊後牛に添えられた柚子胡椒も大分県産。肉の旨みを絶妙に引き立てていた。大分県の焼酎ブランド、「いいちこ」をカボス果汁で割った、爽やかな特製カクテルも振る舞われた。

デビッドさんは、2017 年の大分フェアを踏まえて、2018 年にも「今度は関アジ、関サバ、そして再び豊後牛を使ったレシピを提供したい」と再度の開催に意欲を見せている。その前に生産現場の視察を目的に、大分県を訪問する計画も持ち上がっているとのことだ。



Shibumi
815 S. Hill St.
Los Angeles, CA 90014
(323) 484-8915
http://www.shibumidtla.com/
Tue.-Sun. 6:00pm-10:30pm
Monday Closed
#alljapannews #sushi #kaiseki #shibumi #LA #restaurant

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The glorious third highest ranked ramen restaurant in LA

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By Keiko Fukuda

The ranking contest, “Los Angeles ramen top-10” in the LA Weekly magazine in 2013 awarded Umenoya in Torrance as No. 3. The article read, “You don’t hear the typical loud vibrant greeting as many ramen restaurants here, but you can taste all their efforts in making a bowl of ramen”.

It has been 4 years since the article was published. After gaining new customers triggered by the LA Weekly ranking, Umenoya has been running very successfully, mainly supported by the local customers. I asked Mayumi Kohagura, the manager, what they do specifically to increase repeating customers.

“The space is limited, so in order to increase rotations, we serve as quickly as possible. We cannot do much about shortening the time of customers who are waiting to be seated, but we try to serve hot dishes as quickly as possible after receiving orders by training our staff for it. Another key point is to try to maintain the same taste. Of course, we do make slight changes to improve tastes, however, we strive for serving consistent tasting ramen as much as possible.”
In order to maintain the consistent service and taste, Mayumi is present in the restaurant every day. She says, “Not only do we try to keep the same taste, I also watch out for the consistency in the presentation so it matches the explanations in the menu. My motto is to serve a bowl that satisfies each customer at every visit.”
Surprisingly, the restaurant does not close until 3 after midnight. Not only are they accommodating people who want to eat ramen that late in the day, which makes this restaurant very important for them, but there are also other firm reasons or needs to run until that late according to Mayumi. Many regular customers work in different shifts for a huge hospital called Torrance Memorial which is only a few blocks away. They want to come to the restaurant after the graveyard shift.

The restaurant is not open for lunch except for weekends due to shortage of staff. There are 8 in the kitchen, and 6 in the front serving, however not everyone is working exclusively for Umenoya. Mayumi continues, “The biggest problem is how to keep the number of staff. This restaurant originally opened as a fast-food restaurant, and we cannot apply for a liquor license. We had a plan to open a second restaurant in Long Beach where alcohol beverages can be served, but we had to give up due to a trouble with the lease.

How about the menu? It has indeed a wide variety of items! On top of regular flavors such as Tonkotsu, Miso, Shoyu, Shio, and Spicy Miso, there is a kind called Jiro Ramen, which is made specifically to satisfy lighter taste fans. In the summer period, they add cold ramen to the menu. I myself prefer tonkotsu flavor, but it is an excellent point that there are many choices. For instance, if I bring my son who prefers miso flavor, or my daughter who prefers shoyu, the restaurant can accommodate all of us. All our favorites are listed on the menu. Mayumi says that they receive an equal number of orders of different flavors.

Yasunori Aoki, the sub-manager, who is in charge of the development of the menu, told me about his aspiration for the future. “As for the taste, I would like to keep introducing something new to make the restaurant stand out. For example, I want to discover something that exists in Japan, but not in Los Angeles, and then arrange it to suit the local area here, and make it a new popular menu item. I would like to keep making studious efforts in developing the menu.”


LAのラーメン店3位に輝く

2013年のLA Weeklyの「ロサンゼルスのラーメン・トップ10」のランキングで、堂々3位に選出されたのが、トーランスのUmenoyaだ。その記事には「ラーメン屋によくある威勢のいい掛け声をこの店で聞くことはできないが、すべての労力を1杯のラーメンに注ぎ込んでいるにちがいない」とある。

あれから4年。LA Weeklyのランキングを契機に新たな顧客を獲得した後、今もローカル客を中心に盛業を続けている。マネージャーの古波蔵(こはぐら)眞由美さんに、リピーターを増やす工夫について聞いた。

「狭い店なので回転率を上げるために、注文を受けたらすぐに出すことを徹底しています。席に着くまでにお待ち頂くのはある程度仕方ないですが、注文の後はすぐに熱々を食べていただけるようにスタッフを教育しています。それから味を変えないこと。もちろん、味の改善という意味では多少の進化もありますが、極力、安定した味のラーメンを提供するように心がけています」

サービスと味の安定のためにも、眞由美さんは毎日、店に出ている。「味のブレがないように、またメニューと変わりない盛り付けにも気をくばっています。お客様が来店されるたびにご満足いただける1杯を提供していきたいということがモットーです」

同店の営業時間はなんと深夜3時まで。その時間にラーメンを食べたいと思う人にとっては貴重な存在だが、それ以外にもしっかりとした深夜営業のニーズが存在すると眞由美さんは語る。数ブロック先には大規模な病院トーランスメモリアル・ホスピタルがあり、シフト制の勤務を終えた従業員たちが常連客でもあるのだそうだ。

ただし、人手不足が理由で、週末を除き、ランチは営業していない。キッチンには8人、サーバーは6人いるが、全員がUmenoya専業というわけではない。「人材の確保が一番の悩みの種です。また、この店はもともとファストフード店だった設計上、アルコールのライセンスを申請できません。そこで近郊のロングビーチにアルコールも提供できる2号店を出す計画が進んでいたのですが、 リース契約上のトラブルにより断念しました」

さて、肝心のメニューはと言うと、実にバラエティ豊かだ。豚骨、味噌、醤油、塩、スパイシー味噌にあっさり味に改良した次郎ラーメンまで揃う。夏には冷やし中華も仲間入りする。筆者個人は豚骨ラーメンのファンだが、味噌ラーメン好きの息子や醤油ラーメン好きの娘と来ても、それらがすべてメニューに並んでいるという時点ですでにポイントが高い。眞由美さんに聞けば「どのラーメンも満遍なく注文が入ります」とのこと。

メニュー開発を手がけるサブマネージャーの青木康則さんは「味に関しては、常に新しいものを発信して尖った店にしたいですね。例えば日本にあるのにロサンゼルスにないものを発見して、それをこちら向けにアレンジして人気メニューに育てるなど、常に努力を怠りなく取り組んでいきたいです」と抱負を語ってくれた。



Umenoya
24222 Crenshaw Blvd.
Torrance, CA 90505
(310)530-3177
Monday,Wednesday-Friday:5:30pm-3:00am
Saturday: 12:00pm-3:00am
Sunday: 12:00pm-11:00pm
Closed on Tuesday
#alljapannews #LA #Torrance #ramen #restaurant #umenoya

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Japanese-style cooking created by New York-born Japanese

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By Aya Ota

In NoHo district of Manhattan, there is a restaurant that stands hidden like a hideout. Once you step into the place, a nostalgic and warm space opens out in front of you.

“We would like all kinds of people to relax and enjoy in a nostalgic ambience,” the owner, Maiko Kyogoku explains about the origin of the name, “Bessou” (which means a vacation home). She is a true New Yorker who never lived in Japan although both of her parents are Japanese. She says that she recognized her identity as Japanese, and learned Japanese culture through the home cooking made by her parents. She opened this restaurant hoping to have people enjoy Japanese home-style cooking, not limited to sushi, ramen, etc.

The concept of the restaurant fully reflects Ms. Kyogoku’s personality and characteristics. Creativity and ingenuity that are unique to a New York-born Japanese can be seen everywhere in the restaurant where both elements of tradition and innovation co-exist.

The menu was created by Ms. Kyogoku and Emily Yuen, the executive chef. Ms. Yuen has worked and shown her skills in various well-known Michelin-star awarded restaurants, and is specialized in world-wide cuisines including French and Mediterranean. She was also trained by the father of Ms. Kyogoku who was the owner/chef of “Sushi Rikyu” to master the basics of traditional and genuine Japanese cuisine. She also uses ingredients and the cooking style of Tohoku regions because Ms. Kyogoku’s mother is from Akita. Ms. Kyogoku says, “This restaurant is an extension of my home, and I want it to be the home of every customer who comes here”. The menu reflects her remark, and there are even items with ingredients and styles of Middle Eastern and European cuisines, which provides a mysterious nostalgic feeling to everybody.

In order to help customers to imagine the volume of each dish, the menu is categorized into 3 sections; “Otsumami-Home Style Japanese Bites”, “Small Dishes”, and “Large Dishes”. Each dish is named as simple as possible, but also tried to make it easy for the customers who are not familiar with izakaya-style menus to understand by including some English words to familiarize them. The same effort has been tried for the sake menu. Instead of Junmai, Dai-Ginjo, etc., it is categorized by the flavors such as “Balanced, Dry, and Clean”, “Juicy, Fragrant, and Rich”, etc. to make it easier to decide.

“Grilled Romaine” ($14) is a plate of grilled Romaine lettuce topped with dried baby sardines and quail eggs covered with creamy sesame dressing. Some Americans think that it tastes similar to American Cesar salad. “Fritto Miso” ($18) is an item which has a large gap from the image of Japanese name, Namban-zuke. The version which a Japanese person normally imagine is fried and sauce-covered, but in their version, the sauce is on the side. The sauce accented by mayor lemons is not thickened, and refreshing. The “Inaniwa Udon” ($24) is served with kakiage vegetable tempura which is fluffy and stands tall like a tower to please your eyes. This dish is an excellent combination of rightly textured udon noodles and crunchy kakiage. Kakuni is usually made with pork, but their “Beef Short Rib Kakuni” ($34) is beef. The boldly served boned beef is cooked to so tender that the meat falls off of the bones easily. This dish is served with the side of home-made satsuma-age fish cake and chickpeas, which looks like cocido, a Spanish dish, to some customers. There are not many items in the menu, but each item is intricately prepared, and very unique.

Although they never advertise, they were featured in “zagat”, “New York Times”, etc. immediately after its opening with good reviews, and customers have been kept coming without a break ever since. “We don’t need to serve popular items such as sushi and ramen to keep running this place successfully. The new Yorkers are adventuresome and full of spirit, and always seek new and different cuisines,” says Ms. Kyogoku, analyzing the reason for the success.  

Although Ms. Kyogoku’s father was running a sushi restaurant, he did not really wanted her to get into the restaurant business. It may be because he knew this non-stop and hard scheduled business so well through his own experience.

However, Ms. Kyogoku had loved the restaurant environment ever since she was very young, and always had a dream of someday having her own restaurant. She was once employed by an artist, Takashi Murakami, but after quitting the job, she built her restaurant career working in various top-class restaurants as a hostess, a manager, or an event director until she finally opened her own place in August of 2016. Using such extensive experience, she sometimes holds an event to learn how to make gyoza, offers Japanese traditional and seasonal dishes such as new-years osechi, or seasonal nabe dishes, etc. She also started to hold the test kitchen event by inviting a guest chef, and also started to offer week-end brunch. This is a place where the possibility of Japanese home cooking widens. I urge you to visit this restaurant!


ニューヨーク生まれの日本人が創り出す日本の家庭料理
マンハッタンのノーホー地区に、ひっそりと隠れ家のように佇む店がある。一歩足をふみいれると、どこか懐かしく温かみのある空間が広がる。

「いろいろな人に、ノスタルジックな気分でくつろいで過ごしてほしい」――『別荘』という独特な店名の由来を語るのは、同店オーナーを務める京極麻衣子氏。同氏は、両親は日本人だが生粋のニューヨーカーで、日本に住んだことはない。自分自身が、日本人としてのアイデンティティを自覚し、日本文化を学んだのは、両親が作る家庭料理からだったという。寿司やラーメンだけではない、日本の家庭料理を楽しんでほしいという想いから、同店開店に至った。

店のコンセプトには、京極氏の人物像が存分に反映されている。“ニューヨークで生まれ育った日本人”ならではの創意工夫が随所に見られ、伝統と斬新さ両方の要素を併せ持っている。

メニューは、京極氏とエミリー・ユアン料理長で考案した。ユアン氏はミシュラン星を獲得した数々の名店で腕を奮い、フレンチや地中海など世界各国の料理に精通したシェフだ。ユアン氏は、かつて『Sushi Rikyu』のオーナーシェフを務めた京極氏の父親から訓練を受け、本格的かつ伝統的な日本料理の基礎をしっかり身につけたという。そして、京極氏の母親が秋田県出身ということを意識し、秋田をはじめとした東北地方由来の食材や料理も取り入れている。「この店は、自分の家庭の延長でもあり、訪れる客全員にとっての家庭でもありたい」と京極氏が語るように、メニューからは、中東や欧米料理で使われるような素材や味付けを感じることもあり、誰にとっても不思議な懐かしさがある。

メニュー構成は、居酒屋スタイルに不慣れな客でも、量を想像しやすいように「おつまみ/Otsumami-Home Style Japanese Bites」「前菜/Small Dishes」「主菜/Large Dishes」の3つに分類している。メニュー名はできるだけシンプルにしつつも、米国人に親しみのある単語を入れて、内容を分かりやすく説明するよう心がけている。日本酒メニューも、純米や大吟醸という種類ではなく、「Balance, Dry,Clean」「Juicy, Fragrant, Rich」のようにフレーバーで分類し、選びやすい工夫をしている。

「焼きロメイン」($14)は、グリルしたロメインレタスにじゃこやウズラの卵をのせ、クリーミーなゴマドレッシングをかけた一品。シーザーサラダに似ていると評価する米国人客もいるそうだ。「南蛮漬」($18)は、日本語と英語のメニュー名に大きなギャップを感じる一品。日本人がイメージする南蛮漬けは、揚げ物にソースを絡めてあるが、同店ではソースは別添になっている。メイヤーレモンの風味がアクセントの、とろみのないさらりとしたソースが印象的だ。「稲庭うどん」($24)は、タワーのような形に揚げたかき揚げと共に登場し、目を楽しませてくれる。つるつる、しこしことしたうどんの食感とサクサクしたかき揚げの組み合わせが絶妙だ。角煮と言えば、通常は豚肉を想像するが、同店では「ビーフの角煮」($34)だ。大胆に骨付きで登場するが、柔らかく煮てあるため、肉は骨からほろりとはがれ落ちる。手作りの薩摩揚げとひよこ豆が添えられており、スペイン料理のコシードのようだと感じる客もいるという。メニュー数は決して多くないが、一品一品手が込んでおり、他店にはない個性的な内容だ。
 
宣伝を一切していないにも関わらず、開店早々から『ザガット』や『ニューヨークタイムズ』などに掲載され高評価を得て、客足は途絶えることがない。「寿司やラーメンなど定番料理はなくても、十分やっていける。今のニューヨーカーはアドベンチャー・スピリットにあふれていて、新しいものや変わった料理を食べてみたいと考えている」と、京極氏は成功要因を分析する。

父は寿司店を経営していたにも関わらず、京極氏がレストランビジネスをやることはあまり勧めなかったという。ノンストップでスケジュールもハードな職業であることを、身を持って知っていたからだろう。しかし、同氏は幼少の頃からレストランという環境が好きで、いつかは店を持ちたいという夢を温めてきた。いったんはアーティストの村上隆氏のオフィスに入社したものの、退社し、数々の一流レストランでホステスやマネジャー、イベントディレクターとして実績を積み、2016年8月開店にこぎ着けた。過去の経験を活かして、餃子作りを学べるイベントを実施したり、お節・お雑煮などお正月料理や鍋など季節料理を提供したりすることもあるという。ゲストシェフを招いてのテストキッチンや、週末のブランチも始めた。日本の家庭料理の可能性を大きく広げてくれるような店、ぜひ足を運んでみてほしい。

Bessou
5 Bleecker Street
New York, NY 10012
Tel: 212-228-8502
http://bessou.nyc/

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Delage

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Delage Delage Delage Delage Delage Delage
Kappo Omakase-style California fusion restaurant

By Elli Sekine 

In the past few years, the food culture of the Auckland area has been changing dramatically. Along with the rising popularity of the farmer’s market in Jack London Square, the awareness of local production for local consumption is growing, and the chefs from “Chez Panisse” in the neighbor town, Berkeley, where California cuisine was born, started to open restaurants in Auckland one after another. People in the area now talk about gourmet foods all the time, and such a food-business-friendly environment has made young food business entrepreneurs very diverse in their businesses from casual and unique eateries, to food trucks and catering. You can catch a glimpse of the trend in the food culture everywhere in town. The market/food court, “SWAN” was renewed 4 years ago, and became a casual dining food court where some well-known chefs participated in serving their food there, which gathered much attention. It has become one of Auckland’s hot spots nowadays. “Delage” in SWAN is the second restaurant of “AS B-Dama” which has been there since the opening. Although it still has tenant status in the food court, “Delage” opened as an individual restaurant in April of 2016, and is gaining popularity as a casual omakase style restaurant.

The concept by the owner/chef Tsutomu Ono, “Quality & Casual”, has finely seized the local fans. After gaining the experience of working as a chef in the South Bay area for a long time in a Japanese restaurant, Mr. Ono launched a small place for bento and a-la-carte dishes in Auckland called “Geta”.

Later, he achieved success with a bento dine-in place called “B-Dama”, which led to becoming a tenant in “SWAN”, and changed the name to “AS B-Dama”.

Supported by passionate local fans, “Delage” was opened within the same property as an individual restaurant this time. It is the first omakase-style Japanese restaurant run by Japanese in Auckland. The opening of this restaurant which aims for “high-end with the casual ambience of Auckland” attracted a lot of attention with the attendance of Masaki Sasaki who has led two restaurants to their Michelin-star ranks. Moreover, the reasonable pricing at $65 for an upscale 8-course meal cannot be seen anywhere else.

The wood-based interior feels warm and relaxed, and the displayed old vinyl records, cassette tape players, etc. creates a nostalgic ambience. Including some which are rare finds among collectors, a hand-crafted warm feeling in an independent restaurant is presented.

The menu is unique with added Californian and French techniques. The dishes for the day started and continued with California style organic cherry tomato salad, Miyazaki wagyu beef on a salt block, smoked salmon, omakase nigiri-sushi, chilled cauliflower soup, and warm vegetables with sesame-ponzu sauce. The presentation of Californian kappo with the combination of vegetables, duck, other meat, and sushi on the stylish ceramic ware evokes excitement. The concept of local production for local consumption is enforced by the way they buy the food ingredients, from the fish and farmer’s markets by the owner himself as well as for “AS B-Dama”.

“Delage” is now in its second phase. Kaoru Ishii, the sushi chef, and Mikiko Ando, the kitchen chef have succeeded Mr. Sasaki, the opening chef. Mr. Ishii is a veteran chef with 42-years of experience. He has worked in an Italian restaurant, and a robata grill restaurant in Japan, “Matsuhisa” in LA, and “Sushi Ran” in Sausalito. Ms. Ando has worked in San Francisco area restaurants as a sushi chef at “Sushi Chardonnay”, “Yuzu”, and “Delica”. She passionately said that she would love to keep offering a creative menu using a lot of local vegetables.

As for the drink menu, they offer a wide variety of beer, wine, and sake. There is an extensive list of Japanese local sake brands, which makes for a popular paring with the food. For the beer selection, in addition to some brands, a draft beer is poured from installed barrels imported from Japan. In the summer time, you can enjoy drinks in the outdoor garden setting.

Compared to San Francisco, there are fewer Michelin class high-end restaurants in Auckland. However, casual gourmet style is settled in, and people in the East Bay are very picky in taste and value consciousness. “Delage” is well liked in such an environment as a restaurant where people can experience high-end Japanese cuisine in a casual manner.


カリフォルニアを融合した割烹オマカセ

ここ数年、オークランドの外食シーンが大きく変化している。Jack London Squareのファーマーズマーケットの人気と共に地産地消の意識が広がり、“リアルフード”を求める人口が増えている。さらに隣町、バークレーのカリフォルニア料理発祥の店、「シェ・パニーズ」出身のシェフ達が続々オークランドに店舗を持ち始め、グルメの話題が尽きない。また、食ビジネスが起業しやすい市による環境作りで、若い食起業家によるカジュアルで個性的な店やフードトラック、ケータリングなどビジネスも多様化し、街の至る所で食のトレンドを垣間見る事ができる。4年前、リニューアルされた食マーケット&フードコート「SWAN」は、有名シェフも参加するB級グルメのフードコートで話題を呼び、今ではオークランドのホットスポットになっている。「Delage」は、同テナントとしてオープニングから出店していた「AS B-Dama」に続く第2号店となる。2016年4月の開店以来、カジュアルなオマカセ店として人気を集めている。

オーナーシェフの小野力氏が持つコンセプト、“クオリティ&カッジュアル”は見事に地元のファンを掴んだ。同氏は、長年サウスベイで日本食レストランにシェフとして勤めた後、オークランドで小さな惣菜と弁当の「Geta」を起業、 その後、弁当を中心としたイートイン、「B−Dama 」の成功で、「SWAN」にテナントとし移動し、「As B-Dama 」に改名。今回、地元の熱い声援に応え、同じ敷地内、独立店舗として「Delage」のオープンに至った。オークランドで日本人経営者によるオマカセ専門店は初めて。「オークランドの気さくな雰囲気を取り入れたハイエンド」を目指した同店の立ち上げには、2軒のレストランをミシュラン星に導いた佐々木正樹氏が加わり話題を集めた。しかも、グレードアップした8コースが$65と他店では見られない良心的な料金設定だ。

内装は、木材を使った暖かく落ち着いた内装で、古いレコードやカセットテープ、音楽プレーヤーなどをディスプレイし、ノスタルジックなムードを演出している。中にはマニアの中で貴重なアイテムもあり、独立店舗として手作り感が伝わる暖かさが表現されている。

メニューはカリフォルニアとフレンチ技術が加わった独特のスタイル。その日のメニューは、カリフォルニア風オーガニックのチェリートマトサラダ、塩ブロックの上に盛り付けた宮崎ビーフと軽く燻製されたサーモン、オマカセ握り寿司、カリフラワー冷静スープ、温野菜の胡麻ポン酢和えと続く。このように野菜、鴨、肉、魚、野菜、寿司を組み合わせたカリフォルニア風割烹とデザインされた陶器とのプレゼンテーションはワクワクする内容だ。食材は「AS B−Dama」と同様、魚市場やファーマーズマーケットにオーナー自ら出向くなど極力地産地消を心がけている。

「Delage」は、現在2期目を迎えている。オープニングシェフの佐々木氏からバトンを受け取ったのは、寿司シェフの石井薫氏とキッチンシェフの安藤美樹子氏だ。石井氏はシェフ歴42年のベテランで、日本ではイタリアンや炉端店、米国では、Los Angeles の「Matsuhisa」, Sausalitoの「Sushi Ran」 でシェフを務めた。

一方、安藤氏は、サンフランシスコ地区で「Sushi Chardonnay」、「Yuzu」、「Delica」 での寿司シェフを勤めている。安藤氏は、「地元の野菜をたっぷり使った創造的なメニューを作りたい」と意気込んでいた。

ドリンクメニューはビール、ワイン、酒など多種を取り揃える。中でも日本酒は地方からの名酒がラインアップし、日本酒とのペアリングも人気だ。また、ビールは各メーカー他、日本輸入の樽から注ぐ生ビールを設置し、夏季には屋外ガーデンでドリンクも楽しめる。

オークランドのレストランは、サンフランシスコと比較すると高級店は少ないが、カジュアルグルメが浸透しており、イーストベイの客は味にうるさくとバリューに敏感だ。 そんな中「Delage」は、ハイエンドな日本食が気軽に体験できるレストランとして地域に愛されてる。



Delage
536 9th St.
Oakland, CA 94607
(510) 823-2050
http://www.delageoakland.com/
Tues.-Thurs./ 5:30pm-9:30pm
#alljapannews #japanese #delage #sanfrancisco #fusion #restaurant

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Powerful new restaurant with “Smoke” theme is changing the town

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Powerful new re... Powerful new re... Powerful new re... Powerful new re...
By Elli Sekine

"Kemuri Japanese Baru”, a smoked dish specialty store opened in Silicon Valley. “Kemuri” means smoke in English.

The restaurant specializes in charcoal grilled dishes cooked with Binchotan charcoals, and smoked plates that are smoked sashimi and chicken and umami brought out by adding fragrances with cherry chips, etc. This new trendy restaurant, “Kemuri”, with a unique concept is leading the local Japanese food culture. Redwood City, where this restaurant resides, is a bed town in Silicon Valley. The city center used to be occupied with family restaurants, and was far from an image of a trendy city.

As the Silicon Valley grew bigger, and so did its population, there has been a housing onstruction rush of condominiums and apartment buildings for as many as 30,000 growing residents. Redwood City is becoming a favorite residential town for its convenient location being between San Jose and San Francisco, having a train station, and easy access to freeways. “Kemuri” is located on the main street. It stands out amongst the other Japanese restaurants in the neighborhood which serve usual sushi and teriyaki types of dishes. The locals see “Kemuri” as an unusual spot where they can experience trendy Japanese cuisine and talk a lot about it. Along with the population growth, IT business people started to come to this town and hang out at bars after work in the evening.

Those crowds are really changing the atmosphere of this town. The person who grabbed the business chance in this district where Japanese cuisine is developing is Takeo Moriyama, the owner/chef of “Kemuri” who is managing a restaurant for the first-time. “I chose this town because I saw a future. He says, “I would rather serve delicious dishes that are locally developed than insisting on the traditional style.” He never had any professional training or attending cooking school. He got into the food industry just because he had always liked cooking ever since he was a young child. He obtained permanent US residency by winning the lottery program in his twenties, and came to the U.S. His first job was working in the kitchen of a restaurant in San Jose called “Gaku”. His passion for cooking gradually grew there. He kept experimenting and studying by himself, and the home cooking menu he created with a keen sense became very popular, and led “Gaku” to become a very popular restaurant at the same time.
He opened this new restaurant “Kemuri” after going through such a success.

Smoking is profound. In order to bring out the best umami, some like yakitori are broiled, and some like fish and meat are smoked with wooden chips. Depending on the ingredients, proper adjusting of flames, amount of smoke, temperature control, etc., is required. The high-quality Binchotan charcoal from Japan can be heated as high as 800 degrees. Infrared rays and high heat radiated from the charcoal bring out umami, and result in crispy outside, fluffy inside, and juicy finish.

The recommended dish is the “Chicken Thigh ($8)”, “Beef Tongue ($16)” which uses tender center cut, “Salmon Toro Aburi ($15)”, etc. Their signature dish is the “Smoked Sashimi ($25)” which is raw fish slightly smoked to bring out the sweetness. The popular appetizer is the “Unagi Slider ($12)” which is unagi sandwiched in toasted rice patties. The flavorfully grilled unagi is juicy, and the accompanying crispy cucumber slices are refreshing. ”Ox-tail Udon ($14) with Inaniwa udon is good to complete the meal with, and the “Washu Beef and Foie Gras ($35), or “Omakase” are good for gourmet eaters. They can be pre-ordered.

Another charm of this place is a large full-service bar. The drink menu is rich, especially the Japanese whiskeys. There are over 17 different brands. No other restaurants carry this many. Some of them are rare brands such as Hibiki 21 years, Yamazaki 18 years, and Yoichi 15 years, which are difficult to get even in Japan. Cocktails made with spirits such as the “Kemuri Smoked Manhattan ($14 and the “Shiso Wasabi Margarita ($12)” are popular signature drinks. Shochu and sake from each prefecture are lined up as well. They have outdoor seating to enjoy happy hour.

They sometimes host events such as beer pairing with sashimi, and sake festivals, etc. As you know, Steve Jobs loved Japanese cuisine. Relations between the development of Silicon Valley and Japanese cuisine has become inseparable. Evolving Japanese cuisine in the American way can be possible only by this skillful chef who can perform charcoal magic by polishing the “Yaki” skill which is the basic of Japanese cuisine.

I felt the town breathing with the new wind created by this new powerful cutting- edge skilled owner/chef.


「炭火料理」をテーマにした新鋭レストランが街を変える

「Kemuri Japanese Baru」という”煙”をテーマにした料理の店がシリコンバレーにオープンした。店名の“kemuri” とは英語でSmokeの意味。同店では備長炭を使った炭火料理と刺身や鶏料理にチェリーのチップなどでスモーキーな香りを付け素材の旨味を引き出し香りをつける燻製料理を主体としている。このユニークなコンセプトを持つ「Kemuri」が地元の日本食トレンドをリードしている。

同店が存在する レッドウッドシティは、シリコンバレーのほぼ中心に位置するベットタウン。街の中心部はファミリー向けのレストランが多数を占め、最近までトレンドには縁遠いイメージだった。 しかしシリコンバレーの発展に伴い人口が急増し、最近では約3万人の移住者を受け入れるコンドやアパートの建設ラッシュが続いている。サンフランシスコとサンノゼを繋ぐ電車の駅が街に乗り入れ、フリーウェイにも近いことから居住区としての人気急上昇中だ。人口増加と共にIT関連のビジネス客が流れてくるようになり、仕事が終わる夕方になると周りの人気のバーにも人があふれ、人の活気が街全体の様相を変えている。

「Kemuri」は、周りにある昔ながらの寿司に照り焼きを中心とする日本食レストランに比べるとひと際目立ち、地元住民にとって寿司以外の日本食トレンドを体験できるスポットとして話題になっている。

この日本食の発展途上地区にビジネスチャンスを見出したのは、今回初のレストラン経営に挑む「Kemuri」 のオーナーシェフ、森山岳男氏。「この街の将来性を期待して場所を選びました。伝統にこだわるより現地で進化させた美味しい料理を提供したいです」と語る同氏は、料理学校やレストランでの修行の経験はなく、子供の頃から調理は好きだったという程度の動機でレストラン業界に入った。20代で永住権抽選プログラムにより永住権を取得し渡米。初めに働いたサンノゼのレストラン「GAKU」の調理場での経験が次第にパッションになっていった。独自に研究を重ね、鋭い感性で創作した家庭料理風メニューが好評を得、同時に「GAKU」も人気店となった。そしてその経験を経て今回開業に至った。

炭火料理は奥が深い。焼き鳥のように仕上げる「炙り」とチップを使い肉や魚を燻してフレーバーをつける「燻製」を食材により火加減やスモークする煙の量、温度を細かく調整し旨味を引き出す。日本から取り寄せた高品質の備長炭は800度まで温度を上げる事ができる。

炭から発生する赤外線と高温により旨味が引き出されるため、外がパリパリで中がフワフワ、ジューシーな仕上がりになる。おすすめはChicken Thigh ($8)、芯の柔らかい部位を使ったBeef Tongue($16)、 Salmon Salmon Tro Aburi ($15)など。冷燻製から生魚を少し燻して甘みを引き出した燻製刺身$25は看板メニューとなっている。アペタイザーからの人気メニューは、焼きおにぎりのように表面を焦がしたライスにうなぎをサンドしたUnagi Slider ($12)。ジューシーに焼き上げた香ばしいうなぎに歯ごたえが良い新鮮なきゅうりが斬新だ。

シメには稲庭うどんスタイルのOx-tailudon($14)、グルメの客には、Washu Beef and Foie Gras( $35)や「オマカセ」もプリオーダーできる。

同店のもう一つの魅力は、広い本格的なフルバーだ。ドリンクメニューも豊富で、特に日本ウィスキーの品揃えは他のレストランに比べダントツで、17種類を揃える。中には響21年、山崎18年、余市15年など日本でも入手困難なプレミアムもある。その他スピリッツで作るカクテルも人気でスモーキー味の「Kemuri Smoked Manhattan」($14)と「Shiso Wasabi Margarita」($12) は同店の看板料理。焼酎、日本酒も各県からの銘酒がずらりとラインアップ。外にはテラスもありハッピーアワーも楽しめる。またビールに合う刺身を創作したビールペアリングや酒祭りなどのイベントも開催している。

かつてスティーブ・ジョブスが日本食好き知られるように、シリコンバレーの発展と日本食の結びつきは密接不可分な存在になっている。–––日本食をアメリカ流に進化させていく–––それは日本食の基礎である「焼き」の技術を磨き、炭マジックを操れるシェフだから成しえることだ。この新進気鋭の若手オーナーがもたらす新風に街の息吹を感じた。



Kemuri
2616 Broadway
Redwood City, CA 94063
(650) 257-7653
http://kemuri-baru.com/

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Tues.-Fri./ 11:30am-2:00pm
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Monday Closed
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