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A sushi restaurant which celebrated its 30th anniversary in spite of the odds going through changes in clientele over the years

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By Keiko Fukuda

Palos Verdes is a residential area in the suburbs where you find many ethnic groups including Japanese. Compared to its west side which faces the Pacific Ocean, the east side, looking down the harbor of Los Angeles, has a lot of commercial buildings including a shopping mall. On Western Avenue, which runs through the middle of the area, there is a Japanese restaurant that has been running since its opening in 1988 at the same location. It is “Tashiro”.

The owner/chef, Yoshinori Tashiro, is from Japan’s Kanagawa Prefecture. He obtained a Japanese cook license in 1975, and 4 years later, was head-hunted, and came to Los Angeles. He worked at a trademark restaurant in Little Tokyo called “Yagura Ichiban”. After working there for 8 years, he became independent and fully prepared, and decided to open his own restaurant in Palos Verdes. He said, “I picked the location because the view from the hill, looking down to the harbor, reminds me of Honmoku, Yokohama”. The view of San Pedro below at night also made him nostalgic.

“It was hard at the beginning. It was 2 and a half years later when the operation finally started to get going. One good thing about the location was the fact that many Italians and Croatians live nearby. They have the habit of eating a lot of seafood from the Adriatic Sea, and can easily accept octopuses, sea urchins, and blueback fish such as mackerels and sardines. They must have been eating that kind of seafood since their childhood.

Consequently, the Italians and Croatians who were working at the harbor area became the regular customers. In addition, Japanese business people who worked for Japanese American companies in the Torrance area, and their families started to account for a certain portion of their clientele. Except the first 2 and a half hard years, Tashiro had been running smoothly. However, Mr. Tashiro says, that the number of sales started to decline about a year and a half ago when Toyota North America, who used to have the headquarters in Torrance, moved to Texas.

“The families of those Japanese business people often came on Sunday nights.

Many of them definitely went away. Because of the changes in clientele, we are getting less of certain kinds of fish such as seabreams that used to sell a lot. The kind of fish we buy has changed. Even so, dinner time is still pretty busy now with mostly American customers. They have 3 rotations in both the dining space and the sushi counter.

I asked Mr. Tashiro, who has been continuously running the restaurant for the last 30 years, what his policy is as a sushi chef. He said, “When I first came to the States, I had a kind of a firm principle about how sushi should be like. However, seeing a customer putting sweet sauce for broiled eel on the highest-quality fatty tuna, looking quite satisfied and enjoying it right in front of me, made me think about the way of my thinking.

As time passed by, my thinking has changed. Now I think anything is all right as long as the customer truly enjoys the way of his/her own tasting. Despite all that, I am still very particular about the freshness of the sushi ingredients.”

He showed me a photograph, which shows sushi and sashimi in a wooden box. He explained, “This is the photo of a bento box ordered by a customer who was going to the Hollywood Bowl. The customer didn’t care how much it would cost, but wanted the best possible assortment of foods.” The Hollywood Bowl is a concert venue under the night sky during summer, like Central Park in New York.

The audience brings their own drinks and food to the venue, and enjoy music individually. The customer must have wanted to taste his best favorite foods at the Hollywood Bowl.

“Tashiro” has been loved by many people. It celebrated its 30th anniversary in June. “I intend to keep working at the restaurant as long as my health permits,” says Mr. Tashiro who will soon be turning 70 years old. “I am thinking about stopping to offer straws in the restaurant. I saw a video of a sea turtle with a straw stuck in its nose. I felt so bad,” he said, showing another side of him as a surfer. I felt that the sweet side of him could be one of the reasons
that attract many customers to his restaurant.


客層を変えながらも30周年迎えた寿司屋

パロスバーデスは日本人も多く暮らす郊外の住宅地だ。太平洋に面した西側に比べ、ロサンゼルスの港を見下ろす東側のエリアにはショッピングモールなどの商業施設が多い。その中心街とも言えるウエスターン・アベニュー沿いに1988 年にオープンしてから、同じ場所で今も営業を続けているのが日本食の店、Tashiro。

 オーナーシェフの田代良則さんは神奈川県の出身。1975 年、日本の調理師免許を取得し、その4年後にヘッドハントされる形でロサンゼルスに渡った。店は、リトルトーキョーのランドマークになっている櫓近くにあった櫓一番というレストラン。そして8年間勤続した後に満を持して独立する際、ロケーションをパロスバーデスに決めたのは「この丘から港を見下ろす風景が横浜の本牧にとても似ていたから」だと言う。夜になると、眼下に広がるサンペドロの街の夜景にも郷愁を誘われたそうだ。

「最初はやはり大変でしたね。軌道に乗ったのは2年半後くらい。でも、良かったのはこの辺の住人はイタリア人やクロアチア人が多いということなんです。彼らはアドリア海で獲れる魚介を食べる習慣があるから、タコ、ウニ、それにサバ、アジ、イワシなどの青魚にも抵抗がありません。子どもの頃から食べ慣れているんですね」

 こうして、港湾で働くイタリア系やクロアチア系のアメリカ人が同店の常連客となっていった。さらにパロスバーデスの北にあるトーランスの日系企業に働く駐在員を中心とした日本人ビジネスマンやその家族も一定の層を占めるようになった。最初の2年半を除けば、順調に経営を続けていたTashiro だが、トーランスに本社を置いていた北米トヨタがテキサスに移転した1年前からは数字に変化が見られるようになったと田代さんは話す。

「かつては駐在員のお客さんは、日曜の夜に家族で来店されることが多かったんですよ。でも、確実にそのようなお客さんは減ってしまいました。顧客層の様変わりで、以前はよく出ていた金目鯛などの仕入れが減って魚の種類も変わりましたね」

 それでも、今もアメリカ人の顧客を中心にディナータイムには賑わいを見せる。ダイニングと寿司バーの顧客はそれぞれ3回転するそうだ。 30 年間、店を続けてきた寿司職人としてのポリシーを聞くと、田代さんは「アメリカに渡ってきた当初は、寿司はこうでなくちゃいけないっていう確固とした信念のようなものがありました。しかし、目の前で最高のトロにウナギのタレをつけて食べるお客さんを見ると、そのお客さんにとって美味しい食べ方ならいいのだというように、時間と共に考え方も変わりましたね。それでも、寿司ネタの新鮮さだけにはこだわります」と答えた。

そして、田代さんが見せてくれた写真には、お重に詰められた寿司と刺身が写っていた。「これは、お客さんがハリウッドボウルに行くので、値段はいくらでも構わないからとびきりの料理を作ってくれ、と注文されたお弁当なんです」と田代さん。ハリウッドボウルは夏の間に夜空の下でコンサートが開催される、ニューヨークで言うところのセントラルパークのような場所。オーディエンスは飲み物や料理を持参して思い思いに音楽を楽しむ。きっと、そのお客さんは自分
が一番好きな料理をハリウッドボウルで味わいたいと思ったに違いない。

 多くの客に愛されてきたTashiro。6月で30 周年を迎えたが、「これからも体力が続く限りは店に立つ」ともうすぐ70 歳になる田代さん。「今度からうちの店ではストローを出さないようにしようかと思っています。ウミガメの鼻に刺さったストローの映像を見たら、もう可哀想でね」と、サーファーとしての横顔も持つ。その心優しさも、顧客をこの店に惹きつけ続ける要因だと感じた。



Tashiro
29050 S.Western Ave.Ste 11
Rancho Palose Verdes, CA 90275
(310) 547-4597
Tue.-Fri. 11:30am-1:45pm
Tue.-Sun. 5:00pm-9:30pm
Monday Closed
#alljapannews #tashiro #CA #sushi #PaloseVerdes

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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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Authentic sushi by Tsukiji-acquired skills enjoyed in a hideout with limited seating of 7

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By Elli Sekine

“Yume Sushi”, a famous popular sushi restaurant located in the Alameda District, which is on the east side of the bay across the Bay Bridge of San Francisco, closed its doors last fall and is still being missed by many people. Yume’s owner entrusted the next phase of his dream to Chikara Ono, who now runs some hot restaurants in the East Bay such as Delage and As B-Dama, which are really on a roll. The restaurant which opened only less than half a year after the closing of Yume Sushi is “Utzutzu”, which offers new concept kaiseki cuisine. Their menu uses the word, “Okimari”, instead of “Omakase”, which exhibits the strong will of this young manager. “Utzutzu (reality in Japanese)” that succeeded “Yume (dream in Japanese)” has been filled up with customers every day despite the fact that they opened only a short time ago.

The restaurant is located on a major street, but no sigh is displayed on the street, and you need to go upstairs to enter, which gives this place a hideout-like ambience. The interior decoration has a combined theme of antique Taisho-era romantic and Showa-era modern. By removing the wall to the next room which was an office space, the sushi counter was made, and a cool royal blue- colored couch was added to create a lounge. They take only 5:30 and 8:30 reservations, and the two reservations do not overlap. Customers are to wait in the lounge, enjoying drinks until everybody in the party arrives. The drink menu contains 2 to 3 kinds of each Daiginjo, Ginjo, and Junmai sake brands, plus beer is domestic beer and two kinds of Japanese craft beer. Nicely cooled sake is served in an antique glass. The chef who serves sushi at the counter is Joji Nonaka, who has experience working at Tsukiji selling wholesale fresh seafood, and at Ichi Sushi, a popular sushi restaurant in San Francisco. He determines the contents of the menu with Chef Asuka Uchida, who is in charge of other items besides sushi.

Nonaka was making sushi side by side with Ono behind the counter of Delage, long before the opening of Utzutzu came up. Ono then decided to entrust Utzutzu to Nonaka by witnessing Ono always offering customers sushi at the best possible condition. As for Chef Uchida, she has a background of working at French restaurants, and has worked in Japan, Australia, and New York before.

Chef Uchida has worked under Ono for nearly 5 years since the B- Dama days, and her keen sense in cooking is highly trusted.

There is only one menu item, which is the $100 Okimari course. The course consists of 15 to 16 pieces of sushi, and seasonal vegetable dishes are served in-between while sushi is served. To finalize the course, temaki (hand-rolled) sushi, and miso soup, and a dessert are served. In America, a course with pre-fixed price and menu can be called “Omakase”; however in Japan, it is called “Okimari”. “Omakase” in Japan, on the other hand, means neither the price nor the contents of the course is pre-fixed. It is an ultimate choice, in which the crafty chef makes sushi, etc., depending on the customer’s preference, and serves whatever the good ingredients they have for the day.

Nonaka says that he would also like to offer an “Omakase” menu in the future. At Utzutzu, they are particular about serving authentic Japanese style sushi. The fish is directly shipped mainly from Tsukiji and Kyushu, and for nigiri, they are particular about bringing out each fish’s natural flavor, rather than accentuating the taste with unique sauces or toppings. Depending on the ingredients, some preparation is involved such as light-salting or konbu-jime (kelp-sandwiching), but it is done to remove excess water or unwanted taste rather than accentuating the taste of the ingredient.

During my visit, black porgy konbu-jime was served first, followed by fire-grilled skin of the same fish. Excess water was removed from the tender meat by konbu-jime treatment, and the fish was light-tasting, but was full of umami.

Fatty skin adds flavor, and its texture becomes so tender, which melts in your mouth. The same fish can be enjoyed in totally different ways depending on the parts. The course always includes about 2 pieces of vegetable sushi. It is because they want the course to have variations with a seasonal flare that is uniquely California.

Different blends of soy sauces are used to accentuate light-tasting ingredients and rich-tasting ingredients. Another example of particularity they exhibit is that raw wasabi directly shipped from Japan is grated in front of customers.

Rich-colored vinegared rice is made with mildly sweet red vinegar. Nonaka says that he would like to keep the old sushi traditions, but at the same time, bring any good things in to grow further. He is assertive about taking any interesting ingredients in. For example, a vegetable called seabean, which grows by the sea is combined with fatty tuna for the course’s last item, a hand-roll, taking advantage of its natural saltiness and crunchy texture. It’s the Nonaka version of the standard hand-roll, “Toro-Taku”, arranged his way.

For the dishes other than sushi, they use vegetables procured from the local farmer’s markets, which are cooked in robust flavor, which also matches Japanese sake well.

French cuisine-influenced good sense is shown in the techniques and presentations by the chef of that background. For instance, the base of octopus in vinegar sauce has certainly a Japanese dashi-based taste, but it is presented so gorgeously in a cocktail glass, which looks like a modern French dish. Their desserts also taste so good, and are beyond the level of a sushi place, and their beautiful appearance will surely satisfy customers.

This restaurant is full of customers every day. Foodies come from not only the local Alameda District, but also San Francisco, and fill this restaurant. While the high-end Omakase sushi boom seems to have settled, there are more customers now, who understand sushi culture well, and this must be the reason for the popularity of this place.

Both Chef Nonaka and Chef Uchida hope to evolve the Japan-like sushi style further, while conveying it to American people. I would like to keep close eyes on Utzutzu’s future development.


限定7席の隠れ家で味わう築地仕込みの本格寿司

サンフランシスコからベイブリッジを渡った東側の湾、アラメダ地区に寿司の名店として人気を博していた「Yume Sushi」が昨年秋、周囲に惜しまれつつ閉店した。Yumeのオーナーがその夢の続きを託した人物が、今イーストベイでノリに乗っている人気店、DelageやAs B-damaの経営者である小野力氏だ。クローズからたった半年余りでオープンしたのが、新しいコンセプトの寿司懐石を提案する「Utzutzu」だ。メニューには「おまかせ」ならぬ「おきまり」と明記し、若き経営者の本気度を感じさせられる。「夢 Yume」の後を引き継いた「現(うつつ) Utzutzu」はまだ開店したばかりにも関わらず連日満席の人気ぶりだ。

店はメインストリートに位置するが、看板もなく階段を上がった二階にある隠れ家的存在だ。内装は大正ロマン/昭和モダンを取り入れたアンティークなイメージで統一されている。元事務所スペースとの壁を取り壊し、寿司カウンターに加え、鮮やかなロイヤルブルーのソファーを配したラウンジを作った。予約は5時半と8時半の完全入れ替え制。客は全員が揃うのを待つ間、このラウンジでドリンクを楽しむ。ドリンクは日本酒が大吟醸、吟醸、純米酒が2〜3種ずつ、ビールはローカルと日本のクラフトビール2種。適温に冷やされた酒はアンティークのグラスで提供される。カウンターで寿司を握るのは、築地での鮮魚卸やサンフランシスコの人気寿司店ICHI Sushiでの経験もある野中城治シェフ。メニュー内容は寿司以外の料理を担当する内田明日香シェフと相談して決めている。野中氏はUtzutzu開店の話が出る以前からDelageで小野氏と並びカウンターで寿司を握っていた。小野氏は常に最高の状態で客に寿司を提供しようとする野中氏を見て、Utzutzuを任せようと決めたという。一方の内田シェフはフレンチレストラン出身で、日本、オーストラリア、ニューヨークでの経験を経て現在がある。小野氏の元ではB-dama時代から5年近く仕事をし、その料理センスには全幅の信頼がある。

メニューは$100のおきまり1コースのみ。寿司が15〜16貫、合間にキッチンからの季節の野菜料理があり、しめの手巻きすしと味噌汁、デザートと続く。アメリカでは価格とメニューの決まったコースは「おまかせ」で通るが、日本ではこのスタイルは「おきまり」と呼ばれる。一方の「おまかせ」は価格もメニュー内容も決まりはなく、職人は客の好みやその日の良いネタからそれぞれの客に合わせて寿司を出す究極のセレクションだ。野中氏は将来的に「おまかせ」も提供して行きたいと語る。Utzutzuでのこだわりは日本的な寿司。魚は主に築地や九州からの直送で、握りには変わりソースやトッピングで味を乗せるのではなく、魚の味を引き出すことにこだわる。ネタによっては軽く塩や昆布で〆るなどの手をかけるが、これは味をのせるためというよりも、余分な水分や雑味を取り除くための仕事だ。訪店時には最初に黒鯛の昆布締めが出され、続いて黒鯛の皮の部分の炙りをいただいた。淡白で柔らかい身は昆布で締めることで余分な水分が抜け、さっぱりとしつつ旨味が広がる。脂ののった皮には香ばしさが加わりとろける口当たりになる。同じ魚でも部位で全く違う味わいを楽しめる。握りの中には必ず2貫程度野菜の握りもある。カリフォルニアならではの季節感を出し、コースに変化を持たせるためだ。淡白なネタと味の濃いネタでは仕上げ醤油の配合も変えている。日本から直送の生ワサビを客の前でおろして使うのもこだわりだ。

濃い色の酢飯はまろやかな甘みのある赤酢(粕酢)を使用している。野中氏は寿司の伝統にもこだわりつつ、良いものは取り入れ成長して行きたいと語る。食材でも面白いものがあれば積極的にとり入れる。例えばシービーンズという海岸で育つ野菜は天然の塩気とシャキシャキとした食感を生かし、最後の手巻きでトロと合わせる。手巻きの定番、「トロタク」を野中流にアレンジした形だ。

寿司以外の料理は地元のファーマーズマーケットなどから仕入れた野菜を使い、日本酒にも合うしっかりとした味付けになっている。テクニックや盛り付けにはフレンチ出身シェフならではセンスも生かされている。例えば蛸の酢の物のベースはしっかりと和の出汁の聞いた味わいだが、カクテルグラスへの盛り付けはモダンフレンチを思わせる華やかさだ。デザートも寿司屋の域を超えたパティスリーレベルの美味しさ、美しさで客を満足させる。

店はすでに連日フルハウス。地元アラメダのみならず、サンフランシスコからのフーディーな客でいっぱいだ。ハイエンドおまかせ寿司ブームは一段落したとはいえ、数年前よりも寿司に理解のある客が増えたからこその人気ではないだろうか。より日本らしい寿司スタイルをアメリカ人にも伝えつつ進化させたいとする野中氏と内田氏。Utzutzuの展開をこれからも注視していきたい。



Utzutzu
1428 Park St, Alameda, CA 94501
Tel: (510) 263-8122
Business Hours Tue-Sun 5:30-,8:30 - (replacement system)
Monday closed
Reservation: Through Resy
#alljapannews #CA #Utzutzu #sushi #sake

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“Peace Dining”, a pioneer of sustainable sushi An interview with Josh Onishi, President and CEO of Peace Dining Corporation

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“Peace Dining”,... “Peace Dining”,... “Peace Dining”,... “Peace Dining”,... “Peace Dining”,... “Peace Dining”,... “Peace Dining”,...
By Aya Ota

They say that the number of Japanese restaurants developing overseas has tripled in the past 10 years, and is reaching near 90,000 (*1). The popularity of Japanese cuisine never seems to decline. Sushi, in particular, seems to have settled into America’s dining scene; however, a big new wave of changes is also about to hit the shore.

“Just like the past transition of the phase after the mass production and consumption period in which you needed to take in healthy and organic elements in order to stay successful in the current business world, I am certain that you need to consider sustainability more importantly next,” says CEO/President Josh Onishi of “Peace Dining”. This company provides take-out sushi and ramen all over the US including 250 store locations of the Whole Foods Market chain under the “Genji” brand, and in about 50 other supermarkets and company cafeterias under the “Mai” brand.

The common principle of all of this company’s businesses is sustainability. They are the first sushi handling company that acquired ISO14001 in the United States. Then, in 2011, they realized 100% sustainable procurement of ingredients. They procure only the seafood which is certified by the third-party certification authorities as green or yellow grade, and therefore, the types of fish they can get is limited. The tuna this company uses is caught by the traditional single-hook handline fishing method. The current mainstream fishing methods are by longline, such as round haul netting or bottom trawl netting, which tend to lead to overfishing, bycatching, or destruction of the seabed environment. Realization of sustainable procurement of ingredients takes cost and labor, and is not easy. “At this point, as the reason for consumers to buy sushi, sustainability accounts for only less than 20%. However, it will be too late if we wait for another few years to take it seriously,” says Mr. Onishi. The top two largest supermarket chains in the US have already committed themselves to realize 100% sustainable procurement of seafood by 2020, and 2022 respectively. Presently, from the point of view in which the usable seafood is limited, it is possible for supermarkets to realize the procurement of sustainable sushi; however, general sushi restaurants still experience many issues in order to realize that. Nevertheless, the effect on the entire US consumer market from this movement, when nearly 6,000 supermarkets shift for it in a few years, would be so huge, and could surpass one’s imagination.

“Peace Dining” was formally operated as “Genji Sushi”, a small sushi restaurant in Philadelphia. “Genji” entered the Whole Foods Market chain as a sushi bar section in 1997, about 20 years ago. At that time, unlike now, supermarkets that had a sushi bar were very rare. Then, the “Genji” brand grew big very quickly, and the “Peace Dining” company acquired the Genji brand in 2005. Mr. Onishi took the position as Vice President in 2011, and then became President/CEO in 2015. Then, in 2016, the company joined “Hana Group” that develops Japanese cuisine in 11 countries globally in Europe and Asia.

While promoting sustainability, Mr. Onishi has also been aggressively pushing “Market-in”, which is the customer first concept. This company has a group specialized in R&D, which develops products always with customers’ voices in mind. It is not too much to say that their products, including not only sushi made with brown rice, but sushi with brown rice and quinoa or multigrain rice, sushi under 500kcal, vegetable-only vegan sushi, non-grain Paleolithic sushi, etc., are leading the trend of the entire US food industry. They introduce at least one new product a month, and among them, sushi called “AHIMI®” made with new 100% plant origin ingredients became a recent hot topic. Also in recent years, in addition to the sushi business, they began developing globally, the “Grocerant” business, in which restaurant-quality foods are offered, expanding their categories to include izakaya and ramen businesses, and other Asian cuisine besides Japanese.

“I intend to go to the side where rules and systems are made in the future,” says Onishi. Currently, regarding seafood, it is required to abide by the standards created by the third-party certification authorities. Moreover, there are still many kinds of Japan-caught fish that have not been certified by such authorities; which leaves a possibility that you will no longer be able to sell them in the US in the future. Mr. Onishi continues, “From now on, by aggressively getting involved in the side where rules and systems are made, I would like to keep supporting the efforts of having many more kinds of Japanese fish get certified.”

“Sustainable sushi―sushi with sustainable and natural ingredients that can contribute to people’s health, should grow bigger for the society. And I feel that it is my lifework as Japanese to promote that,” says Onishi. I cannot help but keep my eyes on their future development.

(*1) In a 2015 report by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and an estimate by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries


サステナブル寿司のパイオニア『Peace Dining』
プレジデント兼CEO、大西ジョシ氏インタビュー


海外に展開する日本食店は過去10年で約3倍、約9万店舗に達したと言われ(*)、日本食人気は衰えることがない。中でも寿司は、すっかり米国人の食卓に定着したかのように思えるが、大きな変化の波が訪れようとしている。

「かつての大量生産・消費時代を経て、ヘルシーやオーガニックといった要素を取り入れないとビジネスに乗り遅れる時代に変遷したように、次には必ず、サステナビリティの重要性が高まる」と語るのは、『Peace Dining』社プレジデント兼CEOの大西ジョシ氏。同社は、全米で持ち帰り寿司やラーメン等をホールフーズ・マーケット内に『Genji』ブランドで約250店舗、その他のスーパーや社食等に『mai』ブランドで約50店舗展開する。

同社のビジネスすべてに共通する信条はサステナビリティだ。同社は米国内でISO14001を取得した初の寿司業者で、2011年には、100%サステナブルな原料調達を実現した。同社では、第三認証機関がグリーンまたはイエローと認定するサステナブルな魚種のみを調達するため、使える魚種が限られる。また、同社で使うマグロは、伝統的な一本釣りで漁獲されたもの。現在主流となっている巻き網や底引き網といった漁法(Longline)は、乱獲や混獲、海底環境の破壊につながってしまうためだ。サステナブルな原料調達を実現するのは、コストや労力がかかり、決して簡単なことではない。「現段階では、消費者のお寿司の購買理由に、サステナビリティが占める割合は20%に満たない。しかし、今、取り組まなければ、数年先には手遅れになってしまう」と大西氏。米国の二大スーパーマーケットチェーンも、それぞれ2020年・2022年までに、100%サステナブルなシーフード調達を実現すると確約している。現時点では、使える魚種が限られるという観点から、スーパーマーケットではサステナブルな寿司を実現可能だが、一般的な寿司店では実現に向けて課題が多い。しかし、数年先、約6,000店舗近いスーパーマーケットがシフトするときには、米国消費者全体に与える影響力の大きさは計り知れない。

『Peace Dining』社の前身は『Genji Sushi』。フィラデルフィアの小さな寿司店だった『Genji』が、ホールフーズ・マーケットの寿司バーとして入ったのは今から約20年前の1997年。当時、寿司バーが設置されたスーパーマーケットが今ほど存在していなかった。その後、急速に成長を遂げた『Genji』ブランドを『Peace Dining』社が取得したのが2005年のことだ。2011年に大西氏が『Peace Dining』社に副社長に就任し、2015年にプレジデント兼CEOとなる。その後、2016年に同社が、欧州やアジア11カ国でグローバルに日本食を展開する『Hana Group』に加わった。

大西氏は、サステナビリティを推進してきた一方で、 “マーケットイン”、つまり顧客重視の概念を積極的に導入してきた。同社にはR&D専門のチームがおり、常に、顧客の声を反映させた商品開発を行っている。玄米で作る寿司はもちろん、キヌアを混ぜた玄米や雑穀米で作る寿司、500キロカロリー以下に抑えた寿司、野菜だけで作るヴィーガン寿司、穀物等を使わないパレオ寿司……同社の商品は、米国食品業界全体のトレンドを牽引していると言っても過言ではない。毎月少なくとも1つは新商品を投入する中、最近では「AHIMI®」という100%植物性の新食材を使った寿司も提供し話題になっている。また、近年では、グローサリーの中でレストラン・クオリティの料理を提供する“グローサラント業態で、寿司にとどまることなく、居酒屋やラーメン、日本以外のアジア料理などへカテゴリーを拡大し、世界各国への展開も進めている。

「将来はルールやシステムを作る側を目指している」と大西氏。現段階では、サステイナブルなシーフードに関して、第三認証機関が作った基準に沿うことが求められている。また、それらの認証機関に認定されていない日本の魚種も数多く存在し、北米で販売できなくなる可能性がある。「今後、ルールやシステムを作る側に積極的に関わることで、多くの日本の魚種が認定されるようにサポートしていければと思っている」と続ける。

サステナブルでナチュラルな原料を使い、人々の健康に貢献する寿司――「サステイナブルな寿司は社会のためにもっと伸びるべき。それを広めていくことが日本人としての私のライフワークだと思っている」と語る大西氏、今後の展開から目が離せない。

*出所:2015年外務省調べ、農水省推計(88,703店)



Peace Dining Corporation
Two Penn Center JFK Blvd. Suite 725
Philadelphia, PA 19102
Tel: 215-523-5782
#alljapannews #PeaceDiningCorporation #sushi #Genji #Japanese

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A Japanese sake bar that provides at-home cooking and a relaxing space

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By Aya Ota

Sake Bar Satsko” stands like a hide-out in a corner of Alphabet City in the East Village District. As soon as you step into the space, you feel so comfortable and nostalgic, like you have just come home. You almost can’t help saying, “Tadaima (I’m Home! In Japanese). Everybody in the restaurant looks relaxed in an intimate and family-like ambience, and you cannot tell the difference between the staff and the customers.

The owner, Satsko Watanabe opened this place in 2004. The 3 years prior to the opening were periods of struggling and researching for her. While struggling with raising a child as a single mother, she worked as a database designer for a company for 25 years. Exhausted from working in the competitive and ever-changing IT industry for so long, she decided to quit, and became a home-maker.

After a year or so of being at home, she thought, “I want to do something creative like flower arrangements,” and knocked on the door of a flower shop, and made a proposal. “Please teach me flower arrangements. In return, I am willing to work for free.” For a while, she could neither learn the flower business, nor make friends with the co-workers, but she just kept going there. One day, she started to bring a lot of home-cooked dishes to give to the co-workers at lunch time. Her flower arranging skills were still not quite at an approved level, but her cooking was raved by everyone, which quickly shortened the distance between her and the co-workers. She could have kept working at the flower shop, but she was slowly realizing that what one can be most passionate about in life is eating and drinking. She thought, “New York is a lonely city. I want to create a place where people gather and relax, enjoying home-style meals and sake,” and opened a café-style restaurant. Then, obtaining a liquor license a half year later, she has been running the place as “Sake Bar Satsko” since then.

Back then, in New York, there were not many bars where mainly Japanese sake was served. Sake was not quite recognized yet, so her place was a pioneer in this field. Most of the customers were thinking that Japanese sake was meant to be served hot, so Satsko repeatedly held tasting events in order to enlighten customers with the right ways to enjoy tasty Japanese sake. They say that it is important to educate bartenders to stretch sake sales. Her restaurant has 5 bartenders, and the sake brands for which those bartenders know well, make good sales.

“Customers don’t come unless the food tastes good,” says Satsko. Although the name is “Sake Bar”, the food menu is well thought out, and their motto is to create simple dishes using fresh ingredients. For a while, the dishes, which gained positive feedback from the co-workers at the flower shop were mainly served. Later, her daughter, Amy, who was born and raised in the US, who has a keen sense in tasting foods, suggested arrangements to her mother’s original recipes, which created newly re-born dishes. Each dish is homey yet, innovative, and the tastes make one want to have more sake to go with it.

Most of the customers are acquired by word of mouth. To let Americans know, they advertise only through Google. You cannot say that the location is ideal; however, they are so popular lately, having 4 rotations on weekends, and reservations are always required. Sometimes, you see a bunch of people waiting outside. The Polaroid photos that tightly fill the interior walls used to be taken as the proof of visited customers when they were not yet popular. Now it is a laughing matter. They always try to talk to first-time customers and single visitors, which may be one of the reasons for the restaurant to provide such a comfortable ambience.

“I’d like to help our bartenders become independent and open their own places in the future,” says Satsko. Great tasting meals and sake, and a warm ambience in which customers can make friends – you should be able to see this Japanese sake community, which was created by 14 years in the making, expanding not very long
from now.


家庭的な料理とくつろげる空間を提供する日本酒バー

イーストヴィレッジ地区・アルファベットシティの一角に隠れ家のように佇む『Sake Bar Satsko』。足を一歩踏み入れた瞬間に、自分の家に帰ってきたような居心地の良さや懐かしさを感じ、おもわず「ただいま」と言ってしまいそうになる。店内では、客とスタッフの区別がつかないくらい、誰もが家族のような親密な雰囲気でくつろいでいる。

オーナーの渡邊さつ子氏が、同店を開店したのは2004年のことだ。開店に至るまでの約3年は、さつ子氏にとっては葛藤と模索の時期だった。シングルマザーとして子育てに奮闘しながら、企業のデータベースデザイナーとして約25年務めた後、競争と変化の激しいIT業界に疲弊し、仕事を離れて主婦になることを決意。

約1年、主婦をした後、「フラワーアレンジメントのようなクリエイティブなことがしたい」と思い立ち、花屋の扉を叩き、「無償で働く代わりにフラワーアレンジメントを教えてほしい」と申し出た。しばらくは、花の仕事は何も分からず、職場の人とも親しくなれず、店に通うだけの日々が続いた。ある時からさつ子氏は、家庭料理をどっさり作って職場に持参し、昼食に振る舞うようになった。花屋では、フラワーアレンジメントの能力はなかなか評価されなかったが、さつ子氏の料理をみんなが美味しいと言って食べてくれ、職場の仲間との距離も縮まっていった。そのままずっと花屋で働き続けることもできたかもしれないが、さつ子氏は、次第に、「人生で一番情熱を傾けることができるのは、食べること・飲むことだ」と気づく。そして「ニューヨークは孤独な街。人々が集まって、家庭的な食事とお酒を楽しみながら、くつろげる場所を作りたい」という想いで、カフェ開店を開店。その半年後にリカーライセンスを取得して『Sake Bar Satsko』と店名を変更し、今に至る。

当時のニューヨークには、日本酒を中心に出すバーも少なく、日本酒の認知度もまだ低かったので、同店はパイオニア的な存在だった。日本酒は熱燗で飲むものと思っている客が多く、さつ子氏は、ティスティングを繰り返し、日本酒の美味しさや飲み方を啓蒙してきた。また、日本酒の売り上げを伸ばすにはバーテンダーの教育が重要だという。同店にはバーテンダーが5人いるが、やはり、彼らが熟知している酒がよく売れるという。

「料理が美味しくないと客は来ない」とさつ子氏は語る。同店は、Sake Barと名乗っているものの、食事メニューに力を入れており、新鮮な食材を使ってシンプルに作ることをモットーにしている。開店後しばらくは、さつ子氏が花屋で働いていた時に仲間からよいフィードバックを得た料理を中心に提供してきた。その後、米国で生まれ育った娘のエイミーが、母が考案したオリジナルのレシピに、彼女の優れた食の感覚でアレンジを加え、新しい料理に生まれ変わった。どれも家庭的だが、斬新さを兼ね備え、思わず酒が進むような味付けだ。

集客はほとんど口コミ。米国人をターゲットにGoogle広告だけは出している。同店の立地は、決して地の利がよいと言える場所ではないが、最近では週末には4回転、予約をしなければ座れないほどの人気で、時には店の外に客があふれることもあるという。店内の壁にびっしり貼ってあるポラロイド写真は、まだ客が少なかった頃に、客が来た証拠として撮影し始めたものだという。今となっては、すっかり笑い話だ。初めて来る客、一人で来る客には、必ず話しかけるようにしており、それが同店の居心地の良さにつながっているのだろう。

「将来はバーテンダーたちが独立開店するのを支援していきたい」とさつ子氏。美味しい食事と酒、そして、客同士がすぐに友達になれるような暖かい雰囲気――14年かけて創り上げてきたこの日本酒コミュニティが広がる日も、そう遠くないに違いない。



Sake Bar Satsko
202 East 7th Street
New York, NY 10009
Tel: 212-614-0933
https://www.satsko.com/
Sun.-Thurs. 5:00pm-2:00am
Fri. & Sat. 5:00pm-4:00am
#alljapannews #sakebarsatsko #athome #NY #sushi #tempura

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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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Building a new era of sushi culture in the capital, Washington DC

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Building a new era of sushi cu... Building a new era of sushi cu... Building a new era of sushi cu... Building a new era of sushi cu... Building a new era of sushi cu... Building a new era of sushi cu...
By Aya Ota

Washington DC is the nation’s capital, and the center of international politics. In such a city where top-ranked people from all over the world gather, there is a restaurant which offers traditional Edomae style sushi, and wows gourmet customers. It is “Sushi Ogawa”, which is highly appraised by numerous media outlets since its opening in February of 2016, as a place where you can have top-class sushi of not only DC, but of the whole US.

Minoru Ogawa, the owner/chef, was born and raised in a sushi artisan family where his father and older brother were both sushi chefs. He is a veteran of a 40-year career as a sushi chef. He went to Washington DC in 1986 to open a branch of a prominent high-end Japanese restaurant in Hirakawa—cho (Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo). The time was in the middle of bubble economy era, and he was demonstrating his great skills daily in front of Japanese politicians and government officials who were visiting DC. After that, he went back to Japan, and went back to the US in 2006 as a master sushi chef of Mandarin Oriental Group. While managing their sushi division of the entire US, he entertained their customers with his creative and gorgeous presentations of sushi.

After that, after returning home for the second time, independence in 2013. "Sushi Capitol" opened in Capitol Hill district of Washington DC.

In Sushi Capitol, in addition to an Omakase-style sushi menu, many a-la-carte items such as sushi rolls, karaage, and tempura are also served.

 There is no mistake in regarding Mr. Ogawa as one of the history-making pioneers in the past transition of Japanese cuisine popularization in the US. I cannot help but noticing the arrival of a new era of Japanese cuisine in the US, seeing the opening of this long-awaited authentic Edomae style sushi restaurant in DC by such a pioneer, Ogawa, named under his own. He explains the reason for the decision to open this restaurant this time as follows: “I was convinced that American customers had grown to appreciate authenticity more.”

In this restaurant, only Omakase-style dishes are served. Chef Ogawa wants customers to enjoy just sushi to the fullest. The typical course consists of 3 appetizers, sashimi, 10 pieces of Nigiri, soup and a dessert. No other typical Japanese dishes such as California rolls, Karaage, Udon, etc. are served. The seafood ingredients are Japan-caught, and air-transported daily. He is very particular about the quality and freshness of the ingredients, and uses 3 different distributors. Each ingredient is prepared in the most appropriate way. He makes sushi rice with the utmost care, generously using high-quality rice, vinegar, and salt. He also serves sushi with freshly-ground wasabi and house-made Nikiri-shoyuwith perfect timing.

Chef Ogawa’s thoughts are represented also in the restaurant location and interior designs. It is built in a quiet residential area where many foreign ambassadors reside, but is not considered to be very convenient. People gather purely just to taste good sushi. The approach to the entrance from the street, the corridor that stretches straight from the entrance door, the counter seats that are divided from other spaces, etc. are hidden from outside, and appear somewhat mysterious. The sushi eating experience at “Sushi Ogawa” feels like a series of sacred rituals.

Ungreedy Ogawa says, “I just keep making tasty sushi seriously and diligently” It is surprising that they can offer this authentic quality sushi omakase starting as low as less than $100. It is easy to understand that 50% of their customers are repeaters. They collect customers only by word of mouth, but no advertisement. When “Sushi Capitol” opened in 2013, it took half a year to get on the right direction. However, “Sushi Ogawa” took only 3 weeks to start filling the restaurant with reservations.

Due to Sushi Ogawa’s success, the coming of a few more authentic Edomae sushi restaurants in Washington DC are in progress. Their second restaurant is also in progress by request. I would like you to please visit “Sushi Ogawa” that will likely keep making histories in the Capital, Washington DC.


首都ワシントンDCで鮨の新時代を築

アメリカの首都で国際政治の中心地、ワシントンDC。世界各国から政財界の大物が集まるこの場所で、正統派の江戸前鮨を提供し、食通の客をうならせる店がある。『鮨 小川』——2016年2月に開店以来、数々のメディアから、“ワシントンDC内のみならず全米トップクラスの鮨を食べられる”と、賞賛を浴びている。

オーナー兼料理長の小川稔氏は、父親も兄も鮨職人という家系に生まれ育ち、鮨職人歴も40年以上という大ベテランだ。鮨職人として最初にワシントンDCへやってきたのが1986年、平河町にある屈指の高級料亭の出店に伴ってのこと。当時はバブル経済の真っ只中で、日本からワシントンDCを訪れる政治家や官庁関係者を相手に、日々腕を振るった。いったん帰国後、マンダリン・オリエンタル・グループのマスター鮨シェフとして2006年に再渡米、全米の鮨部門を統括。創意工夫にあふれた華やかな鮨で客を楽しませた。その後、二度目の帰国を経て、2013年に独立、ワシントンDCのキャピトルヒル地区に『Sushi Capitol』を開店。ここでは、おまかせ鮨を提供しつつも、巻物や唐揚げ・天ぷらなどの前菜も数多く用意している。
 
間違いなく、小川氏は、米国での日本食普及の変遷を見て、その歴史を作ってきた一人と言っていいだろう。その小川氏が、満を持して、自身の名前を冠につけた正統派の江戸前鮨店をこの地に開店したことで、日本食の新時代が訪れたことを認識せざるを得ない。「アメリカ人客がより本物志向になったのを実感したから」——小川氏は同店開店理由を語る。

「鮨だけを心ゆくまで堪能してほしい」という小川氏の想いから、メニューはおまかせのみ。前菜3種盛り合わせ、刺身、にぎり鮨10巻、お吸い物、デザートという構成だ。カリフォルニアロールのような巻物や、唐揚げ、うどんといった、ほかのメニューは一切提供していない。魚介類は、日本産の天然魚を毎日空輸で取り寄せる。品質の高さと鮮度にこだわり、業者を3社使うほどのこだわりようで、それぞれのネタに最適な下ごしらえを施す。コメはもちろん、酢や塩に至るまで、高品質な日本産食材を惜しげもなく使い、細心の注意を払いコメを作る。そして、おろし立ての本わさびと手作りの煮きり醤油を適量つけ、絶妙な間合いで鮨を出してくれる。

小川氏の想いは、店の立地や内装にも現れている。店は、各国大使が多く住む閑静な住宅街にひっそりと佇み、決して便利とは言えない立地。純粋に、同店で鮨を食べたいという目的のためだけに客がやってくる。歩道から入口までのアプローチ、扉を開けてからまっすぐ伸びる廊下、他の空間とは仕切られたカウンター席……店内の様子は外から伺い知ることはできず、どこか秘密めいた印象がある。『鮨 小川』で鮨を食べる体験は、まるで一連の神聖な儀式のようにすら感じられる。

「美味しい鮨をまじめにコツコツ作っているだけ」と小川氏は欲がない。これだけ本格的な内容にも関わらず、100ドルという値段設定にも驚かされる。客の50%がリピーターということも納得だ。一切宣伝をせず、集客は口コミだけ。2013年に『Sushi Capitol』開店したときには、火が付くまでに半年かかったという。『鮨 小川』開店時は、3週間足らずで予約客で埋まるようになったという。
 
同店の成功を受け、今後、ワシントンDCには、正統派江戸前店の出店がいくつか進行しているという。同店もまた、2号店の開店を依頼され準備中という。今後も、首都ワシントンDCで新しい歴史を刻んでいくであろう『鮨 小川』、ぜひ足を運んでみてほしい。



Sushi Ogawa
2100 Connecticut Avenue NW #100
Washington, DC 20008
Tel: 202-813-9715
http://sushiogawa.com

Lunch Monday-Friday  12-2:30PM
Monday-Saturday  5 – 10:30PM
Closed on Sunday
#alljapannews #sushi #washingtonDC #ogawa

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Ramen and sushi by a Sri Lankan chef

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By Keiko Fukuda

“I have a recent favorite ramen restaurant. You can have sushi with fresh ingredients there too,” said a friend of mine. It is Ramen Spott in Torrance. My friend continued, “I heard that their owner/chef is not Japanese, but the taste is authentic.” I got interested even more.

I checked their website. Surprisingly, there are 18 different kinds of ramen dishes. The fabulous lineup that contains tonkotsu, yuzu-shio, veggie, and nira-moyashi makes you hungry. I got an appointment to interview the owner/chef, Duke Sanji on a later day. He said, “There were only 10 (kinds of ramen dishes) when I opened the restaurant 2 years ago. The current number has been reached after receiving requests from the customers. New items were developed and added to the menu one by one.” Mr. Sanji is from Sri Lanka. After graduating from college, he got a diploma from a cooking school. He then worked at the Hilton Hotel in Colombo, Sri Lanka as a sushi chef. Then, he gained authentic Japanese cuisine experience for 3 years, and then worked at various hotels as a chef in Kuwait, Dubai, etc.

After working as a head chef at a Japanese restaurant in Los Angeles, he opened Sushi Duke in 2006 in Hermosa Beach, and then in Redondo Beach. He made his restaurants grow to be popular places filled with many regular customers with his skills in cooking that reflect his long experience. However, the Redondo Beach restaurant was forced to close due to a fire in the neighborhood. After that, he opened a ramen specialty restaurant called Ramen Spott in Torrance near the beach. He then decided to run only this one restaurant, Ramen Spott, and added a sushi menu. When you think of it, it seems like there are some, but there are actually not really any Japanese restaurants where you can enjoy both ramen and sushi at the same place.

As introduced earlier in this article, there are 18 different ramen dishes on the menu. Sanji says, “Yuzu Shio and Nira Moyashi are particularly popular among Japanese customers, and Tonkotsu Black Garlic is also popular. I also want to recommend Seafood Shio, Spicy Miso, and Coconut ramen.” So many recommendations make it difficult to choose, but their lunch time special can be a happy solution. A set that includes a ramen of your choice with salad and fried rice is $7.50. You may be able to find your favorite ramen by trying a different ramen in the set each time you visit for lunch. There is an even better deal, which is $5 ramen as a lunch time special. However, for this deal, you can choose only one kind of ramen set as the weekly special.

On a later day, I visited again during lunch time. I ordered a lunch time special that consisted of basic shoyu ramen. It was a set menu that came with very satisfying fried rice and salad with original dressing. The ramen noodles matched perfectly with the soup. The tasty cooked egg topping gave a good impression.

Ramen is not everything here. You should really try their sushi. As mentioned earlier, Sanji started as a sushi chef. He created the sushi menu with his own eyes and tastes. He serves a wide variety of sushi dishes with fresh ingredients. The signature rolls with names like Sanji Beach, Sanji Special, etc. are also receiving good reviews.

I asked Sanji what his motto is. He said, “I want to serve the kind of Japanese food that is not easy to get here in the US. I also want to cook things that I want to eat myself.” I must say that with such a case in which you can enjoy delicious Japanese cuisine by a non-Japanese chef, you can really say that Japanese cuisine has truly become global.


スリランカ人シェフが手がけるラーメンと寿司

「最近、お気に入りのラーメン屋さんがある。新鮮なネタの寿司も食べられる」と友人が教えてくれた。トーランスにあるラーメンスポットだ。友人は続けて「オーナーシェフは日本人ではないらしいが、本格的な味」と言った。ますます興味を引かれた。

ウェブサイトを見ると、ラーメンの種類、実に18。とんこつからゆず塩、ベジー、ニラもやしと見ているだけで食欲をそそるラインナップだ。後日、取材のアポを取り付けて話を聞いたオーナーシェフのデューク・サンジさんによると、「2年前に店を開けた時は(ラーメンの種類は)10種だった。その後、お客さんの要望を受けて、次々にメニューを開発、現在の数にまで増えた」ということだ。

サンジさんはスリランカ生まれ。大学卒業後に料理学校を修了し、スリランカ、コロンボにあるヒルトンホテルに寿司シェフとして就職した。さらに、本場、日本で3年間、和食の経験を積んだ後に、クウェート、ドバイをはじめとする各地のホテルを料理人として渡り歩いた。

アメリカ、ロサンゼルスでも日本食の店でヘッドシェフを務めた後に、2006年、ハモサビーチ、続いてレドンドビーチにスシ・デュークを開店した。シェフとしての長年の経験を生かした料理で、常連を中心に賑わう店に成長。しかし、近隣店舗による火事の延焼で、レドンドビーチの店の休業を余儀なくされた。その後、ビーチに近いトーランスでラーメン店としてラーメンスポットをオープン。そして、経営する店をラーメンスポット1店に絞り、寿司をメニューに加えることにしたそうだ。考えてみれば、日本食の店でラーメンと寿司の両方を味わえる所はありそうでほとんど思い浮かばない。

ラーメンは前述のように18種類揃う。「日本人のお客さんにはゆず塩やニラもやしが人気。とんこつ・ブラックガーリックもよく出ます。シーフード、スパイシー味噌、ココナッツラーメンもおすすめです」とサンジさん。そこまで言われると迷ってしまうが、そういう時に嬉しいのがランチタイム・スペシャルだ。好きなラーメンとサラダとチャーハンがセットになって、7ドル50セント。何度かランチタイムに訪れて、様々なラーメンを試すことで、自分好みの味を発見できるかもしれない。さらに破格なスペシャルとして、ランチタイムのみ、5ドルのラーメンも登場。ただし、こちらは週替わりでどれか1種類のラーメンとなる。

後日、ランチタイムに同店を訪れた。ベーシックな醤油ラーメンのランチタイム・スペシャルをオーダー。満足感が高いチャーハンにオリジナルドレッシングがかかったサラダ、そして麺とスープが絶妙に絡まったラーメンがセットになっている。味が染みた煮卵が印象的だ。

そして、ラーメンだけでは終わらない。ここで試すべきは寿司だ。寿司シェフからスタートし、自分の目とセンスで選んだ新鮮な食材で顧客に提供される寿司のメニューもまた豊富。サンジビーチ、サンジスペシャルと名前が付いたシグネチャーロールの評判も高い。

サンジさんに料理人としてのモットーを聞くと、「ここアメリカでなかなか食べられない日本食を出したいですね。それに何よりも自分で食べたいと思える料理を作りたい」と答えた。このように日本人以外のシェフによる美味しい日本食が食べられるようになってこそ、日本食が真にグローバルな存在になったと言えるのではないだろうか。



Ramen Spot
25412 Crenshaw Blvd., Torrance CA 90505
(310)530-3900
https://www.ramenspott.com

Mon.-Sun.
11:30-14:00
17:00-23:00
Closed on Wednesday
#alljapannews #ramen #sushi #LA #SriLankan #RamenSpot

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