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Posts Tagged ‘Japanese’

Soto, New York City, United States

January 1, 2013 Leave a comment

My first visit to Soto, a Japanese restaurant in Lower Manhattan, was actually in April 2012. It was so impressive that I went back with the “usual suspects” of food friends in October, the Saturday before that superstorm Sandy hit Manhattan.

The restaurant was not easy to find, as there was no sign or name outside to indicate the location of the restaurant. So if you do ever visit this place, remember it’s number 357!

The menu was extensive and served a whole range of dishes that sounded delicious enough without even sampling them! The four of us decided to pick with the dishes we really wanted to try, and then go for another round of ordering afterwards – if there were any dishes in the first round of ordering that were really exceptional, we could just ask for another portion in the second round.

(1) Fluke Ponzu (Thinly sliced fluke with chive, shiso leaf, ginger shoots, scallion, under mizore ponzu sauce) was fresh and worked well with the citrousy ponzu sauce.

(2) Goma Tofu (Black sesame and white sesame tofu, served with wasabi soy sauce and soy form) had a silky smooth texture with a rather delicate soy sauce.

Fluke Ponzu Goma Tofu

(3)  Uni Tempra with Uni Powder (Deep fried sashimi quality sea urchin in tempura batter, flavoured with home-made uni powder)  was interesting with the sea urchin just melting in the mouth. A first dish that won our hearts and got a repeat in round two of ordering.

(4) Sea Trout Carpaccio (Cured sea trout with black truffle sea salt, chive and caviar, served with watercress with miso mustard sauce and sesame) was so fresh it was almost like eating by the sea. Another dish we simply had to repeat in the second round.

Uni Tempra with Uni Powder Sea Trout Carpaccio

(5) Chawan Mushi (Traditional organic egg custard soup with shrimp, chicken, shiitake mushroom, mitsuba, gingko nuts and yuzu zest) tasted a little bland at the start but the flavour grew with every mouthful of it, and finished off to a very nice memorable taste.

(6) Botan Ebi Tartare (Chopped botan ebi sweet shrimp with fresh ginger, topped with uni served with shiitake dashi broth) had the expected sweet taste of the shrimp. However there was too much of a ginger taste.

Chawan Mushi Chawan Mushi

(7) Uni and Yuba (Black soy bean milk skin with finest uni, served with shiitake broth)  was one of the very few disappointing dishes – a lack of flavour of any kind.

(8) Tuna Tartare ( Chopped big eye tuna with pine nuts, asian pear, cucumber, scallion, sesame seed in spicy sesame sauce) was like a fish version of the Korean Yuk Hwe (raw beef), and it was delicious with a nice hint of spiciness.

Uni and Yuba Tuna Tartare

(9) Uzaku (Broiled fresh water eel with tosa vinegar and sweet eel sauce, garnished with japanese cucumber) was the third winning dish for us. The sweetness of the sauce coupled with the delicious eel meant that we simply had to order another one to make sure it was that good – and it was!

(10) Steamed Lobster with Uni Mousse (Layers of steamed Maine lobster and uni mousse in lotus wrap, garnished with smoked uni and caviar) was so beautifully presented that it left us staring at the dish for quite a while, wondering who would have the courage to ruin the piece of edible artwork in front of our eyes. However, the meat of the lobster was a little too cold (maybe we should have stared at the dish for longer to let the meat warm up a bit more) but the sweetness of the uni mousse really lifted the flavour of the dish.

Uzaku Steamed Lobster with Uni Mousse

(11) Uni Ika Sugomori Zukuri (Sea urchin wrapped in thinly sliced squid with shiso, served with quail egg and tosa soy reduction) was interesting enough though it lacked the flavour somewhat, which surprised me because I was expecting the sweetness of the sea urchin and the soft-boiled quail egg would really come through in this dish.

Uni Ika Sugomori Zukuri

(12) Tartare Tuna Roll (Spicy tuna tartare with asian pear, cucumber, avocado, sesame, pine nuts, scallion wrapped in white kelp) had an extremely creamy texture and easily one of the best tuna rolls ever.

(13) We also had a few pieces of nigiri sushi: Maguro (blue fin tuna from Massachusetts) and Zuwaigani (snow crab from Nova Scotia) were good but not that impressive, while the Anago (sea eel from Nagasaki) had a very slick texture and was absolutely delicious.

Tartare Tuna Rol Maguro Zuwaigani Anago

(14) To finish the meal off, it’s a selection of ice-cream mochi. Pleasant and light enough as a dessert.

Mochi

For a restaurant of this high calibre in the middle of Manhattan, the price was not ridiculously expensive. If anything, even with sake thrown into the meal, it cost no more than USD100 per person which was very reasonable indeed. I usually find Japanese restaurants that are Michelin-star-rated in the Western world rather disappointing, but Soto has proven that this is not always the case – if anything, it has become one of my favourite restaurants in New York City for sure.

Address:  357, 6th Avenue, Manhattan, New York City , United States
Telephone: +1 (212)-414-3088
Website: www.sotonyc.com

Opening Hours: Monday-Saturday 5:45-11:45 pm

Food: 9/10
Ambience: 5/5
Service: 4/5
Total: 18/20 [Based on visit in October 2012]

Uma Restaurant, Berlin, Germany

April 27, 2011 Leave a comment

I was in Berlin for a conference and I just felt anti-social one evening, so I decided to go out on my own and find a restaurant to spend a quiet evening. Uma caught my attention with its Western-Japanese fusion cuisine. The location was very convenient also – it was just on the southern side of the Hotel Adlon Kempinski by the Brandenburg Gate.

The decor was impressive, with a Chinese clay horse presiding right in the middle of the restaurant. However the restaurant itself was like a death-trap, with the low lighting and the unexpected steps scattered around.

There were many choices on the menu to satisfy most people. Some dishes are more South-East Asian than Japanese, but there’s one theme throughout – there’s always a Westernised twist to the dishes. It took me a while to decide what to have, as there were just too many dishes I wanted to try.

The amuse-bouche was Cucumber Mousse & Lemongrass Foam with Paprika – the mixture of hot and cool (both in temperature and flavour) was interesting: the spicyness of the paprika combined with the coolness of cucumber, covered by a thick layer of foam.

My first course was Aubergine with Teriyaki Sauce and Bonita Flakes. When the waitress proudly presented the dish to me, I said to her that I didn’t order the Japanese pizza, but aubergine. She then said “oh really?” Well, yes! Suspiciously enough, my aubergine dish turned up a short while afterwards. The mistake was forgiven as the fish was flavoursome and the aubergine was nicely cooked through. Very enjoyable.

The main course was Black Cod with Yuzu and Ginger. The wonderful fragrance of the dish was let down by the uneven cooking of the fish – part of it was too dry while another part was fine. The flavour was also not evenly distributed, resulting in some parts of the fish with overpowering taste. I ordered a bowl of steamed rice to go with the fish – there was a generous sprinkle of sesame on top of the rice which was certainly not Japanese rice – American long-grain perhaps?

For dessert, I ordered Liquid Chocolate Souffle with Green Tea & Vanilla Ice-Cream. Not really a Japanese dessert in any way, but at least the souffle had a nice gooey liquid chocolate centre. So it was a satisfying finish to the meal.

On the whole, the food was good – it was really just been let down by the fish and the rice. Service was good though the attitude of the waitresses could have come across a little less cold – it’s not as if they were rude or anything, just lacking that welcoming friendliness in a Japanese place.

Address: Behrenstraße 72, 10117 Berlin, Germany
Telephone:  +49 30 30 11 17 324
Website: www.uma-restaurant.de

Opening Hours: Monday – Saturday: 18.00 – 23.00

Food: 7/10
Ambience: 4/5
Service: 3/5
Total: 14/20 [Based on visit in October 2010]

Dinings, London, United Kingdom

Last week I paid another visit to Dinings, the small Japanese restaurant opened by ex-Nobu chef and tucked away on a quiet street in Marylebone in London. My colleague from the States is a real sushi fan, and after taking her to Sushi-Hiro in Ealing last time, I had a difficult task to impress her with another good sushi eatery.

On a previous visit I had the tar-tar chips, essentially mini taco chips filled with avocado, crab or salmon, and with a spicy mayonnaise or creamy jalapeno sauce. This time I recommended it to my colleague, even though it’s not really my favourite but I can see why it’s special and the westerners would like it.

We ordered a variety of sushi, some from the menu and some from the specials board. One of the specials was the seabass sushi topped with cherry blossom salt – no need to dip in any soy sauce. It was delicious – the freshness of the fish combined with the delicate taste of the salt worked magic. Another special that we ordered was sea urchin with poached quail egg sushi – never in a million year would I think to combine these 2 ingredients together, but the flavour of the sea urchin blended in so well with the sweetness and gooeyness of the quail egg. It’s genius! My colleague opted to leave the best till last, and that was a bad mistake – when the quail egg had gone cold, that wow factor disappeared. We tried to order a second round (I was that impressed with it that I didn’t mind someone else coming up with an excuse to have another one) but, alas, they ran out of quail eggs and it’s no longer available.

We also had the spider (soft shell crab) rolls – the soft shell crab was nice and crispy. We also opted for my usual favourite salmon skin sushi roll.

As if that wasn’t enough, we also ordered some nasu miso (miso-grilled aubergine) – it was perfectly cooked and the flavour was just right. We also ordered grilled rasor clams with asparagus – that was delicious also. I deliberately chose not to order the black cod as the one i had in the previous visit was a bit disappointing – I think the use of chilli in cooking the black cod didn’t really bring out the flavour.

On the whole, we had a really enjoyable visit. My colleague was trying to find the words to describe the food here, and in the end we agreed that “taste sensation” summed the meal up pretty accurately.


 

Address: 22 Harcourt Street, London, W1H 4HH , United Kingdom
Telephone: +44 (0)20 7723 0666
Website: www.dinings.co.uk

Opening Hours: Monday-Friday 12pm-3pm, 6pm-11pm;  Saturday-Sunday 6pm-11pm

Food: 9/10
Ambience: 4/5
Service: 4/5
Total: 17/20 [Based on visit in February 2010 ]