A Day in Sacramento: Big On Japan

Today my friend and I drove up North to attend the Sacramento International Film Festival. As part of CineAsia we had the rare opportunity to watch two Japanese American films back to back. Little Tokyo Reporter is a short period piece about a journalist and his Japanese community in Los Angeles. Model Minority is a feature film by Lily Mariye (well know for her role on the tv show ER) and is the story about a young mixed race teenager growing up around drugs and alcohol. Although both films were quite different, they were both excellent and both films featured my friend and Academy Award winner, Chris Tashima.

So after a day of watching Japanese American films, it put my friend and I in the mood for Japanese food. Being Sunday, we found that many Japanese restaurants in the area were closed. We settled for Taro’s by Mikuni. Mikuni’s has a chain of popular restaurants in the Sacramento area. Fortunate for us, Mikuni’s is celebrating 25 years and was offering special four course meals for two for $40. We had a full page of choices to choose from.
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Our first course was BBQ white tuna which were large chunks of seared white tuna and served with two sauces, a creamy yellow sauce and a tangy spicy red sauce. It was quite tasty.
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Our second course was Albacore Pepperfin which were thin slices of albacore tuna in a citrus seasoned soy dressing topped with jalapeƱos and sesame seeds. The jalapeƱos greatly complemented the tuna.
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The third course was a choice of two rolls. My friend picked the Rainbow roll, which was essentially a California roll wrapped with tuna, salmon, and yellowtail.
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I chose the Una-Cali roll which was a Californian roll topped with eel. For the two rolls, they used crab legs.
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Our forth and last course was a selection of three flavors of mochi. We chose strawberry, green tea, and coffee. Between the mochi and watching the Golden State Warriors win again, Taro’s by Mikuni was a nice way to end the evening in Sacramento.
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The House: A Kitchen You Can Count On

The House is a small restaurant located in North Beach in San Francisco. I can’t remember the first time I ate there because it was close to twenty years ago. I do however remember what I had as an entree. It was the same entree I had on my most recent visit.

My friend and I shared two appetizers, one we were familiar with and one which was new to us. The blue lake green bean tempura is always yummy. Whenever I order vegetable tempura at a Japanese restaurant, I tend to get a variety of vegetables and maybe one measly string bean. This is my way of getting my green bean fix. They are light, crispy, and delicious.
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I don’t know a lot of people who like chicken liver, but since my friend also does, we ordered the deep fried chicken liver with baby greens. Essentially, this was a salad with a few chunks of fried chicken liver. We mutually agreed that it was mediocre. Next time I will go back to ordering the deep fried salmon rolls. Those are always excellent.
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So what continues to bring me back to the House is the grilled sea bass with garlic ginger soy. This perfectly grilled fish is light and when dipped into the soy is pure deliciousness. It also comes with a choice of rice or garlic noodles. Get the garlic noodles as they are some of the best I have had. I am still trying to replicate it at home. More green beans come with this dish and lucky for my it’s one of my favorite vegetables.
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My friend also tends to order the sea bass, but since she was at the House fairly recently, she asked for curry noodles with grilled chicken. This is on their lunch menu, but they were open to making it for her as a dinner entree. This is a rich, flavorful dish and one of her favorites.
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We were too full for dessert, but I don’t recommend that you skip this course. The food at the House is consistent and you can count on being comforted by your meal.

The Ramen Shop: Making Ramen Trendy in Oakland

The Ramen Shop joins a long list of Oakland restaurants who’s chef owners trained in the Chez Panisse kitchen. Other restaurants/bakeries include Cosecha, Bakesale Betty, Oliveto, Boot and Shoe Service, Camino, and Pizzaiola.
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Last night my BFF and I arrived at the Ramen Shop for a late night meal. The restaurant has a cool vibe with hip music. On weekends they stay open until midnight. We arrived after 9pm and waited about 25 minutes to be seated at their restaurant bar. It was nice to be able to have a view of the preparation and cooking.
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We started with an appetizer to share. We picked the fried rice which came with pork and sardines. My BFF thought this dish may have been influenced by the Chinese fried rice dish that is made with chicken and salty fish. We both loved it. The flavors were bold and exotic and I liked the consistency and textures of the ingredients.
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We each got our own bowl of ramen. They make their noodles in house. My BFF ordered the ramen that came with clams, pork, seaweed, and half a soft boiled egg. The broth was light and was likely a seafood base.
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My bowl of ramen had a miso based soup which is thicker in consistency and came with black cod, pork, and half a soft boiled egg. The egg in both our bowls were steeped in a soy mirin mixture that gives it extra flavor.
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The bowls of noodles at the Ramen Shop are priced at about $15. Some may say that is not worth the price of a bowl of noodles. You do get high quality ingredients and it is worth the price for me when my alternative is Orenchi in Santa Clara, a long trek away. The Ramen Shop is making ramen trendy in Oakland.

Exploring Louisville, Kentucky: Part II

The Scottish are known for their Scotch and the Russians are known for their Vodka. The United States, specifically the State of Kentucky, is known for its Bourbon. The State actually produces about 95% of the distilled spirit.

Bourbon is made from at least 51 percent corn and aged in new charred oak barrels. It must be bottled at a minimum of 80 proof (40% alcohol by volume). It doesn’t necessarily have to be produced in Kentucky, but it does need to be made in the United States.
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While I was in Kentucky, I participated in a little bourbon tasting. I had a choice of tasting three sweet bourbons or three oaky tasting bourbons. I went with the latter. I was first offered Town Branch Bourbon. The flavor was very oaky and woody. Next came Ridgemont Reserve 1792. It was full bodied and smooth. The bourbon was named after the year that Kentucky became a State. The final tasting was Eagle Rare which the bartender said was the most favorite. It is aged for a minimum of ten years. The flavor was bold and had a dry finish. Not having a lot of experience with bourbon, I liked the Ridgemont Reserve 1792 the best.

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If you are really into Bourbon, there is the Kentucky Bourbon Trail where you could visit seven bourbon distilleries in about three days time. The tours provide education on the bourbon making process as well as bourbon tastings. Another option is to visit Kentucky in mid September for the Kentucky Bourbon Festival which are six days of bourbon, food, and entertainment.