I Dream of Sushi

I recently met my BFF at Angel Fish in Alameda for dinner. Sushi is always a good choice on a hot day and Alameda is usually a bit cooler as well. My BFF has been a regular at Angel Fish for almost two decades. Every time I have dined at Angel Fish, I have enjoyed it very much. Come to think of it, it is one of my favorite neighborhood sushi restaurants, even though it is not my neighborhood. The fish is always fresh and the prices are reasonable.

So first I have to admit I was late for dinner. My BFF had already gotten us seats at the sushi bar and ordered some nigiri at happy hour prices. From 5pm- 6pm, there are some specials, so she ordered the hamachi (yellowtail), sake (salmon), and maguro (red tuna). I was so delayed that she had to eat my portion. It was fine by me as I wouldn’t want raw fish sitting too long. When I arrived, I ordered my own serving of salmon. It was fresh and delicious as expected.
It was my first time having agemono. I loved everything about these deep fried tempura lobster bites. With a splash of lemon, I’m in heaven. One of the best things about Angel Fish is that it doesn’t always have to be about the raw items. They have a nice variety of cooked items that are unique and creative.
We ordered amaebi which I did not photograph. It’s not my favorite item, but I do like consuming the crispy fried shrimp head. Toro is one of the most expensive fish. When this fatty tuna belly is available at Angel Fish, you really should get it. It was so buttery, it melted in my mouth.  
Some other patrons ordered the cha soba so we decided we would share this as well. Cold noodles are a perfect choice on a hot evening. To enjoy this dish, you would dip soba noodles and seaweed into a sauce where you would first mix in minced daikon, green onions, and a quail egg.
One of my favorite things to eat is an unagi hand roll. With the added texture of cucumber and avocado, this is the perfect bite to me.  
Although Chef Taka still had a few pieces of uni out, he purposefully opened up a brand new box of uni for us. The opening of this box of imported uni from Japan really made our day.  
The uni was elegantly placed on top of a shiso leaf and rice and came with crispy roasted seaweed on the side.
In front of me in the sushi case was tamago that I had been eyeing throughout the course of the evening. I was relaying my limited experience and enjoyment of tamago. Typically, not a favorite of my BFF, we decided we would try it. We learned that Chef Taka makes this deliciousness every other day.

It was a great light dinner and we decided we would start dining at Angel Fish together once a month. I’m already dreaming about it.

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Thirty Minute Omakase: New York City

Before going on a trip, I usually do a lot of research and draft a list of eateries I want to try and then I make a few reservations. This was not the case on my trip to the East Coast last week. The main reason I was traveling was to March on Washington. I was going to spend a few days in New York and decided to mostly wing it. I did remember being intrigued a few months back by a food photo on Instagram taken in New York City. It was a picture of uni from Sushi on Jones and was taken from @infatuation_nyc.  I took a red eye flight from Oakland International Airport to John F Kennedy Airport. I was lucky to check into my hotel early in the morning and took a nap. Around 1:30pm, I decided to walk around and get some lunch. I was staying in Midtown and Sushi on Jones was about two miles away in the East Village. I was going to wing it and made my way downtown on foot.  

The concept for Sushi on Jones is thirty minute omakase. I arrived at Sushi on Jones about 2:30pm. I spoke through a small window like I was talking to a gas attendant. I was asked if I wanted to be seated for omakase. I said yes and was told to give him a few minutes. A couple minutes later, two people come out of a clear plastic door. I walked in and entered into the outdoor sushi bar with four chairs, two of which were empty. I took a seat. I also removed my coat since there were heat lamps above me. It was quite cozy so I said hello to my neighbors.
I was embarrassed, but had the courage to let the sushi chef know that I did not want any wasabi. One at a time, I was given a beautiful piece of sushi. I was quick to take a photo, dip the sushi in some soy sauce, and eat. In a matter of seconds, the next piece was in front of me. I would repeat my actions. After about four pieces, I forgot to take photos and just dipped and ate.  
I get mad at myself when I forget to take photos. I am not sure what happened. It may have been when the customers next to me transitioned. When I noticed, of course, I restarted the photography. Apparently there were twelve pieces total. You could order any of the pieces a la carte. I added the uni/wagyu hand roll on the menu.  
In general, the quality of the sushi was great at Sushi on Jones. It was all very fresh and melted in my mouth. Although I did not time myself, I did not feel rushed and was probably done within thirty minutes. I could probably have eaten a lot more sushi as well, but I was already spending a lot for lunch. If you want quality sushi and want it quick, Sushi on Jones does the trick. To make a same day reservation, text (917) 270-1815. The concept has been such a success that I heard they are installing their second sushi bar in Midtown soon. I think the idea of thirty minute omakase would do very well in the Bay Area.

Kiraku: Japanese Tapas in Berkeley

 

My coworker introduced me to Kiraku, a small Japanese tapas restaurant  on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley.  She recently had dinner there and was texting me photos as the food was being served.  I was intrigued.  My friend who lives in Palo Alto was happy to make the drive to eat there with me last week.   Here’s what we had in the order that it came out.

I was in love at first site with this beautiful spoonful of uni, ikura, and yuba.  It tasted fresh and had a subtle flavor of the sea.  

 

We had the homemade tofu that was topped with seaweed, bonito flakes, and green onions.  Although the presentation was pretty, it was cold and bland and not what either of us expected.  We should’ve had the agedashi tofu instead.

 

The beef tataki was lightly seared on the outside and thinly sliced.  The beef was very tender and was complimented with a citrus flavored sauce.  It was my absolute favorite plate of the evening.

 The corn tempura is clusters of kernel corn that is battered and deep fried and tossed with green tea salt.  This is a very popular dish.  It was good, but I think I expected a wow.

My friend who is obsessed with foie gras ordered the foie gras with daikon.  I remember my last hurrah with foie gras before the California ban in 2012 and decided to keep those memories as my last.  My friend really enjoyed this dish.  I tasted the sauce and the daikon and thought that was lovely.  

 

The roast duck came out next.  It was perfectly sliced with each piece having crispy skin.  However I thought it was a tad over cooked which made it taste boring.

 

The organic chicken karaage was something my coworker had recommended.  I had no problem ordering it because I love fried chicken.  I liked the coating, but thought it fell a bit flat.  

 

We ended our meal with my favorite sashimi, salmon.  This was the perfect ending being that it was fresh and light.  

 My coworker would probably disagree on the perfect ending because one of her favorite things she had at Kiraku was their homemade grapefruit yogurt ice cream.  Me and my friend opted to drive to Ici instead.  There are a lot more items on the Kiraku menu that I am interested in trying so I’m sure I’ll be back soon. 

Sushi in San Diego

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I was in San Diego last week and realized that it has been twenty years since I moved down there for graduate school. How time flies and how things have changed. Twenty years ago I didn’t eat sushi. Back then, I even had a part-time job as a waitress at a restaurant called Sushi-Ya. As an employee, I had the benefit of half-off, but used it for teriyaki, not sushi. I wish I could use that benefit today, because I eat a lot of sushi now.

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My friend recommended Sushi Ota, so I made reservations for two at the sushi bar. With good sushi places, my friend and I have been experiencing omakase meals. We were a little disappointed in the omakase, but we were served some amazing sushi worth talking about.

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We had a global trio of sashimi. The uni is local from San Diego, the amberjack came from Japan, and the toro came from Spain. The uni was so sweet and fresh and beautifully set on a half shell. I have never seen such oily looking toro which put a smile on my face. The generous portion was mouth watering.

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We were served quite a few nigiri. I can’t ever recall having salmon belly nigiri, definitely not one that looked long and skinny like this. I had higher expectations for this interesting looking nigiri.

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The golden eye snapper nigiri was lightly seared with sea salt and citrus. I enjoyed this one a lot.

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My friend thought it was awkward that we were given toro and uni nigiri when we had it as sashimi in the beginning. I didn’t mind at all because they ended up being my favorites of the evening and I believe they are the most expensive.

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Another beautiful nigiri was the tuna. I’m not normally a fan of red tuna, but this one had been marinated in soy and served with a Japanese pepper.

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The omakase included a lot more than I am showing above, but I don’t recommend going to Sushi Ota for the omakase. I would order a la carte in the future.

I had seen some unagi being served so decided to order an additional unagi hand roll. Everything about the hand roll was perfectly delicious including the freshly roasted seaweed. This is one of the best I have had.

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For those who live or frequent San Diego and enjoy Sushi, add Sushi Ota to your repertoire. You will get high quality fresh fish. And ask for Kaz as in Be”cause”. He was a friendly guy and a great sushi chef.

Seattle’s Best and I’m Not Talking Coffee Part I

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Last week a friend of mine and I took a four day trip to Seattle, Washington. They say August and September are the best months to visit. We had planned to see some Dale Chihuly art, watch a Mariners game, and eat, of course!

Eat is what we did and we did it well. Seattle is known to have fresh seafood so we thought we would give sushi a try. Our first night out, thanks to yelp, we found Nishino. With 4.5 stars and about 250 reviews, it seemed worth a shot. Many yelpers were suggesting the omakase. Omakase means “I’ll leave it to you” in Japanese. At a sushi restaurant, you are giving the Chef the authority to serve you whatever he chooses. I have never ordered omakase and thought there was no better time like the present.

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Course 1
The first plate had three pieces of fish beautifully presented. From left to right we had smelt nanban, uni on top of egg tofu, and hamachi with jalapeño, ginger salsa and a fried garlic chip. I could tell this was a great start to an amazing meal. I am not a fan of uni, but this one was awesome. The combination of the fresh uni on the soft egg tofu was sweet and just melted in my mouth.

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Course 2
Amaebi ceviche with avocado, oranges, red onion, and jalapeño. The ceviche is topped with a shrimp head that is deep fried. I put the shrimp head aside and ate the ceviche. I was feeling adventurous so I ended eating the fried shrimp head minus the eyes. It was crispy and good.
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Course 3
Albacore tuna with an onion soy dressing on a bed of greens and lotus root chips. This was the only fish that Mori, our sushi chef said was from Seattle so I was looking forward to it. This was most delicious and next to the uni tofu was a winner.
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Course 4
Steamed Manila clams with enoki mushrooms and seaweed in a dashi broth. This dish puts your typical miso soup to shame.
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Course 5
Fried oysters and tempura French green beans. This may have been my least favorite dish although I enjoyed the variety.
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Course 6
Curry dusted pan seared halibut cheeks with cilantro aioli. I was amazed by the size of the cheeks. The cheeks on a fish are the sweetest and most tender part of a fish. I was beginning to get quite full, but still enjoyed the flavors of this dish.
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Course 7
Tuna, salmon, and scallop nigiri and tuna, white fish, and hamachi roll. We were on the home stretch now. There was no way I was going to eat the rice from the nigiri. I pulled the sashimi off and ate the tuna, salmon, and scallop. Salmon sashimi is my favorite, but I was a bit disappointed with this one. I’ve had better.
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Course 8
Mango, red bean, and raspberry white chocolate mochi ice cream with assorted fruits.
Although I was really full now, this beautiful dessert plate was put in front of us. I forced myself to eat the first bite of mochi, but I had no problem devouring my share.

This was one of my most amazing meals ever. Definitely my best Japanese meal. I loved the variety, the beauty, and the creativity of the omakase. For $60, it was a steal. I thought to myself, I could fly here to have dinner for about the same price as French Laundry! Well, that would be a little lavish, I guess it will have to be another trip to Seattle including a meal at Nishino.