242016Jun

Kusakabe

Sushi in kaiseki style is the theme of the omakase at Kusakabe. And that drew us here. Along with the fact that it was finally a bit easier getting a reservation. That is of course, if you don’t mind four weeks advanced booking for a table at opening time. We certainly didn’t.

Inside there was seated and given a tasting of dashi as the waitress explained the meal. There were two types of omakase. The normal included 19 items with a price of $95USD a person while the Grand included 25 items with a hefty price tag of $150USD a person. It was a Friday night so why not? We went for broke and got the Grand Omakase. Also we didn’t want to sit there after the meal wondering what six items we had missed. That’s the real eater’s remorse. After we ordered the server explained that we should eat the nigiri with our hands and clean our fingers with the oshibori cloth she provided. I always heard that sushi was meant to be eaten with your hands but never tried it. Now I could say I have and now understand why. You can read about that below in the pictures.

Throughout the meal I realized many of the dishes we had we weren’t going to find around the city. There’s not many serving kaiseki for one, then with sushi, that brings the number to about two in my head. What we were having was a meal to remember. And as I’m writing this I’m already thinking about when I’ll be able to try it again. Way to bring this level of food to the city Kusakabe!

Kusakabe
584 Washington St
San Francisco, CA 94111
+1 (415) 757-0155
kusakabe-sf.com

Verdict: Yes, it’s worth the wait, the hype, and the price.

292016May

Don’s Bogam BBQ

New York’s Koreatown has some of the best BBQ restaurants around and today we could confirm that statement. My friend arranged dinner for us at Don’s Bogam BBQ, a favorite for this New York alumni. Little did I know, this was a Michelin Recommended restaurant that, come to think of it, was the first for me when it comes to KBBQ. Wow. A place I go, to gorge on beef, drink lots of beer and soju, celebrate with my friends in the most rambunctious manner and leaving with the sticky film of smoke and garlic. This type of place got the attention of the Michelin peeps. Well, when we got to the restaurant I could see that I was about to up level my KBBQ experience.

The restaurant was like a merger between the traditional and high class dining. We had a few drinks at the fancy bar in front while we waited for everyone to arrive. Table for twelve? Not a problem. However, we had to be split us between two tables of six. Understandable because they are very service driven here. Even though the menu says “Cook your own” the servers do all the cooking for you at your table. So they need the tables to be accessible for the servers. I loved the attention and only had to flag someone down once to, you guessed it, order more of their wonderful beef. Yum!

Expect to stay at least an hour to relax and enjoy your dinner. This isn’t your typical KBBQ place that’s trying to rush people in and out. And although the higher pricing may keep people away, it means you’ll hardly see a line outside. But to be safe, make a reservation.

Don’s Bogam BBQ
17 E 32nd St
New York, NY 10016
+1 (212) 683-2200
donsbogam.com

Verdict: On the pricey side yet well worth it.

272016May

Late Night at Ssäm Bar Momofuku

On the list of restaurants to try is Momofuku. If it isn’t on your list, it should be. David Chang has several restaurants in New York with others worldwide, each one catering to a genre in Asian taste. I wouldn’t come close to saying it’s fusion or even experimental. I’d like to think of it as the classic journey of an artist, pushing the boundaries of modern mediums. Here at Ssäm Bar I got my first glimpse into his work.

Reservations were a must, especially with our party of eight. Booking a month advanced, there were two openings, 5:30pm or 10:00pm. Of course the later time worked with our West Coast time frame for dinner. So we chose that. And with our group size, we had to go with the $75 prix fixe menu. There were wine pairing options for an additional price of $50 and up. We decided to order off the drink menu, a decision I personally didn’t regret. I had found myself a new favorite drink!

The courses themselves were brought as plates for sharing, family style. Something we weren’t quite expecting, but we’re all friends here. So that didn’t stop us from enjoying every spoonful. Each dish was brought out all at once so no one was left waiting for their dish. The staff was well synchronized on that. However, dinner was long and spanned over 2 hours. It was a good two hours though. By the end of it, we were so stuffed, I forgot to take pictures of the dessert, a Trifle – honey ice cream topped with broken bits of deep fried mantou. Oh it was so amazing that our typical non-dessert eaters were caught finishing the bowl.

Yeah, I loved it, even though half the dishes were a miss for me. Setting aside all the hype, I have to admit, each dish was unique. They were taste combinations I’m not going to easily find, except at other Momofuku restaurants. Great. Did I just sign myself up for more adventures? I better start making reservations.

Ssäm Bar – Momofuku
207 2nd Ave
New York, NY 10003
+1 (212) 254-3500
ssambar.momofuku.com

Verdict: Come with a small group to order off the menu or a larger one to try the pork shoulder. I’ll see you next time pork shoulder!

262016May

Peter Luger

It was time for dinner and what else to have but steak. New York has some of the best steakhouses in the country. And if you were to ask anyone for a recommendation, you’ll be overwhelmed with the variety. Thankfully, my friend already had one picked out and I tagged along for dinner. The place was Peter Luger, a Michelin star restaurant famous for it large porthouse aged steaks.

When you get inside it’s pretty busy. With the bar right at the entrance, most people are having a drink while waiting for a table. Make a reservation to avoid the wait. We waited for only ten minutes while things were being set up. The table itself was big enough for the four of us. After a brief look over the menu, we knew what we wanted and ordered. Our appetizers came out minutes after went through a few of their assorted breads. Don’t worry, we know not to fill ourselves up before getting to the enormous steak. That was the main objective. But there were some nice bites along the way and you can see those in the food pictures. Throughout the meal, the wait staff were attentive making sure we had our dessert and coffee. It was a complete meal that took an hour and a half to finish. That’s a good thing. We never felt like we were rushed, even with the crowds outside.

Peter Luger
178 Broadway
Brooklyn, NY 11211
+1 (718) 387-7400
peterluger.com

Verdict: A great steakhouse that combines tradition and great cuts of meat for an amazing experience.

262016May

First Eats in NYC, Onigiri

After getting situated in Chelsea it was time to find a bite to eat. Being close to Madison Square Gardens you’re surrounded by plenty of places to eat. However, if you just came off a red eye flight, took the train to Penn Station, and were still on West Coast hours, you’re probably looking for a lighter meal. I found that at Cafe Hanamizuki, a quaint little restaurant surrounded by the less refined shops catering to the eat and go lunch crowds.

Inside you’re greeted by a bright interior leading up to the register. There’s several small tables for more intimate gatherings and stools against the wall table for those dining in singularity. It’s not your sit and be waited on type of place, even though when you pay you’ll be prompted for a tip. But there was someone going around cleaning up, so hopefully that was for them.

The food is already prepared and ready so all you have to do is pick and choose, pay, and find a seat. I think the lunch set was the right size of soup, side dish, and onigiri.

Cafe Hanamizuki
143 W 29th Street
New York, NY 10001
Chelsea, Midtown West
+1 (212) 695-5533
hanamizukiny.com

Verdict: If you’re looking for a light meal and don’t mind the prices, give it a try. But it’s price point wasn’t worth it.

172016Apr

Tsubasa Sushi

Ever since I moved back to the Bay Area there seems to be more and more sushi shops. I’m not talking about the serve-you-the-usual-assortment-of-fish places. These places are catering to the eager nigiri lovers looking for hard to get fish paired with creative flavors. The one we went today was a relatively new establishment in Hayes Valley, Tsubasa Sushi.

Worried that we couldn’t get seating, I made reservations. At first they told me they didn’t take any. Then they called me back and said they would and if I wanted to sit at the bar. Okay. Sure.

When we arrived I was a bit surprised that the place was empty for a Sunday night. About half the place was occupied. The large tables weren’t being used though most of the smaller two to four people tables were filled. Glancing over the menu and seeing the variety of rolls and the word “fusion” on the menu, I think the owners wanted to make this more of a lively setting. A place for large parties to come and sample their selection of food and spirits. The patrons tonight had a different idea. The parties tonight were either a pair like us or a small group of three or four. In my opinion, all they need to change was the length of the sushi bar. More seats please! However, this may have been due to the previous owners which also served sushi, but from what I gathered, not to this level of craftsmanship.

Anyways, we made it clear that we wanted to be wow’d by their omakase, which comes in at $60USD (up from $54 a month earlier) for 12 pieces of nigiri. And since we saw chawanmushi on the menu, we got that too.

The food came at a reasonable pace with a complimentary starter. The individual nigiri came out in three sets of three and one set of two, leaving the last for us to choose. Clever. The time in between the sets we occupied with general helpings of beer and sake. Don’t worry, we didn’t go overboard, even with the wait staff checking in every once in awhile. The food was up and down, but mostly on the up. There were memorable ones and only a few, I-wish-I-hadn’t. That’s the risk you take when you explore.  The meal took about an hour to complete and by the time we left, more people had rolled in. No lines outside though.

Tsubasa Sushi
429 Gough Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
+1 (415) 551-9688

Verdict: If you want high grade sushi without a ridiculous wait, give this place a try.

152016Apr

Finding Izakaya in Silicon Valley

There are many places around South Bay where you can go to enjoy some food and drinks with your co-workers. For starters, you have all those restaurants around downtown Mountain View on Castro street. Of course, most of them cater to the power lunch crowds. You can’t blame them since business rents in that area are as astronomical as residential rents. So to find a more down to earth comfort foods, you have to look elsewhere. For us, we had two requirements, close to the office and Japanese izakaya. Enter Tanto.

It’s located on El Camino and is a popular spot. So make sure you get reservations. Parking can be problematic too given the annoyed neighboring business who had to deal with the success of Tanto. Make sure you read the signs when you park.

Inside there are your tables and off to the side are booths, semi traditional ones where you can take off your shoes before sitting. It’s a very inviting atmosphere. Add in the wait staff and you’ll feel right at home. Our dishes came out quickly one after the other. And our waitress was helpful in making sure we weren’t over ordering, which we still ended up doing. But hey, she warned us. Sure, the food was classified as Japanese tapas, but the portions were more than what we expected. So glad we had a large enough group!

Tanto Japanese Restaurant
1063 E El Camino Real
Sunnyvale, CA 94087
+1 (408) 244-7311

Verdict: A must for those of you working in Mountain View or Sunnyvale who don’t want to travel too far for a great meal.

192016Feb

Friday Night DASH

Once again, not in San Francisco, but in San Mateo do we discover good sushi at I would add, very affordable prices. A 30 minute drive south of the city is DASH Japanese Tapas and Sushi. Located right across from the movie theater, you’d probably overlook it if it weren’t for the lines. We had reservations so that worked out perfectly.

We were seated right away and took a couple run throughs of the menu and went with their omakase. Here, they have two choices for omakase, a $20USD 5 piece or a $40USD 10 piece. You can do either sashimi or nigiri. We chose nigiri along with a couple appetizers. It was advertise as a tapas place as well, so why not.

The appetizers came out quickly and all were good except for the shooter. I’d forgo getting that and stick to sushi. Then it was prepping for our sushi courses. That meant passing time with beers, several actually. Service could use some more tuning. But to be fair, they were training a new member. We had to flag down our servers for orders and re-orders. Even though we could have gone through our sushi chef, he was busy preparing all the sushi for the restaurant. He does a fantastic job with the fish. All they need to do is train someone else to help scale the offering. I saw him prepare the ten piece nigiri set when we first came in. As the place got busy and it came to us, we got a serving of 5 and 5 (and eventually another 5). A good move by the chef to keep us from sitting without anything to eat.

I can tell this place has potential of going from good to great. Chef George was very personable and the selection of fish was perfect for those who want to expand their experiences in sushi.

DASH Japanese Tapas and Sushi
220 Main St
San Mateo, CA 94401
+1 (650) 340-1508

Verdict: An unpretentious place for sushi at a surprisingly low cost. This may become my neighborhood favorite.

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