Archive for January, 2007

Sawa Sushi (Sunnyvale, CA) – Tour de Force

Sometimes I sound like a broken record – “Manresa is the best restaurant in the country” and “Sawa is the best fresh fish in the country.” Despite recent reports on Chowhound, the restaurant is alive and well.

Sawa is a controversial place, both online and off. Purists decry that the fish is cut in “American-sized” slabs that directly oppose the finesse of a traditional Japanese restaurant; however, the fish is pristine, rarely with flaw. The complaints about its expense are near universal; again, top-tier places like Kuruma Zushi (NY), Masa (NY), and Urasawa (LA) always run $250+ per person because top-tier fish pricing is exponential (and therefore, like many things in life, a lesson in diminishing returns where you must choose your point of departure.) Some say Sawa Sushi is a misnomer because there’s nary a grain of rice in many meals; again, you want pristine sashimi or rice?

This Sawa meal was meant to be a tour de force for a visiting chef that I happened to chance upon a day earlier. Craving raw fish for lunch, Sawa told me to return the next evening for “the good stuff.”

1. Kobe Filet Mignon Tartar w/ Ginger + Scallion sauce

Sawa is a specialist in obtaining the best ingredients. This kobe was unlike most I’ve eaten – it wasn’t that fatty but it was exceedingly tender. Even better, it had a nice bite that yielded the right amount of fattiness. The best parallel I can draw is comparing your average American chicken to a Bresse chicken from France. Absolutely delicious – I had another one at the end of the meal. Excellent.

Sawa Sushi (Sunnyvale) - Kobe Filet Mignon Tartar w/ Ginger + Scallion sauce

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San Francisco Fish Company (SF) – Fresh Sea Urchin (Uni)

The San Francisco Fish Company in the Ferry Building is a confounding place. Despite its glamorous location and higher prices, the usual assortment of fish and shellfish leaves much to be desired – the “previously frozen” label all too hard to ignore. But every once in awhile they have a treat.

Yesterday, I was buying an excellent Heritage chicken (a write-up will be forthcoming) from Prather Ranch when serendipity must have led me across the hall into the fish store. I usually bypass it without a hint of feeling guilty about what I may have missed.

I walked in and immediately noticed the fresh Santa Barbara sea urchin sitting in the counter. Was I feeling lucky?

The Specimen
Sea Urchin

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Kiss Seafood (SF) – Still Searching

Kiss has been on the to-do list ever since i first read about it on Chez Pim. There’s really no excuse for the wait – it was a 10 minute walk from my old apartment and it’s only a 30 minute walk from my new place. It was time to catch up w/ some friends and finally cross this off the to-do list.

I was pleasantly surprised by the interior – I pictured a slightly dark sliver of a bar somewhere in Japan-town. Instead, it’s quite a bright (yet tiny) cube. If you’re feeling claustrophobic, just hit the bathroom – it’s quite spacious in there.

Kiss is definitely no Urasawa but it does come at a 75% discount. The meal left me wanting – the ingredients, flavors, and execution. Nothing truly wow’d me – everything was just there – better than average but far from great. The upside is, at $60, I can afford to give it a few more opportunities.

1. Kiss Salad

Simple, refreshing, lightly marinated, a nice start. Good.
Kiss (San Francisco) - Kiss Salad

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Keyah Grande (Pagosa Springs, CO) – RIP

Alex and Aki were leaving Keyah Grande for the relative comforts of the East Coast. My last meal was outstanding but my car foiled me from enjoying Keyah a second time. Given that it could take 1-2 years to open a new restaurant, I decided to book the flights to Durango and enjoy one of the final Keyah Grande meals prepared by Alex and Aki.

The meal was as good as the last – Alex & Aki are some of the better chefs in the country. For creativity, I’d say they are right up there w/ Ludo (former Bastide) – their food is more grounded in real flavor than, say, WD-50 or Moto. The other difference is ingredient quality – they are using top-notch ingredients whereas the other experimental places skimp on that front (and hopefully they can keep this up w/ their next venture.)

1. Sourdough Ice Cream – wild arctic char roe, blueberries, red mustard
Very creamy ice cream – slight sour note followed by a creamy saltiness thanks to the roe. Meanwhile, the blueberry’s acid and the sharp mustard leaves cut it. Wonderful texture as it turns from creamy to the popping roe. Excellent.
Ideas in Food - Sourdough Ice Cream - wild arctic char roe, blueberries, red mustard

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