Archive for June, 2011


Recently, I had the pleasure of eating at Ikko in Costa Mesa here in SoCal.  While there are many, many Japanese restaurants in the OC, few have the elegance and thoughtfulness of Ikko’s approach to sushi.  And with the company I was dining with, the only way to really enjoy a place like Ikko is to have a gastronomical approach of “letting go”.  And in the Japanese approach, letting go really means, “up to you”, or omakase.

Omakase isn’t that popular, I’m guessing, because we all know what we like, and don’t like when it comes to sushi.  In the words of Anthony Bourdain [paraphrased], “If cooking is about control – controlling the heat, timing, ingredients, etc.  Eating is about submission.”  We have a problems with the word submission.  And rightfully so.  Submitting has this undertone of weak, someone lording over you, being under someone else’s control.  But with food, in particular with eating, submission is a good thing.  Submit to what the chef/cook has done because to try and control it from the dining room is not only insulting to the chef, but also not experiencing new things.  Omakase is one of the best ways to submit ourselves.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not doing omakase at Sushi Boy, even if they offer it.  I’m doing omakase at places I trust and look forward to magical things happening.  It’s a way to relax and learn to experience new things for the next 2-3 hours.  It’s a way to experience sushi where tuna, yellow tail, and salmon [the staples of all customers ordering sushi on their own] is forgotten.  Instead, you get things like seared kobe beef [wait, is that sushi?], squid topped with squid liver, toro, and abalone.  No shoyu.  No wasabi.  Just you, your friends, and the chef.  Allow him to  serve you whatever he chooses.  The “up to you” is not only about submission, but it’s about granting trust to someone else to bring content and happiness with the meal.

Submission is not a bad thing when it comes to food.  We shouldn’t always be scared to try something new, especially when you go to a place like Ikko, where the chef knows more about fish than I ever will.  And to not use the shoyu and wasabi as a crutch where most people drown their perfectly good sushi with the stuff.  Let the chef prepare it the way it was meant to be prepared and then take that piece of sushi and put it in your mouth to savor.  And in the end, just say a simple “thank you”, or “arigato” and know that submitting can be a good thing.

Big Foods and Big Eats

While I know many people watch and enjoy Adam Richman‘s “Man V. Food” on the Travel Channel, I myself do not understand why in this country, we are obsessed with how much we can eat in a limited period of time.  The shorter the time and the more abundant the food, the more we are mesmerized by the insanity of any human being who would want them to do that to themselves.  And yet, we insist on watching a show that only enables a behavior that has put this country to its knees with obesity.  And to add insult to injury, the brilliant minds of the producers at Travel Channel decided to up the ante and create, “Man v. Food Nation”.

Now, before we all get excited about what new food Adam Richman will be jamming in his mouth, this new show is not about him gorging by himself.  The show is now recruiting people to join in this insanity.  There is a social aspect of this show that really gnaws at me.  Even though I don’t eat like Adam Richman on the show, I know I am no better than he and others who really eat too much food in general.  So, I am not saying I am a better person because I don’t watch this show or that I am a better person because I don’t partake in the gorging, because I’m not.  I am just as guilty in my waste of food, in how I take food for granted, and how I don’t think more socially about the hungry.  There’s a part of me that gets why people watch this show, but for me, I just think it’s a sad testament that millions go hungry every day and then there are shows like this, where it’s a contest to eat a 9 pound burrito in 90 minutes for what?  A picture of yourself on the Wall of Fame.  Wow.  Have our lives been reduced to this kind of insanity?  And for me, it’s a sad testament that amount of food I waste because I over bought, over estimated, and just plan forgot about.  There’s a long way for us to go in this country.  One of the ways is to think about these things more often, even if we’re thinking about them while watching this show.

Meal of a Lifetime, So Far

While we didn’t plan all that well with what could have been THE meal of a lifetime, we did have A meal of a lifetime.  So far.  I’m still holding out hope that one day, we will get to eat at the French Laundry.  For now, I am not ashamed at all to say that Cyrus, with its muscular 2 Michelin Stars to boot, is a meal I will not soon forget.  Located at Healdsburg in Sonoma County, it is about an hour drive northwest of Napa.  But that drive is so worth it.  As part of a hotel near the little downtown area, Cyrus is in a class all by itself.  If a 2 star Michelin restaurant is this good, I really can’t wait to try the French Laundry.  The 5 course [6 for me since I added a cheese course] tasting menu and the out-of-this-world candy/dessert cart basically blew our minds.  I had to abandon my rule of not taking anymore pictures of food for this meal.  Some words to describe this meal:  Exquisite.  Beautiful.  Fun.  Sublime.  I’m not going to write too much about the meal as I’ll just let the pictures speak for themselves.