Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Sushi Sake: Freshness at its Best

Sushi Sake is a gem of a Japanese restaurant tucked away in the good ol' Dallas suburb of Richardson, TX. My family has been coming here since I was little, but I feel like each time we go it gets better and better. The appetites of Dallas have noticed, because when we came here on a Tuesday evening at 6p, it was packed after only a few minutes of sitting down.

First of all, the atmosphere is beautiful. The wait staff wears adorable kimono-like outfits. I also love the open spaces and the no-back Japanese-style seating. (Although some people, like my mother, will complain that they need more back support when eating.)

The pickled cucumber amuse-bouche was delightful.

My favorite thing at Sushi Sake is their green mussel, so that was a no-brainer part of our order. We supplemented with unagi rolls and salmon skin hand rolls. Here's our spread:

You are probably salivating right now. It's okay, I am, too.

Some close-ups of my beloved green mussel:

It's basically chopped up mussel with scallions and some insanely delicious cream, all topped with masago and served hot in the mussel shell. This dish is always so fresh and the blend of flavors is perfection.

My mom's favorite is the salmon skin hand roll, and here's a look inside.

I love that they include more than just the skin, so there's a healthy bit of salmon in the roll. As with all rolls they serve, the rice is super soft and fresh.

The unagi maki roll is definitely a top-3 roll of life.

So simple, yet every ingredient is outta this world.

We also tried something new to us - ginger pork.

The gingery sauce was wooonderful, and the pork was very tender. The most surprising thing about this dish is that it comes with these grilled vegetables that were indescribably good. Grilled vegetables are often an afterthought, but you could tell that there was love and effort put into these veggies.

We ended our meal with one of the best ways to end a meal - mochi ice cream!

We ordered two flavors of mochi ice cream - green tea and mango, and both were incredible. The ice cream was so smooth, not too sweet, and the mochi texture was soft but springy, just as it should be.

Our meal at Sushi Sake was one of the best meals I've had in a long time, and I will be sure to return soon. Hope to see you there - it'll rock your world, too!

Sushi Sake
2150 N. Collins Blvd.
Richardson, TX 75080
Sushi Sake on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

St Marks Night: Dessert @ Spot & Drinks @ Angel Share

Last weekend, Thanan, Ish and I all had a hankering for Xian.  There must be crack in that spicy oil, because we all jones it like crazy each week.  We met up for dinner there, reveled in the joy that is D1 (savory lamb with noodle), and then parted ways for a couple of hours. 

Thanan and I filled up those couple of hours with dessert!

Spot is a cute little dessert spot in the basement of one of the myriad of eateries lining St. Marks.  They have a variety of desserts like cupcakes, cookies, ice cream (with different toppings like pomegranate and mochi) and signature desserts.  They also offer an omakase option also which includes four of their signature desserts, of your choice, with cookies and more of chef's choice. 

Thanan and I were not inspired to eat that much though, so we each ordered one signature dish and a drink.  (I got cold bubble tea which I don't recommend.  Get a hot drink.  It's winter!)

Thanan ordered the jasmine rice pudding: marscapone cream, persimmon, toasted pistachio, chili tuile and saffron ice cream.  Beautiful isn't it?  The flavors of this dessert were layered and interesting, with everything accenting the coconut-creamy rice.  Nice, refreshing and not too heavy.

I ordered one of the seasonal dishes: warm, sesame pear crisp featuring chocolate ganache strokes, pomegranate seeds and basil ice cream.  It did not look as beautiful, but I really loved it.    

The sesame tart crust was crunchy yet chewy and had the right amount of sweetness.  The cooked pear was softened but not mushy, melding well with the crisp crust.

The basil ice cream and pomegranates were fine, but not as memorable as that sesame crust, mmm!

After, Thanan and I checked out the nearby Japanese speakeasy called Angel Share.  It is located up the stairs of the Japanese restaurant Village Yokocho, behind an unmarked, gold colored door.  The door opened to reveal dozens of bustling patrons enjoying the "secret" bar.

Angel Share has a large compendium of drinks they offer in a thick, leather bound menu, so I ordered Mack the Knife with gin and a full cinnamon stick.  It tasted exactly like an Asian, herbal medicine drink.  Not exactly what I was looking for.  Thanan ordered some drink that came in a copper colored mug that tasted pleasant, but nothing exciting like Milk and Honey.  We were both underwhelmed.  Then when a trio of our friends showed up, they promptly kicked us out because they only accommodate parties of 4 or less.  That was fine by us though!  Plenty more speakeasies in the city to scope out!

13 St Marks Pl
New York, NY 10003
Angel's Share on Urbanspoon

Angel Share
8 Stuyvesant St

New York, NY 10003
Spot Dessert Bar on Urbanspoon

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Holiday Food Experiment

On Sunday, Thanan and I headed to The Bell House to partake in another Food Experiment from Nick & Theo.  Greeshma and I had previously gone to the delicious Brunch Experiment  which we absolutely adored, so I was excited to finally be in town for another one!  This weekend's experiment focused on holiday favorites.

There were over 25 contenders, the bulk of entries focused on desserts with about a dozen or so savory entries. Thanan and I found the sweet dishes to be standard and uninspired, and we found the savory dishes by and large more creative.  Here is the gist of what we ate:

Goat meatballs.  Thanan said, "Ikea," but I thought they tasted a little bit better than those Swedish meatballs.

A holiday risotto of some sort that tasted of curry and had pomegranate seeds.  This one was very unusual, and I selected it as my own favorite.

Goat meatballs served.

Greenbean casserole sitting on top of Righteous Burn's Righteous Sau dish of smoked pernil and butternut squash (ended up being the winner of audience's choice)

Brownie + minty chocolate ice cream + mint meringue.  Pretty tasty!

Mint chocolate cake ball.  Not very good (sad!)

Eggnog ice cream that was served with...

Gingerbread empanadas with cranberry sauce; this ended up being winner of the Judge's Award.  I thought this dish was good, but couldn't taste the gingerbread aspect at all.

Some sort of mini cupcake that was the driest cupcake in the entire world.

Gingerbread blondie.  So. Cute.  Did not taste like gingerbread though.

Really cute design for chopped liver.  I didn't try this one, but appreciated its aesthetics.

Rudolph's Last Ride: Braised venison served atop cornbread and topped with cranberry sauce.  This one was served nice and warm, and I rather liked it, though Thanan said it did not taste unique.

In the front is a bourbony apple tartlet. Pretty good, but creepily liquid.

The left is a "Kwanzaa cake" that essentially is a perfectly made macaron (so jealous people can make these!) that won an audience award.  The right is "Frosty's flipped fruitcake" which features gingerbread cake and brandied fruit compote; this won third place Judge's Award (I didn't like this too much despite how beautiful it was).

Sweet potato pie cake

Caramel cheesecake bites (standard)

Not your mama's pumpkin pie: served with either bacon or pecans and almonds.  Features bourbon and maple glazed apples.

A spoof on cookies and milk.  Chocolate covered, peppermint dusted brownie bite served with mochi.  Solid, but not incredible.

The event was really good, though I think the brunch event had more creative offerings.  I hope to be a challenger one of these times!  A tip to those who are interested in going to a Food Experiment: do arrive on time - Thanan and I were able to knock out 75% of the offerings by the time the bulk of people arrived, which made the event less enjoyable due to the increased congestion.  Early bird does get the worm!

NYC Chocolate Show 2010

I went to the NYC Chocolate Show in 2008, right after I had moved to NYC, and after the event, my blood was pulsing with cacao beans.  My head was just dizzy after eating incredible amounts of chocolate for two straight hours.

In 2010, I was ready to repeat the whole affair again.  It was held  at the Metropolitan Pavilion this year, a smaller spot than the Piers in 2008, but sufficiently jammed with chocolate artisans.

Here are snapshots from some of my samples (some of which all blur together now at this point, unfortunately):
Crushed espresso beans covered in chocolate and cocoa dust.  Looks like a chocolate everlasting gobstopper, but did not last but ten seconds in my chompers.  Super coffee-y.

Some of the best offerings at The Chocolate Show are the French truffles that melt effortlessly in your mouth and are sublimely smooth.  I always buy a couple of boxes of these.  You can grab them from Whole Foods + World Market too.  J once ate a whole box of these in one sitting and got disgustingly sick and refuses to eat these ever again.  Don't be like him: eat these in moderation.

Crazy chocolate caramel popcorn from 2 Chicks with Chocolate that also features Pop Rocks.  They also made this great hot chocolate martini.  Their offering was not the purest, most socially responsible of the show, but was some of the most fun, catering perfectly to girls' night out type ladies.

Pure hazelnut cream served in a toothpaste style tube.  100% hazelnutty.  Diana woulda loved this Nutella on steroids.

One company served chocolate elixir / teas.  The samples were of their aphrodisiac / spicy chocolate drink.  All the old biddies were loving this, and told Thanan and me to go to a dark alley after we tried our samples.  Dirty old biddies.

Chocolate covered Cheerios from Jacques Torres!  I liked these - what's not to like?

Super yummy toffee covered nuts on chocolate bark.

Dark chocolate was definitely 75-85% of the show; the overriding theme from the different vendors was socially responsible, pure, raw, vegan-friendly dark chocolate.  Although I am not usually a dark chocolate fan, I found a few types that I did enjoy, and will look to buy them for "healthy snacks" (any reason to eat chocolate without guilt!).  Kallari is the brand I ended up liking best, and is available at Whole Foods markets.  I can't tell if it's the chocolate I like more or the story itself: Kallari is produced by a coalition of 850 indigenous Kichwa families in Ecuador.  The vendor described how these families used to sell their prized cacao beans (which has won esteemed prizes in France) to European chocolatiers for $1/lb.  Now they develop their own chocolate, which is more pure and rich, being direct from the source, and the people are now able to enjoy 100% of the profits to fully support their communities instead of resorting to logging in the rainforests.

My other favorite part of the Chocolate Show are the cooking demonstrations from well known and respected chefs and bakers.  Above is Nick Malgieri, author of at least ten baking books and teaches at the French Culinary Institute.

Nick made a hazelnut tart that resembled pecan pie, but with hazelnuts.  Was lovely.

I also caught the chef from Baked who recently appeared on Top Chef: Just Desserts.  He described how crazy the reality show was, but that he would definitely do it again.  Apparently they are not allowed to have any recipes at all on the show: everything had to be from memory!

He made this delicious holiday bundt cake that had three kinds of ginger and was topped with a chocolate sauce.  I loved this.  I am inspired to 1) make bundt cakes and 2) go to Baked and eat everything.

Not shown is Mary's from Japan, from whom I ended up buying a box of wasabi covered chocolate for Greeshma.  It was the most unique flavoring of the show - sweet yet oddly savory.  I think that describes Greeshma also :).

NYC Chocolate Show 2010 did not disappoint; it definitely ranks in the top food events for me in the city!