That became a ten-course omakase at Hirose in Torrance. In a tiny, little shop in a gigantic strip mall, ten of us attempted to devour ten courses (each) of freshly prepared Japanese art. Some succeed... some failed. Some were smart and decided against decimation. The only Japanese one at the table went for the teriyaki instead... maybe they know something the remaining Sinos and Formosans don't..? Hmm...
This is what our that looked like... and if it seems like the pictures get progressive blurry, it's because they do. Somewhere along the second or third course, I thought it was an incredibly intelligent idea to pair the remaining courses with a shot of sake (each)... and then some. The day after this omakase meal was the Sunday of Father's Day, and let's just say I learned how to say hangover in Mandarin. See how many sake glasses you count in the pictures below...
bonito fish broth
Itadakimasu! One bite of a simple cube of pork started off the meal. Not only was it balanced by the savory flavor of the soy and the sweetness of the swine, the lean meat to fat ratio was perfectly balanced as well. The green onions provided just a hint of fresh crunch to the square.
Ambish? Korewa nandesu ka? To my knowledge this word is not in the English dictionary. Trust me, I looked it up via Webster and Google. But from what the server told us, ambish is a word that describes something that has been deep fried and then submerged in vinegar. So that is exactly what we had for our second course... a duo of deep fried, battered sardines served chilled in a dish of light vinegar. Not eye opening, but horrible either... something to jump start the saliva, I guess.
Duck with potato salad
red and green shishito peppers
Two succulent pieces of duck lay atop a fluffy bed of whipped potato. The potato salad had just enough mayo to make it creamy, but it wasn't so delicious that it stole the duck's thunder. The duo of dueling colored shishito peppers added a vibrant color to the presentation, but the tender and flavorful duck was still the star of the dish. Oishii desu.
Raw oyster with ikura
Aiiiiiiiiiiiiiii! When the fresh oyster had arrived, a little school girl's scream may have been heard at the table. And it may have been me. As small as this little devil was, it was just enough as a teaser to prep my tongue for the fresh fish that was about to arrive. Although the two drops of ikura on top tempted many of us to order another round.
Yellowfin tuna, bluefin tuna, amberjack, octopus, sesame sebring snapper
Glistening fresh, vibrant in color, smooth in texture... what more could you ask for in a sashimi course? The chef even skipped out on the salmon and yellowtail that's typically served and presented us with some rare choices such as amberjack and sesame sebring. The yellowfin and bluefin tuna were both meaty, yet they melted away with ease. And the color of the sesame sebring was as beautiful as a fluffy white cloud with a metaphoric silver lining.
Salmon, tofu, yam and pumpkin braised in shoyu broth
This is usually a dish made at home and simmered in a large pot by an obachan. Like a pot roast or a beef stew, it's a hearty and somewhat soupy dish that is supposed to conjure up feelings of home and the warmth of grandma's kitchen from childhood. Halfway through the bowl of tofu and yam, I started missing the oden that my grandma makes. You know it's good when the chef can give you a feeling of home in the form of a bowl of veggies.
fish stuffed zucchini flower, snow crab leg, salmon wrapped with shiso tempura
This tempura zucchini flower was the product of a delicate Japanese ingenuity. Flaky white fish was the hidden surprise inside the flower of a vegetable that seemed to have more aesthetic appeal than nutritional value. The zucchini flower announced its subtle flavor without even a whisper. No self gloat, no bragging, just simple confidence. Just a little sea salt, and it's good to go. No tempura sauce necessary.
Beef top sirloin over five vegetables
bamboo shoot, Brussels sprout, eggplant and yuzu, pear and string bean, Yukon potato
Another dish was presented to us with an attention to detail so microscopic that only the Japanese can claim. Five pieces of medium rare beef sat on top of a line of five different complementary vegetables, all of which provided the meat with a evenly balanced texture and flavor. Not only were the vegetables merely placed beneath the beef, they also helped anchor the beef in a way that helped us enjoy the angled presentation. My favorite was the yuzu essence that somehow made its way down either side of the plate so that even the bamboo shoot on the far left and the potato on the far right was influenced by a hint of the spicy pepper. Consistency over variation... I liked that.
Noodles with chicken yaki
grated daikon radish, ginger, and sesame in soba sauce
Although the noodles were accredited as the lead in this dish, it was the supporting elements that really helped the dish come together. White meat chicken and carefully grated radish along with ginger and sesame created a harmonious lightness that was a great way to end the meal. Many times, Asian cultures (think Chinese and Korean) serve carbs (think fried rice) as the final dish to ensure that the guest has been stuffed full... but Hirose found a way to nudge us close to 100% rather than pushing us over the brink of satiation.
Azuki red bean mousse
grapefruit, melons and mint
Nine courses down... one to go. Even if you're stuffed, how can you refuse dessert? It's dessert! The good thing is that the dessert was served in a shotglass-sized cup... bad thing is that the shotglass-sized cup reminded me of all the sake we already drank. And if there is just one lesson that I have learned from the glory days of college, it's that dairy and alcohol don't mix. Remembering my lessons learned, I decided to have some fruit... and pass the mousse down. Okay, I had one little bite, and it was smooth, creamy, but delightfully light... a nice way to finish a ten-course meal formerly known as "that."
As I channel the emotions I felt at the end of that dinner for this post, I sensed a gradual creep of the infamous post large meal food coma... which is what I sense now. A slow, lethargic, I want to stop writing kind of feeling. I feel decimated. And so... the writing shall stop. Until the next omakase, let's all get S.O.F.A.T.
ML - 20110618