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We'll Tekka rain check...at Kabuto (long -- practically endless)

Andrew Raskin Aug 1, 2001 03:39 AM

I arrived at Tekka (Balboa/7th) around 6pm. Caryl was walking around in the general vicinity, thrown off by the fact that there isn't really a sign, just a curtain in the window that says Tekka in Japanese. Other chowhounds arrived around 6:30 so we'd be first in line when they opened. Unfortunately, they never did.

Around 6:45, we saw a guy who Rochelle recognized as the Panhandle Pizza delivery man, John. John lives a few doors down from Tekka. "That Tekka guy pretty much makes his own hours," he said. "But I'm a man who likes my fish cooked, if you know what I mean." (Rochelle says Panhandle Pizza has a great cornmeal crust, though.)

Peering through the window, I could read the Japanese menu board -- all the stuff Tida was talking about-- buta no kakuni, and lots of nimono (simmered dishes). A young Japanese couple was also waiting. He works at Robata in Marin, she at Sushi Ko in Larkspur. His sushi chef goes to Tekka and recommended it.

By 7 we all agreed there was no way they were opening, since they'd probably need time to steam the rice, etc. (If anyone went later and they were open, we don't want to know about it.) So we drafted Plan B: Tekka-like dishes at Kabuto.

I was at Kabuto (Geary/15th) a few weeks ago and noticed a bunch of new cooked dishes. Our idea was, for one night, to forego the sushi at Kabuto and order almost exclusively from their cooked dishes to simulate the Tekka experience to some degree. So we hailed a cab and went over to Geary. The cabbie told us his monthly fare income is 50% lower than last year, thanks to the poor local economy, and that he expects more restaurants to close.

Inside Kabuto we took off our shoes and sat on the tatami floor in the Japanese-style room. Rochelle and I went for the sake. We had Karatamba, served slightly above room temperature in martini glasses, which could be considered tacky, but because it was Kabuto it was cool.

Foodwise, we started out with Tsubuni (short for Tsubu-gai no nimono), small snails simmered in a soy sauce/sake marinade. Then agedashi dofu, lightly fried tofu in a dashi broth with ground daikon and ginger. We also got Hamachi-kama, grilled cheeks of yellowtail, because Rochelle had heard about eating fish cheeks. She was wondering how you would get a lot of meat out of the cheek. Nancy explained that the cheek served at Japanese restaurants is really the "whole side of the fish's face, or whatever they have." I forget what beautiful words Rochelle used to describe the delicate, buttery cheek meat, but it was clearly the hit of the night. In the same order we got umekyu-maki (cucumber and plum paste roll) and I asked them to put some shiso leaf in it too. The tart taste of the plum paste balanced out some of the oily stuff. Oh yeah, we also got Nasu Dengaku, eggplant grilled with a miso sauce on top, which seemed to be a big hit with Caryl. She was permitted to go on this outing based on her prior online promise to "behave," and the eggplant almost made her go back on her word. Rochelle said "Really like it" in response to my question, "How much do you like grilled fish," so I ordered grilled smelts as well.

They were out of nitsuke, so we got kinpira gobo, which contains julliened pieces of simmered burdock root. This simple dish was also a big hit, and it gave me an opening to point out how burdock root really looks like a long skinny twig, and to tell my friend Zen's story about how in WWII Japanese would feed their POWs this vegetable, and how a Japanese official was later executed for war crimes around forcing Americans to eat wood. I don't know if it's really true. But yes, his name really is Zen.

Now, in Japanese there is an expression "Ryote ni hana" which literally means "In both hands, a flower." It's used when a guy has a beautiful woman on each arm. As you might have surmised by now, I was the only male chowhound in this group. Let's just say I was eating in the middle of a bouquet.

After a stomach capacity check, I ordered three more dishes: tuna poke (spicy raw tuna salad), niratama (Nira -- sort of like scallions -- and egg floating in a dashi-based broth), and tamago tofu -- tofu made with egg yolks. The poke was way too spicy for most of us, except Rochelle. I even asked the waitress, "Is it always this spicy?" to which she replied "Yes," and the look in her eye let me know that if there was a problem with the spiciness, it was my problem. Rochelle and I refilled our sake/martini glasses, given that someone else would be taking us home (in her case Nancy, in mine the drivers of the 38, 22 and 45 buses).

The egg tofu was delicate, the egg adding a slightly custardy taste/texture to the tofu. The niratama was nice and simple, but pretty salty -- we probably should have had that before the tofu.

The bill came to $25 per, more for those of us who had sake. As we parted ways, Rochelle handed each of us a bag of homemade cookies. Okay, some of us began nibbling on the cookies earlier in the evening in the doorway at Tekka. We were cold and we were hungry.

With my car in the shop, I shared part of the bus ride home with Caryl. While waiting for the bus, I remarked that the Rochelle's cookies were amazing. Was that lime in one of them? "Yes, I agree, it is," said Caryl, whose New York accent has not succumbed to 20 years in the Bay Area. "Lime in a cookie -- who ever thought to do that? That Rochelle is a very creative woman."

Caryl and I caught the 22 to the Marina. Before I got off, she asked me if I knew any good breakfast places in SF. I said I like Rex, but just like, don't love. She said she likes Doidge's, but remarked about how expensive it is. "12.99 for two eggs? Uh, hello? For that, can I have the whole carton? Never mind that, can I have the whole chicken?"

I guess even when the chef doesn't show up, chowhounds can make their own fun.

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  1. a
    Andrew Raskin RE: Andrew Raskin Aug 1, 2001 03:51 AM

    Oops, I meant the sake was slightly *below* room temperature. I must have been holding my thermometer upside down.

    12 Replies
    1. re: Andrew Raskin
      Rochelle RE: Andrew Raskin Aug 1, 2001 12:43 PM


      great post! captured all the delight of the evening to be sure (and you were even kind enuf to leave out the biting wind at tekka's doorway).

      i must say that after nancy dropped me off (thank you missy) i ran right upstairs to chronicle what i could remember in my "good cook's book of days". now i'll have to go back and write in the japanese names.

      i throughly enjoyed our entire meal. i think i had far more than my share of the grilled smelts, crispy and resplendant with fish oil. my other favorites were the fish cheeks, which i think i may have remarked something to the effect of think of veal cheeks, buttery and light, only on a fish. and the egg tofu, perfectly creamy and delicately flavored, topped with just a few boiled soybeans, the contrast in textures a delight.

      the spicy fish was just that, really spicy and definately would have been better enjoyed before the egg tofu, but that didn't keep me from digging in.

      and as i sit here and replay the meal in my mind there wasn't anything that left me wishing we'd ordered something else. andrews comment about the scallion and egg broth being a little salty at the end was true. i think if we'd saved the custard for last we may have had a near perfect meal.

      i most certainly left sated and most happy.

      andrew, thank you for a superb job of ordering all around and thanks to everyone else for a great night out. i must say i enjoy these chowfests so very much, because it's so much about the food and what a treat that is, since not everyone we know is a 'hound. i look forward to our tekka adventure, whenever that may be!


      1. re: Rochelle
        Ginger Wolf RE: Rochelle Aug 1, 2001 01:02 PM

        Thank you all for your posts, will save for next trip to your lovely city. Rochelle, do you share recipes? I'm intriqued by the cookies you brought. A tart taste of fresh lime. How wonderful!!!

        1. re: Ginger Wolf
          Rochelle RE: Ginger Wolf Aug 4, 2001 01:11 PM


          when it doesn't have to do with my livlihood i'm glad to share recipies. however, this is fast becoming a signature cookie and with a new account opening i think it best for me to beg off on this one if you'd forgive me for doing so.

          but show up at a dinner and i'll be glad to share!


          1. re: Rochelle
            Ginger Wolf RE: Rochelle Aug 6, 2001 03:31 PM

            I understand about the signature recipe, but it's going to send me into the kitchen with those three ingredients for some serious experimentation!!! And honestly, I probably will show up for a chowhound dinner some day. It is all about the food you know. Always, Always, All ways.

            1. re: Ginger Wolf
              Rochelle RE: Ginger Wolf Aug 6, 2001 07:29 PM


              i must admit, i have been full of guilt and have been tortured over my refusal to share that recipe. as you may have noticed in the meyer lemon thread i was happy to share that recipe and at least one other, so it's not like i'm a complete and utterly selfish baker. it's just this one. keep me posted as to when you'll be doing a chow dinner and i'll be certain to bring some to share that night. again, my deepest apologies and PLEASE don't tell my mom! i'm sure she wouldn't understand.


              1. re: Rochelle
                Caitlin McGrath RE: Rochelle Aug 6, 2001 08:24 PM

                Rochelle, no! I realize I'm not the one who asked for the recipe, but please don't feel guilty or tortured about it. We all understand that you're not just a home cook creating new things (I personally love sharing my recipes when I think I've got something good), but that this is your livelihood. I'm sure no one begrudges you your professional secrets, and when you become known throughout the land for your white chocolate-pistachio-lime cookies, we can all say we were among the first to critique them [g].

                1. re: Caitlin McGrath
                  Caryl Aaron RE: Caitlin McGrath Aug 6, 2001 09:17 PM

                  DITTO !!!

                2. re: Rochelle
                  Andrew Raskin RE: Rochelle Aug 7, 2001 02:22 AM

                  Rochelle, I don't think you should feel guilty about this. I mean, it's not like I'm craving them every night since I had one. No, not at all like that. It's not like I am dying to make them myself. It is not even remotely like that.

                  1. re: Andrew Raskin
                    Caitlin McGrath RE: Andrew Raskin Aug 7, 2001 01:18 PM

                    Maybe you should just place an arder with Rochelle...

                  2. re: Rochelle
                    Ginger Wolf RE: Rochelle Aug 7, 2001 04:29 PM

                    Ahh, my dear Rochelle. A little guilt is good. I love the rest of the thread about the cravings, NOT. I'm telling you though, those three ingrediants will work themselves into something yummy soon. I'm in SoCal so will keep you posted as to my next wanderings.

            2. re: Rochelle
              Caitlin McGrath RE: Rochelle Aug 1, 2001 01:34 PM

              I guess the lime cookies were a keeper--did you do white chocolate-pistachio-lime again, and are you still perfecting your recipe?

              1. re: Rochelle
                Dixie Day RE: Rochelle Aug 1, 2001 09:27 PM

                I agree! It was a very fun evening, thanks to Andrew's wise ordering and much pleasant company. I'm just sorry I had to leave before the cookies were passed around--the lime ones sounded great!

            3. c
              Caryl Aaron RE: Andrew Raskin Aug 1, 2001 10:11 AM


              Your write-up did the evening justice! In fact, reading about all the delicious selections you orchestrated for us makes me hungry...so when shall we do Tekka?

              Yes, Rochelle's cookies rivaled Mrs. Fields (no, "exceeded" is more accurate) and were a treat at about 11 PM when something sweet hit the spot.

              And Andy, many thanks for all your hard work in putting together an enjoyable evening of "exotic" delights and sharing your extensive knowledge of Japanese cuisine. (Clever: "we'll Tekka a rain check".)


              1. h
                HKL RE: Andrew Raskin Aug 1, 2001 11:16 AM

                Next time, try the kimi-yaki. It's this grilled scallop dish with an amazing sauce. I'm sure they must use an entire stick of butter for it, but totally worth it!

                1. t
                  Tida RE: Andrew Raskin Aug 1, 2001 02:28 PM

                  Andy: As I've said, neither my husband nor I can read the menu at Tekka since it's all in kanji with some hirigana. Is the menu that you ordered from at Kabuto also in characters or is there an English version? I've only had sushi at Kabuto and so have not really paid attention to any other menu that may be available.

                  If you guys are planning another shot at Tekka, can I plead for a sunday or Monday night dinner?

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Tida
                    Andrew Raskin RE: Tida Aug 1, 2001 04:02 PM

                    I think just about everything in Kabuto is in English, or has an English translation, so there's no hidden stuff. This was the first time I sat at a table at Kabuto. They gave us each like 3 menus -- one for sushi, one for dinners, and one for "side dishes." The "side dish" menu was the one we ordered almost everything from, except for things we saw posted as specials.

                    I'd like to wait a bit for Tekka until the guy gets his schedule a little more under control. Rochelle was right, it's cold in that doorway...

                  2. m
                    Mike Lee RE: Andrew Raskin Aug 2, 2001 01:28 AM

                    Sounds like it was a lot of fun, wish i could have went. And those dishes made my stomach growl even after my turkey melt sandwich. I hope you guys get into tekka next time.

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