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On the Bridge/Cooking manga

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Today I had the Kinoko (mushroom) spaghetti at On the Bridge cafe in SF Japantown. The spaghetti was as garlicky and mushroomy as ever.

Afterwards, I was in Kinokuniya -- the Japanese bookstore -- and noticed they have a full bin devoted to cooking-related manga. There were the old classics including The Chef (about a guy who roams from town to town working as a contract chef and saving the day for all sorts of folks), Cooking Papa (about an executive/father who's a great cook but pretends he's not so his wife doesn't look bad), and Oishinbo.

I also saw some I hadn't read before. There was one all about adventures in ramen shops, one about a sommelier (Shun no wine), and there was one about sushi called Shota no Sushi (Shota's sushi). I bought the first book in that series. It's the story of a prodigal sushi chef named Shota Sekiguchi. In Episode 1, Shota represents Tokyo in a national sushi competition held at Takabe Shrine, Japan's only shrine dedicated to the cooking god (who also reigns over soy sauce and miso). The judges ask each chef to do their best with a slice of red manbou, a fatty flat ocean sunfish the size of a trampoline. Shota remembers that fish with such high fat content is cut best using a dull knife, so he bangs his blade against some rocks on the ground. This shocks the full-of-himself Osaka representative, who's been bragging all day about how sharp his blade is. Shota kicks the Osaka guy's ass by scoring a perfect 10 from the judges, though the Osaka guy gets a 6 -- enough to move onto the next part of the competition.

I'll be reading Episode 2 tomorrow.

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  1. Shota no Sushi's gotta be written by a Tokyoite -- I'll root for the guy from Osaka! (Nametara akan de!) Let us know how it turns out.

    Deb H.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Deb H.

      Sorry, Deb H., things are not looking good for Mr. Sakata, the Osaka representative.

      In episodes 2-3 (a story so wild it took two episodes to tell), the judges ask the contestants to make tamago-yaki. It's common knowledge that sushi chefs are judged on their tamago-yaki. Shota figures he has this one hands down because at his sushi restaurant everyone loves his tamago-yaki made with yamaimo potatoes. But then the judges announce that for this challenge the chefs are prohibited from using anything other than egg and spices and oil. "That's crazy!" say the chefs. "How the hell are we gonna get the egg to meld smoothly with the rice???!!" To ponder this one, each chef is sequestered in an apartment with a small stove, a square fry pan, eggs and oil. Nothing else is in the refrigerator. Shota remembers Kashiwa-zuke, a way of making tamago-yaki that's really thin, and that can work. He tries a few times but he keeps burning the egg. Then Sakata, the Osaka rep, barges into Shota's room bragging that he has a special pan that can fry the egg without oil and not burn it. Sakata figures he has it won, and goes to bed. Shota gets depressed, but then his friends come from Tokyo with some cake to celebrate his perfect ten in the knife contest. He sees the cake and that gets him thinking. In the morning, all the tamago-yakis are displayed for the judges. The judges are proud that all the sushi chefs figured out that they had to make it thin. They really like Sakata's, and he gets a 9. But then they see Shota's. It's not thin, it's normal size. They figure he's an idiot. But then they try it. It's fluffy and not burned, and melds well with the rice. Turns out Shota split the egg white and yolk, and whipped the whites into a meringue, then folds in the yolks, then fried it up. The cake was the inspiration. Shota gets a perfect 10 again. "That punk surpassed my ten years of training in one day!" cries the Osaka guy.

      1. re: chowhoundX

        Argh! The contest is fixed by the manga author! Osakans can't get a break, man. Don't tell me Shota makes better okonomiyaki, takoyaki and Akashiyaki in a later episode, ChowhoundX.

        Deb H.

        1. re: Deb H.

          Yeah, I'd say the author's loyalties are pretty clear. At one point some friends of the Osaka rep show up, and they are a surly bunch. I doubt we'll see Shota doing okonomiyaki -- way beneath him.

          OK, enough comics... back to SF restaurant talk. Le Petit Robert, the new French bistro at Polk and Green is opening tomorrow (10/10) for dinner according to a sign I just saw on the door. The menu is a long list of small plates for around $9 each, plus some larger entrees around 15-20.

          1. re: chowhoundX
            m
            Melanie Wong

            The place was full when I drove by last friday. Anyone have a preview report?

    2. Have you ever read Natsuko no Sake? It's, not surprisingly, about a sake brewery and apparently was hugely popular (think they even based a drama on it). My sake teacher always says horrible things about it, however--apparently the brewery they modeled it on is not up to his standards. In one drawing of their equipment you can see that they have a machine to add artificial fragrance to their sake...

      1 Reply
      1. re: Rachel M.

        I haven't read it, but it was in the bin also. I'll check it out next time.