Samo suggested in an earlier post that I probably detested salad. I have no idea why anyone would think this. Samo, why would you think that? I love salad. I adore salad. The holy trinity of the great single home-cooked meal is: parchment-baked salmon, mashed yukon gold sweet potatoes, balsamic vinagrette over good wild greens.
BUT: I do rarely mention salads in posting, because I have a hard time beating getting some greens from the good stall at the farmer's market and dressing it with a little artisinal balsamic. (Bay Cities is my current in-town supplier for this little expensive habit.) I can't really justify spending what little lucre I have on salad outside, just like I can't justify walking into a bar and getting a good single malt. Have yet to have a salad at any continental joint that can match what I can whip up at home. (Maybe I would get a salad at Chez Panisse).
A FURTHER BUT: There is one exception (though I am willing to entertain others, if there are any suggestions). I am mad about the salads you get in Japanese restaurants. Always: crappy, very crisp iceberg, and then the most delightful dressings I've ever had. Sometimes miso-based, sometimes sesame based, I've never been unhappy by a salad in a Japanese place, as long as it isn't a truly depraved American place. (The only bad Japanese salad I've had in recent memory was at a joint in San Diego where, for tempura, they served frozen-fried-fishsticks-style-breaded-imitation-crab with tartar sauce.)
But what are these mysterious things on Japanese salads? I can't recreate them at home. So:
1. Where are the best Japanese salads in town?
(my current preference is for a cheap dive on Sawtelle, some single door in a recessed parking lot a few buildings north of FuRaiBo, where the salad comes with some al dente noodles with some kind of sweet miso-y substance - A SECOND DRESSING ON A SINGLE SALAD.
2. What is the secret of the Japanese dressing?
3. How do I make it at home?
4. Are there any decent brands I can get at a Japanese grocery?
Three points and I'm out.
The salad at Blue Marlin is not based on iceberg lettuce. It's one of those mixed greens things sold at Ralphs in a plastic bag. (BM forages locally. Cf. the pickled ginger at Niji-ya if you need proof.)
The salad at Campanile is excellent. When are we going?
Did you read what Amanda Hesser wrote about Jeffrey Steingarten's attitude toward salad? I simply think of you as a slender, hiphop Jeffrey, hence my error.
Here are a couple of recipes. This first one is Nobu's recipe from Matsuhisa:
1 cup lemon juice, 1/2 cup soy sauce, 3 cloves garlic chopped fine, 2 tsp. salt, black pepper, 2 tsp. cayenne pepper, 1-1/4 cup grapeseed oil. In a blender combine everything but the oil and then blend that in at low speed. Good for up to a week in the fridge.
Here's another one from a westside restaurant that is especially good:
1/8 cup mirin, 1-1/8 cup rice vinegar, 1/4 cup water, 3-3/4 cup soy sauce, 1-1/2 cup olive or grapeseed oil, some chopped white onion, chopped carrots, a little chopped garlic and a squeeze from half a lemon and half an orange each. Mix all except oil, carrots and onions and then add vegetables. Lastly, add oil.