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No Reservations - Tokyo [SPOILERS]

10 minutes in and I'm thinking that the show, and I, would REALLY benefit from sub-titles in the Masaharu Morimoto segment. Thankfully, Bourdain repeated SOME of the things Morimoto said, but not everything. I had a real tough time understanding most of the dialogue, unfortunately.

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  1. That's funny, I always thought when they put up subtitles on Iron Chef when Morimoto is speaking English was an insult to the man.... I guess its necessary.

    1. I just activated close-captioning to read the dialog.

      1 Reply
      1. re: paulj

        Great idea. I'll have to remember that for next time.

      2. I didn't have a problem understanding him. Or maybe I just lip read and don't know it?

        I thought the photography on this episode was the best ever! And the program content was great too. I was relieved he didn't spend the time on subway station bento boxes and train packers. I do wish he had given more information about each of his "guides," but I did enjoyed his focus on classics. Thought it was interesting that Morimoto did NOT go with him when he did omakase. He gave everything his best shot with grace and aplomb.

        I've commented in other posts that I find his "chew speed" fascinating. In some episodes he has chewed food with lightning speed. Then he chewed slowly at the French Laundry, and I speculated his chewing speed is the only true reflection of whether he truly is enjoying something. During omakase, he chewed at a snail pace. It must have been mind blowingly delicious!

        9 Replies
        1. re: Caroline1

          If you have read an old Ruth Reichl's review of an omakase in NYC for the NYT, you sense a dynamic of the customer being enrapt at the offerings of the sushi chef. I think having Morimoto tag along would spoil that dynamic. It's probably less real for Morimoto to be in awe of a fellow sushi chef than for Bourdain and friends to be in awe of Thomas Keller at the French Laundry.

          What was being brushed on the sushi by chef each time before serving? Soy sauce?

          1. re: Minger

            You're right about it being a good idea to have Morimoto along for the omakase, but my bet is that the two chefs know each other pretty well. But my guess is also that Morimoto is waaaaaay too busy! Besides Iron Chef America, he has... what? Nine restaurants? More? I'm pretty sure he still owns all of the Nobu chain in addition to all of the Morimoto restaurants. Personally, I was glad to hear him speaking English and didn't have a problem understanding him. I really love his sense of humor!

            I'll pass on the New York Times article on sushi. I hate what the Americanization of sushi has done to an old fun tradition. I mean, it's NOT chanoyu! But they're trying hard!

            The stuff they were brushing on the sushi was a flavoring sauce or maybe even a light oil to finish the sushi. It may not have been the same for all sushi, or it could be. Who knows? "Real" sushi is never served with a dipping sauce, never eaten with chopsticks, and REAL sushi is never served by the platterful with all of the pieces arranged to look like a stupid damned caterpillar or a dragon or whatever. Oh, and REAL sushi isn't sold in a prepacked tray at Central Market with each piece wrapped in black nor-flavored bubble gum! LOL!

            There are still some authentic Japanese sushi bars in the U.S. Look for a small place in a neighborhood strip mall away from the big city high rent districts. Check to see whether the sushi chef was trained in Japan. If not, drive on! Here's the URL for my favorite Japanese restaurant:
            http://www.riyomasushi.com/
            I'm both sad and relieved to see that the original owner/sushi chef has sold the place. Sad because he was a great sushi chef. Relieved because now I can quit grieving about not being able to eat there regularly. It may be the last place on the planet where I have done omakase. And please note, there is NO "omakase" on the menu. '-)

            1. re: Caroline1

              I'm pretty sure Morimoto never had any ownership interest Nobu. He was executive chef at the NYC Nobu during Iron Chef original recipe (i.e., Japan), then went out on his own.

              1. re: Debbie M

                Right - started by Nobu Matsuhisa (who employed Morimoto) it (and all the offshoots) are part of Drew Nieporent's Myriad group. Morimoto left and started his own place in Philadelphia, then NYC and Tokyo.

                1. re: applehome

                  My goof! Thanks for the correction. And now I won't bother going to Nobu Dallas and hanging out waiting for Morimoto to show up!* You've saved me a FORTUNE!!! '-)
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                  *Not that I'd really do that. I'm not a fan of fusion sushi!

              2. re: Caroline1

                "The stuff they were brushing on the sushi was a flavoring sauce or maybe even a light oil to finish the sushi."

                My guess is the base (simmered) sauce, generically referred to as ni-jiru. Some see it as the liquid soul of the classical chef, primarily to (eventually) brush on ni (simmered or boiled/stewed) items, e.g. ni-anago (sea eel), ni-awabi (abalone) and if I wasn't mistaken one of the Sukiyabashi Jiro items that AB got served was hamaguri [clam] that definitely could use a brush of sauce (I noticed a prior post I had linking someone's photo blog of their SJ visit who also got hamaguri in their Jiromakase meal got removed as part of collateral damage or some CH TOS violation of blog linkage...sigh). This sauce can be a bit on the sweet side.

                Soy sauce can be seasoned further with other ingredients as needed. A nice touch is to season the sauce with konbu (kelp), and make it a reduction so it has a slightly more concentrated consistency to regular soy sauce, but full of flavor (and finger lickin' good). This is likely used for fish other than the above.

                The growing trend across Los Angeles, New York and Japan at top places, including touristy Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo (as well as those riding this bit of dining trend all around the world) is to pre-season and pre-sauce fish so no additional soy sauce or wasabi is needed. Of the great places, the sauce is made from scratch which is extremely rare these days. It is easier for most to just season a wholesale vat of soy sauce themselves to save time. Some might use a hint of citrus where appropriate (or splash on ponzu like there's no tomorrow, and perhaps no thanks).

                Purely subjective and debatable personal thing and preference. You can consider this blasphemy, or part of innovation. A local place I used to frequent has been doing fusion nigiri (for their omakase) and it has been a major major profit machine. We're talking seared black cod sushi with a brush of vinegared miso sauce on top, or a slice of kiwi on top, or seared scallops with yuzu tobiko on top and more citrusy based sauce. Or katsuo with raw onion slices, ponzu. Or hokkaido scallops with uni miso sauce on top with kaiware. Or aburi (seared) hamachi belly with yuzugosho (yuzu pepper). Lots of haters and lots of lovers.

                I mentioned this in my first post to this thread (that got deleted) and I'll mention it again. It was a pleasure for AB's camera crew to capture Jiro-san sitting down in front of a charcoal (?) grill and quickly hand searing/roasting nori sheets to make them more crispy and crunchy (for the customer's palate). A fine attention to detail that emphasis the cultural theme of the show.

                1. re: Caroline1

                  It's not authentic when the board of health requires you to freeze fish. I do agree about the Americanization of sushi, though.

                2. re: Minger

                  Yes. He brushes on his own house blend of shoyu. The nickname for this is "murasaki' which means "purple" in Japanese.

                  Instead of shoyu, some items may take just salt or a squeeze of citrus (yuzu, lemon, sudachi...). Also, some items will have wasabi (maguro, buri, etc.) and some grated fresh ginger (most hikari mono).

                  1. re: Silverjay

                    ah, ah, ah... namida, not wasabi - I mean, so long as you're sticking to murasaki...

              3. This show redeems the series after the Southwest show, that was an anomoly, thank goodness.

                I really really enjoyed the sushi part of the show. I liked the idea of not needing anything ewlse on the sushi. I kind of got a kick out of his question about perfection. I was sorely disappointed that the answers were not fully translated into English. I am sure the kendo master and the sushi master had a lot to say, but then again, too much talk isn't zen.

                I am not a huge fan of the Edo style dining, but the food porn on that segment was awesome. Oh, and the yakitori segment was killing me, especially the grilled chicken skin.

                I thought the cocktail scenes were a little retarded, although I enjoyed seeing the guy do his thing with the drinks.

                Morimoto was awesome, I liked the way he dismembered the monkfish and made all those dishes from that fish.

                7 Replies
                1. re: Phaedrus

                  I remembered to watch this show last night. I also saw the show in Sao Paolo, Brazil in the hour before, which I *really* enjoyed, especially the last part with Carolina. She was a hoot, and AB really seemed to enjoy his female companion guides throughout the entire show! Would have been fun to have him drink a few more caipirinhas and get him up to dance! LOL But he certainly did drink his share of caipirinhas, didn't he?

                  I don't know a lot about Japanese food, but did find the show fascinating. His search and queries about reaching perfection were essentially all answered the same, as I expected: "What is perfection?"

                  I have to agree on the cocktail section - just didn't seem to fit in, other than the quest for a perfect cocktail.

                  The scenery and introspective aspect of the show and AB himself was interesting to me. AB's respect for the Japanese culture and precise food preparation is quite profound. Quite a different show from others - whereas Spain next week looks to be more of what most expect from him - a bit crazier/wilder.

                  1. re: Phaedrus

                    At the beginning of the SW show he said something about it being a personal challenge. He'd been gracious guest in difficult places like Romania and Saudi Arabia; could he do the same in the USA? This show was a very different quest - one for perfection.

                    1. re: Phaedrus

                      To be fair, cocktails have become a humongous part of their culture. There's an obsession running with cocktails, at least in Tokyo. I do understand why he included it.

                      1. re: Phaedrus

                        The cocktail scene should've been completely eliminated in my opinion on the bases that it had no cultural relevance to Japan. When the bartender said he was inspired by a movie starring Tom Cruise I lost total interest in that segment. Morimoto was a perfect addition to this podcast. His English was passable. This show definitely made up for AB's Hokkaido segment of the podcast.

                        1. re: thesoulofjapan

                          I don't know about that. I viewed it as an example of the Japanese ability to absorb something in, then pivot it to reflect an aspect of their inner culture. AB's cocktail became the equivalent of an Ikebana piece rendered with glass, alcohol and garnish, and tasty too.

                          1. re: huiray

                            Cocktails and Ikebana is like trying to compare wine and grits.

                            1. re: thesoulofjapan

                              Fine, Let's then say the bartender portrayed demonstrated what making a cocktail became when distilled through the lens of Japanese sensibility, attention to detail, precision and visual form.

                      2. Agree with the comments about the quality of this show. One of the best NR ever in my opinion.