Oshi Sushi & Okonomiyaki
- Richard 16 Jun 15, 2009 07:55 AM
Frankly, I think more sushiyas should offer oshi sushi. It's pretty, it's easy, and they already have everything they'll need - except some boxes. I tried to get a local place - named, of course, Osaka - to carry it and/or okonomiyaki.
For the latter cabbage is cheap and it stores well. They could have a small space on the menu, or even a separate list - for the customer to pick from. And it can be made in the BOH.
Does anyone here know of places that carry either? Why don't others? I have my own thoughts, but I'd like to see what others have to say.
Why would a real Japanese place carry both teppanyaki and sushi? Maybe a Chinese owned and run "hibachi"/throw the spatula around place? And they would know about Kansai cooking, how? And you would trust them to know? Most genuinely Japanese Itamae that have trained and serve nigirizushi are more into Edomae cooking than Kansai. It would take someone who grew up there and knew that food to want to recreate it here.
Perhaps at a Japanese food court - like at Mitsuwa in NJ or the Porter Exchange in Boston - although that's probably going to go away with the death of Kotobukiya. In fact, I'm surprised that there isn't more diversity at these places. There are two edomae sushiyas, but no teppanyaki (I mean REAL teppanyaki, with okonomiyaki and yakisoba, not Roki Aoki's stillborn mess that he left us - or maybe a takoyaki place, a yakitori/yakiton place, a kare house, etcetc... now that would be worth visiting.
The US is not Japan. I have been to over 100 places in the US. I have not been to any that did not serve something else, such as tempura, although I don't doubt they exist.
I'm not thinking of the rapidly-growing "teppenyaki" - "Japanese Steak and Sushi" -- places. While okonomiyaki may be done on open flat tops in Japan, simply having it made in the BOH, with a cook doing other things as well, allows the itame free to focus on the sushi. And okonomiyaki is ridiculously easy to make with a little guidance.
As is oshisushi for a sushi chef. The same basic rules apply - great rice, fresh fish and other ingredients, knife skills, and a sharp culinary mind. What is not required is an intimate knowledge of Kansai food.
Authenticity only gets you so far. While most of my favorite sushi bars have Japanese chefs, one has a Korean and another a Croation. One of my least favorite has a Japanese "chef".
I'm about the food. How many top restaurants have, for example, Mexican cooks actually preparing the food? How are/were the Iron Chefs French and Italian limited? How would I trust anyone to know how to put out good food? Try it!
re: Richard 16
Well, clearly, my worldview is different, having grown up in Japan. I think that most folks that think that ethnic food is "easy" never achieve the full understanding of what makes something authentic or not, what makes the experience of the food as it should be. Surely, we can say that hey - you're in the US, it's bound to be different here. And that's exactly what leads to throwing spatulas around and serving crap on a plate (or in a bowl) and calling it Japanese food, cooked by someone presumably with slanted eyes. Hey - it's close by American standards, right? Of course, this performance teppanyaki crap was indeed invented by a Japanese person in NYC - he saw a market (dumb gaijin never knowing or being able to appreciate the real thing) and exploited it. That doesn't make it good food. Neither is superficial, mediocre okonomiyaki or oshizushi.
I have no idea where you get that the training and experience of someone like Sakai, a world-class, master French chef, is the equivalent of a cook (Mexican or otherwise) in a restaurant. Indeed, if that Korean, Mexican or Croatian cook had spent the number of years in Japan that either Sakai had epent in France or Kobe had spent in Italy, cooking in various restaurants and learning from the best chefs, I would think that they would indeed be masters, themselves.
Not that okonomiyaki is anything but drunk food to begin with, with very little traditional guidelines - but there is a level of respect that Japanese show to their food and food preparers that goes far and beyond what most Americans are capable of appreciating. Even drunk food has traditions.
I do agree that anyone can learn to cook anything. But there has to be a teacher, and that teacher ought to understand and be passionate about what he's teaching. Someone who's never been to Osaka (or Japan in general) and had the real okonomiyaki experience is not going to get it "out of a book". The best he can do is replicate something superficial. Which is why I really don't get your push to get a presumably Japanese place to serve things that they may know little about. Asking restaurant after restaurant to serve okonomiyaki makes no sense to me. It has to be done by a passionate person who knows the food well and wants to serve a great version and provide a great experience - and by the way, that would include a large teppan - in the front, where all can see. And it has to be open at 2AM - for the drunks.
As popular as oshi sushi and okonomiyaki is in Japan, we rarely see it here in LA as well. You'd think that with the relatively large population of Japanese Nationals that live here (particularly in the South Bay) that finding these would be easy. Oshi sushi - maybe too "crude" or homey for folks eating out? I know of one place that specializes in okonomiyaki - Gaja Moc in Lomita.
2383 Lomita Blvd, Lomita, CA 90717
A few of those vendors at the various Japanese food fairs at Mitsuwa have sold oshi zushi before.....one had a crab version, and another I recall a very tiny snapper. Maybe not that great, but still a taste of something. Better than the California "press" I had years ago with ebi, mayo, cucumbers (it was dubbed the Broadway Press)...yep Americanized battera.
Same here in Louisiana (:p LA without the L.A.). We get plenty of nigiri and roll type sushi, but so much is americanized, I wish we could get more authentic dishes and more actual japanese variety, though most of the asian population in Louisiana tends to be Vietnamese or Laotian. I'm not sure I've run into an actual Japanese American in our town yet. But it's mostly Vietnamese that run all the asian styled food places here, from thai to americanized chinese to americanized japanese. Still the thai places and noodle house tend to be more authentic in their dishes.
Oshi sushi isn't exactly "easy", otherwise everyone else would be making and selling it.
The most common version would be saba battera, and I personally love it to bits whenever a place offers it and does it right. You should see the amount of force a chef has to exert in order to press the mold down and create the perfect battera (whether with saba, unagi, or marinated snapper).
But two things
1) The general public would prefer paying $12 for a dragon roll thingamajig with sauces all over, than a saba battera
2) saba isn't exactly a fish at the top of everyone's list. Most Americans would prefer tuna, salmon, toro before they touch saba.
also the fact that some saba battera receipes call for some umeboshi.
One place not far from me, a Japanese restaurant that has all the generics, has saba battera at a whooping $17. You think that would garner interest?
The best battera I have access to is at an izakaya (sadly one of those fusiony type places that also offer tempura, teriyaki, ramen, udon, soba, sashimi, sushi....)
Although I'll say a teppanyaki (non Benny Hana type) isn't complete without not just Okonomiyaki but Dote-Yaki (grilled innards)...
re: K K
lol I kind of like mackerel (had to look up saba). But usually it's too rich for me, too oily. I much prefer lean tuna to anything else. But then my health is rather poor too. I used to love salmon and white fish, but I can't even stomach it anymore without feeling kinda sick cause of the oils. Though having tried mackerel, both when I could handle it, and loved it, and when I couldn't, it makes me want to try it grilled sometime.
Perhaps it's simply that American tastes can't handle the more rich tasting fish like it's come to with my health? ::mouth is watering from the thought of a nice, meaty, red tuna::