Something surprising has been happening at Sanraku in the Metreon [San Francisco]
So, normally I would not comment on this place, but in the last month or so I have eaten their three times (way more than normal) because it seems to me that there is definitely someone in the kitchen stirring up the menu a bit and making some old standards shine and some new flavor combinations that I have never experienced before.
About a month ago i grabbed some take out from there to eat in the garden with an old friend. I wasn't very hungry so I ordered the agedashi tofu appetizer and a roll. The roll was fine. it was a 49er roll and executed very nicely, but not anything I wasn't used to.
The agedashi tofu I must have had very low expectations for, cause what I got was delicious. The tofu was soft, and fried perfectly in that glutinous flour that makes the whole thing turn mochi-like once the hot dashi broth hits it. It had grated daikon and radish sprouts adorning the presentation and it had a really spot on and awesome dashi broth that I slurped down. It was served to me in a tupperware though, so it was hard to gauge how much there was and what it would be like for real in the restaurant. However, the flavor was excellent and I was impressed.
So..I went back to try again. The second time it came in a bowl, with 6 large pieces of tofu and the bowl half-filled with this excellent broth again. I stirred all the accoutrements in and went to work and it was just as delicious as I remembered. The broth had the right amount of sweet and salty that really made everything sing together.
so today, to avoid as many Oracle people as possible, I went back again.
Again i ordered the agedashi tofu and this time I noticed a "specials" card on the table that had a roll I had never had before "toro fatty tuna with shiso and oshiniko" I didn't notice the card until the waiter came to take my order and i immediately switched gears and ordered the fatty tuna roll and the tofu. So today, the tofu was still excellent, only the broth was on the salty side and lacked the sweet flavor that helped balance the whole dish, and was not as immaculate and excellent as the first two times. But that roll, oh my gosh, I could have eaten 6 more pieces. It has been a long time since I have had a sushi roll that tastes like nothing else I have ever had. the roll was so simple, but the amount of oshinko pickle to balance out the fatty tuna, and then the bits of shiso to brighten it all was such a perfect flavor combination and compliment that i was surprised that this is not a normal combination. (maybe it is in Japan, but i have never seen it here in the states in the 20+ years of eating sushi) It was really quite an excellent combination and I am completely smitten.
So..maybe they got a new lunch chef? no idea, but it is not as bland and banal as I remember.
Just a heads up for anyone trying to avoid Moscone center crowds (the prices and the fact that it is table service seem to keep people away).
Regarding the agedashi, the glutinous flour you refer to is actually cornstarch, I believe. This is the standard way of making agedashi-dofu in Japan.
Concerning the use of oshinko in a tuna roll, that would be rather rare in Japan but these days so many things are changing so it could be done here somewhere by now.
Thanks, i have had agedashi tofu at lots of places before, but this was surprising for the portion size and care that went into the prep. And really the dashi broth was what made it so tasty, but since the third time the broth was off, i guess i may have just gotten lucky. Nice to know that the "flour" i was thinking of is corn starch.