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Dinner at Sakae

March 18th, 2009 by Michelle | 1 Comment | Filed in Restaurants
In Burlingame, CA is a wonderful gem of a restaurant: Sakae.  It appears to be a tiny hole-in-the-wall run-of-the-mill sushi shop. But if you go, sit at the sushi bar, and put your appetite (and wallet!) in the hands of owner and sushi chef Hiro and Jun you are in for an amazing treat.  We ask for some sashimi, little dishes, sushi,  whatever they want to serve, and sake pairings, of course.  Expect to pay $100 to $250 per person.  Their sake collection is wonderful, though the best ones will run you $15 to $25 per glass.
Here’s one spectacular dinner we had in August 2008.
Our chef was Jun-san, ready with his sushi knife:

Jun, Our chef

Jun, Our chef

We started with a dish of braised squid legs and daikon.  Daikon is a mild flavored radish-like root vegetable that carries flavor well, and when braised, melts in the mouth.  The texture was a wonderful complement to the more al dente squid:

Braised Squid Legs with Daikon

Braised Squid Legs with Daikon

Next up was a very traditional Japanese dish, Chawanmushi, served with a freshly picked orchid:

Chawanmushi with Fresh Pickled Orchid

Chawanmushi with Fresh Orchid

This cool egg custard had shrimp and okra toppings:

Chawanmushi with Fresh Picked Orchid

Chawanmushi with Fresh Picked Orchid

With these few appetizers, we were served our first sake.  It was medium dry, with a pleasant mild aroma.  Slightly spicy.  A bit flat, but not harsh.  Not sure what brand/label it was.  Something like “eshu” or “esha”.
Next came a wonderful sashimi collection.  It included Red Snapper (Tai), Kanpachi, Japanese Pike Fish (Sanma), Cockles (torigay), medium fatty Tuna, Spot Prawn, and Bonito.  The photo also shows the glassware used for our first sake pour.

Omakase Sashimi

Omakase Sashimi

After this orgy of raw fish, we moved to cooked dishes.  We also asked for a sweet sake (personal preference, not necessarily the best pairing here) and were served the wonderful and much-loved Dewasansan.  Our first cooked dish was beef tongue in miso sauce with in-season asparagus and okra.  This meat was fall-apart tender.  A very richly flavored dish.  Here are two photos:

Beef Tongue with Miso Flavor, Asparagus and Okra Garnish

Beef Tongue with Miso Flavor, Asparagus and Okra Garnish

Beef Tongue with Miso Flavor

Beef Tongue with Miso Flavor

Next was a Japanese preparation of a non-Japanese vegetable: California artichokes, tempura style.  Served with subtly flavored green tea salt:

Artichoke Tempura with Green Tea Salt

Artichoke Tempura with Green Tea Salt

And back to a more traditional Japanese dish: Whole Aiyu fish, stuffed with Sansho (peppercorns) and cooked for a long time.  Because it is cooked so long, the bones get soft and nearly dissolve into the flesh.  With it we moved to a traditional sake: the aged Juyondai.
Two photos, one showing presentation, the other a close-up.

Aiyu Fish, long cooked, stuffed with Sansho

Aiyu Fish, long cooked, stuffed with Sansho

Aiyu Fish, Stuffed with Sansho

Aiyu Fish, Stuffed with Sansho

After the fish, the heads from our sashimi spot prawn make their re-appearance, after having been fried in the kitchen.  Perfectly fried, the legs and shell are crispy and fully edible.

Fried Shrimp Heads

Fried Shrimp Heads

Before we move from the hot cooked dishes back to cold raw sushi, we are served a cold plate of smoked eggs, squid, and salmon.  This was smoked in-house over cherry wood chips.   A great transition dish. It was particularly good with the Juyondai sake.

In-house cherry smoked eggs, squid, and salmon

In-house cherry smoked eggs, squid, and salmon

Now we were ready to move on to the last phase of the meal: sushi!  And the final sake: Dewasakura Daiginjo.  A very fine, reliably good, sweetish sake with amazing aroma.
Our first sushi was Suzuki, Japanese Sea Bass.  This photo shows the presentation of the sushi along with the freshly grated wasabi (milder than commercial wasabi mixes that usually are mostly horseradish!).  This is NOT the kind of wasabi you mix into a pool of soy sauce.  Do that here and Jun will give you a dollop of commercial wasabi mix to use instead.

Suzuki, Japanese Sea Bass

Suzuki, Japanese Sea Bass

Next we had White King Salmon, Big Fin Squid (Aori-Ika), and Japanese Mackerel (Aji):

White King Salmon

White King Salmon

Big Fin Reef Squid, Aori-Ika

Big Fin Reef Squid, Aori-Ika

Japanese Spanish Mackerel, Aji

Japanese Spanish Mackerel, Aji

Next was a very special treat.  An older-style sushi.  Sake marinated bluefin Tuna:

Old Style Sushi (Zuki), Marinated Bluefin Tuna

Old Style Sushi, Marinated Bluefin Tuna

Then one of my favorites: Mirugai, Clam.  Followed by Uni with ‘caviar’.

Mirugai (clam)

Mirugai (clam)

Uni with Caviar

Uni with Caviar

And, rather than the common freshwater eel, unagi, we next had Anago, Saltwater Sea Eel:

Sea Eel, Anago

Sea Eel, Anago

We don’t usually finish with a dessert here, but this was a birthday meal.  Jun served us a threesome of white sesame cheesecake, pound cake with marscapone cream and green tea ice cream:

White Sesame Cheesecake, Pound Cake with Mascarpone cream, Green Tea Ice Cream

White Sesame Cheesecake, Pound Cake with Mascarpone cream, Green Tea Ice Cream

Although Jun was our chef tonight, we’ve had equally amazing meals from owner Hiro as well:

Hiro (in front), Jun (in back)

Hiro (in front), Jun (in back)

Shakshuka: Comfort Food

September 6th, 2008 by Michelle | No Comments | Filed in Uncategorized

Shakshuka: eggs in tomato sauce

Shakshuka: eggs in tomato sauce

Last year we ate at a newly opened Israeli restaurant and had a wonderful dish of ‘Shakshuka’. It was eggs cooked in a spicy tomato sauce and was quite good. We’ve since made many variations on this dish, it’s quick and easy comfort food if you have some tomato sauce and eggs handy.

We’ve done very untraditional versions, filled with meaty sauces, including pork, and some with simpler and more traditional tomato and spice sauces.

Since tomatoes are in season, we started with a slow cooked tomato sauce made from Early Girl tomatoes and sweet Sungolds:

Sauce for Shakshuka

Sauce for Shakshuka

Into it went two farm fresh eggs from pasture-raised chickens (from TLC Ranch.):

Fresh Eggs into Tomato Sauce

Fresh Eggs into Tomato Sauce

Notice how much the yolks stand up in the sauce and how bright orange they are? We’re lucky to be able to get fresh eggs like this, and we can even visit the chickens and see for ourselves how they are raised (and we have). Check out their food politics blog, Honest Meat.

And here’s a short video showing some of the preparation for the dish:

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Cantaloupe from the Garden

August 25th, 2008 by Michelle | 2 Comments | Filed in produce

Cantaloupe on the vine in our garden

We planted cantaloupe this year and now have a nice crop of ripening melons. The motivation was to use them in smoothies, but they are so sweet and syrupy, they usually don’t make it to the blender. Read the rest of this entry »

Summer Candy: Figs!

August 20th, 2008 by Michelle | No Comments | Filed in produce

One of the many delights of California summer foods is fresh figs. So syrupy sweet, they are like candy.

Our backyard fig trees are still too young to bear much fruit, but Allen Wilson of Wilson farms offers his bounty at the Santa Cruz Farmer’s Market:

Allen Wilson with his figs

Allen Wilson with his figs

Read the rest of this entry »

Tandoori Experiment 2

August 11th, 2008 by Michelle | 8 Comments | Filed in Ceramic Cooker

We had an almost successful first try at using our ceramic cooker as a tandoor oven. We made some changes and tried again.

Recap of issues from the first try

The first attempt resulted in chicken that was unevenly done — the edge pieces were well cooked, but the middle ones were not quite done.

We had to be gentle with the skewers or the meat would slide off the bottom of the skewers.

We fried the gasket in the BGE by using a platesetter that redirected the heat to the gasket area. Read the rest of this entry »

Green Peach Salad

August 2nd, 2008 by Michelle | 1 Comment | Filed in Recipes

Too Many Peaches!

We have several fruit trees in the yard, one of them in its third season since planting. It’s produced a bumper crop too large for its small frame to support:

Peach tree in garden, heavy with peaches, leaning

Peach tree in garden, heavy with peaches, leaning

Read the rest of this entry »

Real Hazelnut Mocha

August 1st, 2008 by Michelle | No Comments | Filed in coffee

We’re coffee snobs. After tasting expertly (and lightly!) roasted beans, used within 2 weeks of roasting, and pulled as espresso by a barista who knows how to properly extract it, we were ruined for run-of-the-mill coffee. And yes, run-of-the-mill includes the likes of Starbucks and Peets. Thankfully, there are a number of “third wave” coffee shops near us.

Barefoot Coffee is one of those (and the one that introduced us to just how amazing espresso drinks could really be!). Their baristas are an amazing group. One of them is Paul, who shares our interest in local, seasonal, whole foods and experiments with incorporating them into espresso drinks. We happened to be in the shop one day when he was experimenting with hazelnuts. Lucky us! Read the rest of this entry »

A Good Grill Grid Lifter

July 31st, 2008 by Michelle | 1 Comment | Filed in Ceramic Cooker, Gadget Reviews

One of the accessories we wanted for our Big Green Egg kamado-style grill was a grill lifter, a gadget to remove a too-hot-to-touch grill to get at the charcoal beneath. We looked at the crooked-stick ones sold by barbeque stores and at the clamp-like one by Big Green Egg. The Big Green Egg one was better than the others, but still a bit wobbly in how it held the grill. Some people buy two of them, but that seemed needlessly expensive. Also, the handles are short, putting your hands close to the hot grill.

Then I saw this grid lifter at Amazon. It was cheaper than the Big Green Egg one and Amazon has a great return policy, so I ordered it. It was, as noted in the comments at Amazon, a different model than pictured there. Read the rest of this entry »

Tandoori Marinade

July 30th, 2008 by Ken | No Comments | Filed in Recipes

This run of tandoori marinade was modeled on a vindaloo spice scheme.

The ingredients and approximate quantities are as follows:

  • 1 cup whole goat yogurt (plain cow’s milk yogurt is just fine)
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • juice of 1 fresh lime
  • 2-3 tablespoon piece of fresh ginger root
  • 2-3 tablespoons of garlic cloves
  • 3 Dry whole chili pods
  • 1-2 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 tsp black peppercorns
  • 2 tsp whole coriander seeds
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 small cinnamon stick
  • 1 tsp black cumin seeds (kala jeera)
  • 1 tsp green cardamom seeds
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 3 whole cloves

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Big Green Egg as a Tandoor Oven?

July 25th, 2008 by Michelle | 8 Comments | Filed in Ceramic Cooker

We decided to try using the Big Green Egg (BGE) as a tandoor oven.

Features of a traditional tandoor

A tandoor is typically a cylindrical clay oven, open on the top. It can be heated by charcoal or gas (in modern versions). It runs at temperatures from 500 to 800 degrees F. Very long skewers of marinated meat are lowered into the oven vertically. Cooking time is quick, usually 8 to 15 minutes. The meat is surrounded on all sides by intense heat which caramelizes the surface, and the quick cooking time minimizes moisture loss. The marinade is not oily enough to drip and cause flames. Read the rest of this entry »