Thursday, September 30, 2010

Miso Black Cod

It's almost impossible to mention miso black cod in L.A. and not have the name Nobu Matsuhisa come up. The two are practically synonymous. It's also almost impossible to find someone who doesn't enjoy Nobu's miso black cod. I think it's just hard to find someone who doesn't enjoy miso black cod.

To be completely honest, I'm not a huge fan of Nobu's cod. I find the fish slightly too sweet and marinated for slightly too long. I prefer a fresher, juicier piece of fish. Fish that has been marinated for an extended amount of time tends to becomes a little firmer and a little drier.

Basically, I've had better. My mom used to make it when we were little, and I remember fighting my brother for the last piece. Luckily, miso black cod is ridiculously easy to prepare so anyone can replicate this dish. This was the first fish dish I've cooked in my new apartment thus far. It was insanely delicious, but I credit my ingredients rather than my skill ;)

Nobu's recipe calls for white miso. I'm not quite sure what kind of miso I used, but the flavor worked out how I wanted it to. Sadly, I cannot read Japanese or Chinese characters to save my life. Maybe those of you with those skills can read the label in the picture for me.

The Nijiya market on Sawtelle is pretty much my favorite place right now. I happened to visit on their "20% of meat" day. Although fish, unfortunately, is not categorized as "meat," I still walked out with these beautiful fillets of black cod. They were just too gorgeous to resist. Fresh, not previously frozen, the fillets literally glistened with deliciousness when I unwrapped them. I have not seen more beautiful cod. It was almost a shame to marinate them. I wanted them then and there.

Miso Marinated Black Cod
serves 2

1/2 cup of miso paste
3 tablespoon mirin
1 teaspoon light-colored honey (I used acacia)

2 fillets black cod (about 1 inch thick)
vegetable oil

1. Whisk together the miso paste, mirin, and honey to create the marinade. The ratio of all these ingredients depends on a couple of things: 1) it depends on the type of miso paste you are using--some are saltier than others and 2) it also depends on how sweet you want the fish to turn out.

2. Wipe down the fillets of black cod with a paper towel. Then lather the marinade onto the fish and transfer to a plastic ziplock bag. Marinate for about 24 hours. The amount of time you want to marinate the fish is also dependent on the cut of the fillet. It if it is thicker, then you can marinate for longer. I think at least 24 hours is a safe time range.

3. Before cooking, gently wipe off any excess marinade with your fingers. Do not wash the fillets with water. Oil a non-stick skillet or grill pan and cook the fillet until golden brown on both side on medium high (roughly 4 minutes per side) Right before the fish finished cooking, I added a tiny splash of mirin to kind of "deglaze" the pan. Most miso black cod recipes I've stumbled across online call for also baking the fish in the oven. I didn't really need to and my fish was already cooked through.

4. Plate and serve with a steaming hot bowl of glistening rice. Enjoy!


Monday, September 27, 2010

The Last Brunch at Anisette?

Is it open? Is it closed?

One second it's closed for good, and the next an irritated Alain Giraud is claiming, "It's bullshit...We're open, we're gonna stay open."

All I knew was that I had a Groupon with Anisette's name on it, and I wasn't letting that go to waste.

Incidentally, this was also the first day we finally had everyone back in the apartment. Denise just returned from a trip to NY (which included a dinner at Babbo that I am quite envious of), and this was the first meal the three of us would share together. There could not have been a more perfect place for a nice Sunday brunch with just the girls.

For me, every delicious bite was bittersweet.

Anisette Brasserie [closed]
225 Santa Monica Boulevard
Santa Monica, CA 90401

Pain au Chocolat

Just as good as I remembered, and I remembered it being pretty good. Nice and buttery and flaky with chocolaty batons. It still impressed me even though I literally just returned from Paris.

Quiche du Jour
Lobster and Crab

I didn't even notice quiche on my menu until Christine pointed it out to me. Quiche sounded good. It sounded even better when we found out that the quiche of the day was a lobster and crab quiche. It light and fluffy, with noticeable chunks of lobster and crab meat--all on top of a buttery, flaky crust. The butter leaf lettuce salad was dressed in a tangy vinaigrette (perhaps with sherry vinegar?) with shallots and chives.

Prime Steak Tartar
Spicy Dijon Vinaigrette, Egg

We ordered the full portion this time around and it came topped with a chicken egg yolk as opposed to the tiny quail egg yolk I experienced last time. Chicken egg yolk is not as cute. I also wasn't as impressed with the tartar this time--the flavors were all there but the meat was a little too tough. However, the full portion came with a tall cone of warm fries. These frites were pretty amazing. Fluffy inside and perfectly golden outside with a generous sprinkling of salt.

Onion Soup Gratinee
Emmental Cheese & French Baguette

The onion soup was good like I remembered and still better than the majority I've had in Paris. Gooey cheese, soft caramelized onions, and croutons imbued with the rich, deeply flavored soup.

Pate Maison
Duck & Foie Gras Parfait, Madeira Gelée

You know you've got a good apartment-mate when she can eat share of the pâté :)

We're going to have a good year full of good eats :)

So it seems that the latest news is that Anisette will be shuttered for good. I guess I need to find new Parisian escape for now. Au Revoir, Anisette. Hello, Bouchon?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Tapaç 24


*this post is long overdue. I had forgotten about it until a recent dinner at TestKitchen that featured Spanish tapas, then I remembered how GOOD tapas were in Spain.

On a relatively quiet side street off of the grand Passeig de Gràcia, "hidden" behind bright yellow umbrellas, cheerful sunflowers, and leafy green foliage, lies a little place called Tapaç 24. Tapaç 24 is a place you would walk into only if you were looking for it, and we should all be looking for it. For all its publicity, the place still feels relatively local for two reasons: (1) if you were a tourist, you would already be eating at one of the tourist traps on the Passeig de Gràcia after a long day of shopping. (2) after a long day of shopping, the sight of the daunting line snaking out of Tapaç 24 and around the block would turn away all but the most serious foodie tourists.

One word of advice--since the restaurant is open all day from 8AM-midnight, avoid meal times. The first time we visited Tapaç 24, we got there at a relatively early hour for dinner--around 6PM. Luckily, the Spanish don't even start considering dinner until 10PM, so there wasn't a line. If there had been a line, I'm not sure I would've been as successful in convincing my fellow students to eat at this little, underground, cigarette smoke-laden tapas bar. By the time we finished our meal and left the restaurant, there was already an impressive line out the door.

So if Tapaç 24 worth the wait?
Let's just say we went more than once, and we always ordered a second round of food.

In a city full of tapas bars, it's surprisingly difficult to come across one that impresses time and time again. Without a doubt, Carles Abellàn's Tapaç 24 impressed me more than once. This tapas bar has the warmth and bustling atmosphere of the most traditional tapas bar, yet its array of tapas is done with a consistent finesse and the occasional modern touch. A most compelling combination.

After a long day of Gaudí sightseeing at the Casa Millà and Parc Güell, we were all ready for not only some place to rest our sore feet, but also some good food. I subtly led the way towards Tapaç 24 and at Tapaç 24, we were all pleasantly surprised how good the good food turned out to be.

Tapaç 24
Diputació, 269
Barcelona 08007
tel: +34 93 488 09 77
open from 8AM-midnight, Mon-Sat


Fried potatoes with spicy tomato sauce ("bravas" sauce) and garlic sauce

Literally every tapas bar in Spain serves patatas bravas. It's such a guilty pleasure with greasy fried potatoes and a garlicky aioli--it's only worth eating if it's good. This was pretty damn good.

Potato and meat balls with spicy sauce

Russian salad (potato, carrot, tuna, olives, mayonnaise) with thin crusty bread

This was not something I would've ordered off of the menu, but it was actually rather tasty. This just goes to show, I shouldn't always be a menu hog.

Iberian ham croquettes

"Scrambled" eggs with potatoes and chorizo

Warm sandwich with black truffles, cured iberian ham and buffala mozzarella

spicy lamb skewers

Small beef hamburger with foie-gras served with foie and truffles mayonnaise

Tomato with tuna fish roe/eggs and tender onion

Bull tail cooked with beans

Black rice with cuttlefish


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Comerç 24

I wrote this post immediately after dining at Comerç 24 in Barcelona. I just didn't have time to edit pictures and perfect this post before putting it up while I was still traveling. I could go through and change all the verb tenses, but then I think it'd lose something. Therefore, I'm going to keep it as is :)

Last night, I had an eye-opening meal here in Barcelona--one that was spectacular enough to catapult me back into blogging. I've had some awful touristy meals as a result of time constraints and convenience, but I've also had some pretty damn good tapas. However, nothing had really compelled me to rush home and blog about it. Then, along came Comerç 24. I knew it'd be Spanish influenced cuisine with a liberal dosing of molecular gastronomy, but it was beyond anything I expected.

After a short metro ride and a nighttime stroll past the city's Arc de Triomphe, the glowing bright yellow banner of Comerç 24 beckoned me into a dark, yet inviting street. We were just in time for our 10:15pm reservation. All the shops and stores around the restaurant seemed to be closed--the only bright light coming from within the restaurant. We entered and were immediately seated at the largest table in the middle of the room. And open kitchen occupied one side of the room and a beautiful bar the other. Obviously I opted for a clear view of the kitchen. Immediately, one can sense the immaculate precision of the kitchen--everyone was busy doing their tasks, but there wasn't even a hint of chaos. My kind of kitchen.

I went with a group of fellow students also in the business travel study program with me here in Barcelona. The tasting menu at Comerç 24 is pretty pricey for a student budget (72 euros for the shorter FESTIVAL menu), but I managed to get together five of us who were willing and able to spend that kind of money on food. We had some spherification virgins in the group and let's just say the expression on someone's face when they pop their first spherification is priceless ;) None of us left disappointed. I don't know about them, but I left with a whole new perspective on what food can be.

Comerç 24
dining date: 8/6/10
Carrer del Comerç, 24
08003 Barcelona, Ciutat Vella
tel: 93 319 21 02
(closed for 3 weeks in August)

We were given printed menus at the end of the meal and not at the beginning. We had fun trying to decipher each course...or at least, I had fun :)

A bread basket and box of olive oils were brought to our table. As the server explained each olive oil in the box, he pour, in a long stream, the vibrant green oil into four different dishes--in order from lightest to strongest. I enjoyed dipping each bite of the rustic sliced bread into different pools of fruity oil before deciding that the strongest was the best.

Filo, PARMA, lime and basil
To start, these adorable filo "cigars" were delightful. With a remarkably thin, crunchy, slightly thin wrapper and a filling of mousse-like parmesan cheese flavored with lime and basil, they left everyone wanting more.

BANGKOK asparagus soup
Served in little teacups with a pearly white spherification at the bottom, a chilled broth was poured into the cup at the table. With the first cool sip, I was reminded of Thai flavors, of lemongrass and kaffir lime. When the spherification rolled into my mouth, a gentle squeeze against the roof of my mouth resulted in the release of slightly sweet coconut milk. Definitely Thai.

MONKFISH with black sesame and black garlic
This was the first dish that knocked me off my feet. It was remarkable. Not only delicious but also unbelievably beautiful. Someone compared it to a Chinese watercolor, and I couldn't have agreed more. I watched as the kitchen literally painted the plate with a jar of black sesame paste "ink." The seared monkfish, still rare and translucent at the center, had a salty, briny taste that paired so surprisingly well with the nutty, savory sesame.

I didn't quite catch what kind of fish topped this innovative pizza but we deduced that it was some kind of smoked, salty fish--maybe a spanish mackerel? The little pizza had toppings of a white, fresh, crumbly cheese, oven roasted cherry tomatoes, baby arugula, and pitted cherry halves on a thin, crispy crust. Our server used a cute little pizza cutter to cut it into four pieces. The sweet bit of cherry went well to balance the fishy, smoked flavor.

SARDINES with orange and fresh wasabi
The first actual dish in the 7 savory courses, it blew me away. I love sardines and anchovies and all small salty fishes. This was the best preparation of sardines I've ever had. The slivers of sardines were accompanied by fresh citrus segments to cut the fishiness, with slightly sweet and crunchy crumbles creating a contrast in texture. The micro greens added a touch of freshness to the dish. It just worked.

TUNA tartar
I was not particularly impressed or surprised by the tuna tartar. It tasted exactly like how it looked--raw tuna, lightly marinated in soy sauce topped with salmon roe. The only interesting component was the sauce of raw egg yolk. I've only had raw egg yolk with beef tartar...never with tuna tartar.

CONSOMME with egg, truffle and parmesan
Absolutely beautiful, this soup looked like a work of art. Three different colored spherifications, each containing a different flavor (the yellow being egg, brown being truffle, and white being parmesan) it was arranged into a colorful pyramid. A delicate sprinkling of sea salt adorned each of the egg spherification. Then a warm, wonderfully scented, black truffle consommé is poured over the spherifications. We were advised to eat each spherification separately, resulting in a different flavored bite each time. It was not only delicious, but also such a joy to eat.

COD with romesco and carquinyolis
Another gorgeously plated dish--I love the use of a piece of slate as a plate. A bright orange romesco sauce covered a moist, flakey piece of salted cod. Carquinyolis, which is apparently a Spanish version of biscotti, left a trail from the cod to a piece of edible flower that reminded of a asparagus. Taken together, it was a very interesting preparation of fish. However, I would've liked some acidity. The sweetness of the biscotti crumble and the saltiness of the fish were not enough.

duck RICE with foie
How could this dish not be good? It was amazing. Each grain of rice was cooked to a perfect toothsome al dente in a duck stock. There were no actual pieces of duck in the dish but it's essence was definitely there. The quenelle of foie gras was so rich and smooth. We were advised to mix everything together before eating. Unfortunately, there was also a kind of crumble in the dish--one that tasted like crushed corn nuts to us--and it's flavor was a little overpowering for the foie.

CHIAVARI red mullet
Such interesting plating. The translucent disk is solidified fish stock made from the bones of the red mullet. A single leaf of basil and a surprisingly pungent purple flower (reminded me of garlic and chives) adorned the plate. The drops of sweet, thick balsamic vinegar provided the acidity I tend to enjoy in fish dishes. The red mullet, apparently from Chiavari, was cooked to a tender, juicy doneness.

BRESSE chicken with king prawns
The last savory course, was a perfectly cooked piece of prawn. I've never had prawn so sweet and succulent. It's snappy texture reminded me of perfectly cooked langoustine...only better. The chicken thigh meat underneath was definitely not as memorable compared to the prawn. It was a little heavier than previous dishes so it was a nice conclusion to the savory portion of our meal.

Natural "NESTEA"
This unassuming shot of orange colored juice and green foam is a lot more impressive than it seems. We were told to take the entire shot of white peach juice, lemon zest, and green tea foam in one gulp. We all thought it was a questionable combination of flavors, but as we said cheers and all started drinking the shot, everyone's eyes started to widen in surprise and then in awe. It was an amazing shot of juice. The white peach juice was sweet and pure, and the matcha foam was a pleasantly bitter contrast. It was ridiculously good. Ridiculous.

Bread, oil, CHOCOLATE and salt
A smaller portion of the same dessert I had at the more casual Tapaç 24, the combination of chocolate mousse, fruity olive oil, and sea salt works so surprisingly or not so surprisingly well. Great for a chocolate lover like me.

Sheep milk YOGHURT with apple and raspberries
A light and fruity dessert offering, it was slightly unmemorable when compared with the rest of the meal. Vibrantly green, though not much else. It tasted like yogurt with some fruit and crumble.

NOUGAT with tuille cigar, chocolate and coffee
Black sesame OREO with vanilla
Sablée with pineapple and meringue
A cute little offering of mignardises came on another black slate. However, at this point, we were all too full to really appreciate them. That being said, they were all delicious. Of course I still managed to eat my share. The black sesame oreo ice cream sandwich was cute--something I might want to replicate at home. The pineapple treat tasted like a Chinese pineapple cake/tart/thing (hopefully someone out there knows what I'm talking about) just more delicate and with a hint of lime zest. The nougat tasted like some kind of chocolate bar.

When Carles Abellán come up with the concept of Comerç 24, he himself wasn't quite sure how to describe it. While the chef is Catalonian, the food isn't decidedly Catalan. While it bills itself as a tapas restaurant, it's dishes don't really resemble traditional tapas fare. The food leans so heavily on molecular gastronomy, it's hard not to rest on the fact that Abellán was a pupil of Ferran Adrià. Still, it was a dining experience unlike any I've ever experienced before. With attentive service that was there for me with my every bite, I'd never been so perpetually surprised and challenged by every dish. Everything I ate was like a new discovery for me.

My lovely dinner companions. This was fairly early in the program so I was still excusing myself with every picture I took of the food. Needless to say, we all became close friends, and by the end of the trip, they came to anticipate my camera whenever food was close by :)