Thursday, September 13, 2007

Whose Food Do You Want To Eat?

It seems that everyone I know is completely addicted to Top Chef. My favorite episode to date was actually the Season 1 vs. Season 2 "all star" cook-off. I am continually surprised that people are still willing to subject themselves to reality TV (but then again, I never thought that people would actually pay for bottled water) but I love this show. I am thrilled that Bravo is already casting for Season 4.

Having Anthony Bourdain added as a frequent guest judge and blog commentator was a particularly brilliant decision on the part of Bravo TV, especially with Tom Colicchio's holier-than-thou attitude becoming more annoying with each season, which only serves to remind me of my less than stellar experience at Craft.

Like most viewers, I was surprised that Lia did not make it further on season 3, not necessarily because of what I saw but because of her credentials.

Is it odd that I am reluctant to try Perilla because I am afraid I might not like Harold's food as much as I liked him on the show? Same with Tre (although I got the impression from what little could be gleaned from watching instead of tasting, that his food would not be quite as refined as Harold's).

I think most people (including me) are betting that Hung will likely be at least among the last two finalists. He reminds me of Tiffani, not necessarily due to their respective televison portrayal of limited interpersonal skills (I definitely cannot throw stones in that glass house, even if I were not a lawyer), but because they are both daring in a way that I am most curious to try their food out of all of the contestants. The other two contestants whose food I would most like to try are Sam and Cliff, who were my picks for the final two contenders for Season 2.

Next in line of the contestants whose food I would like to try are Elia and Lee-Anne. I just could not tell whether they were really good, or just almost good. (I must say though the challenges have become much more interesting with Lee-Anne in charge of the challenges as culinary producer.)

No interest whatsoever in trying-- Dave, Betty, Howie, and Marisa. They got lucky a few times but they all seemed to share the delusion that their food was actually less mediocre than they appeared.

Between getting to be a judge on Top Chef vs. Iron Chef (well, if we're shooting for the moon, might as well go for when Batali or Morimoto are competing)? How jealous am I of Tim Allen.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

The Apprentice Surpasses the Master

Urasawa
218 North Rodeo Drive (2nd Floor, Via Rodeo)
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
(310) 247-8939
Chef Hiroyuki Urasawa
Dinner nightly

Urasawa on Urbanspoon

Tried: August 2007

Urasawa was everything Masa promised to be, and less, so to speak. I am almost reluctant to discuss price at all because the experience was so far beyond the mundane, but for almost half the cost of admission, Urasawa hit every single high note and exceeded all that I had been hoping to experience at the master's hinoki bar in New York.

Urasawa's creations made me recall how I felt when I first tasted fresh, creamy Bluefin tuna, when that taste awakened my awareness to the sublime beauty of fresh raw fish, eaten at its peak. Or that first really fresh, sweet and briny oyster that needs no sauce or dressing to add to the enjoyment of its unadulterated pure ocean flavor.

I was so entranced by the progression of one mind-blowing taste after another in the omakase meal that I refused to let my brain interrupt my tastebuds to note the various ingredients of each dish. Instead, I floated from one flavor to the next, noticing nothing except the sheer pleasure from each successive intense or delicate combination placed before me. (I even relinquished the sake selection to Chef Urasawa. If you are with a large enough group to order bottles, I highly recommend this approach, as that yielded the privilege of tasting sakes I had never tried before, to match the unrivaled sushi creations.)

I remember the popping of the bright orange, glistening miniature pearls of salmon roe accentuating the custard of creamy homemade edamame tofu underneath. I remember the thin slices of ruby-red beef, streaked with veins of sweet white fat (taken from the large slab of beef on the counter behind the chef's station), the sweet translucent-white shrimp, and generous slices of caramel-colored foie gras, each cooked for seconds in the konbu broth, for the world's most decadent shabu-shabu. The resulting broth, having imbibed all of those phenomenal flavors, was not only reminiscent of the incredible ingredients that passed through but created a whole new dish to be relished.

Next to the giant slab of Miyazaki beef was an equally large slab of dark pink tuna, from which the chef carved out several different preparations of toro-- completely raw sashimi, tataki topped with gold flakes with the interior still raw and lovely, "standard" sushi, seared cubes (on individual hot stones, seared in its own fat), and smoked sushi. The smoked toro tasted so much like prime rib that we kept asking what type of beef it was, only to realize after the chef repeated his answer for the third time that he was saying, "It's not beef."

The clam sushi was so fresh and alive that the edges of the shellfish curled on the chef's cutting board. For all of the sushi, served one piece at a time, we were instructed to eat within 10 seconds of service. I happily obeyed until I was so full I could barely move but could not stop eating in anticipation of the next great taste. I was never disappointed (although eventually I did have to stop eating).

Forget Tokyo, I need to get back to Los Angeles as soon as possible.

Ambivalent About Momofuku

First, am I the only person who thinks "Momofuku" does not mean Lucky Peach or refer to the name of some obscure ramen person from...