Go Sushi Goes To Lunch

Restaurant: Go’s Mart [1, 2]

Location: 22330 Sherman Way, Canoga Park, CA 91303  818.704.1459

Date: October 11, 2011

Cuisine: Japanese Sushi

Rating: Possibly LA’s best sushi!

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This is my second visit to the unassuming Canoga Park sushi temple that is Go’s Mart. You can check out the Foodie Club mega tasting meal I had previously. This time I just dropped by for lunch and had a more “modest” little lunch omakase.


The plate of ginger and wasabi gets the saliva flowing.


Marinated toro collar. In some ways like a really nice marinated tuna fish.


Homemade Ikura (salmon roe). As good as that gets.


Go has the interesting format of serving fish in related flights. This is a foursome of whitefish. All are prepared with variations of wasabi, rock salt, truffle oil, and kelp. Some also have shiso and or yuzu pepper. All four are fairly similar with a nice light bright flavor.


Kue I think, which is a kind of grouper.


John Dory.


Red snapper.


Kelp bass.


Sweet shrimp roe marinated in a mirin (rice wine) based sauce.


It looked pretty cool even after I got most of them out.


A flight of shellfish. Dusted with hibiscus salt.


Japanese snow crab with gold.


Some very fine Alaskan king crab.


Japanese scallop. Yum.


And sweet shrimp (body) with caviar.


The heads came back to us fried. Which are also great.


We ate everything but the eyeballs and beaks.


A flight of tunas.


Blue fin tuna with garlic chip.


Albacore tuna with garlic.


Chu-toro (medium tuna belly) with radish and caviar.


O-toro (extra fatty toro), seared, with gold and a slightly sweet sauce.


A tro of squirmies.


Live octopus, cooked. It was alive a few minutes before we ate it. This was good, but I probably prefer it less cooked.


Fresh abalone. As good as the chewy creature gets.


Baby squid, with a bit of squid guts. Very soft for squid.


Both kinds of eel, sea and freshwater.


The sea eel, with kelp.


And the river eel.


Two kinds of halibut. Both with hibiscus salt, micro greens, and yuzu pepper.


Kelp halibut.


Halibut fluke.


A blue crab handroll with a bit of truffle oil.


Go finishes up with a bit of fruit drizzled in sweetened condensed milk. Very nice finisher. There are rasberries, figs, melon, golden-berries, mulberries and blueberries.

Go-san continues to impress with some really scrumptious sushi. He has his own take on the art and not only is the fish impeccable but the flavor combos very refined and interesting. Given the ultra high end nature of the food (and standard sushi pricing), it isn’t even that badly priced either. Much more reasonable than Mori Sushi for example. Go to it!

For more LA Sushi, click here.

The “Reform Kosher” for Passover Tuna Melt

We were scrounging around for lunch and came up with this variant passover tuna melt. While “passover” compliant it is in the tradition of the Great Trefa Banquet of 1883. You’ll see why. My wife did not participate — for the same reason.


So in making the tuna itself. At home I use this red chunk Italian tuna packed in olive oil which is amazing. Here I only had some Trader Joe’s albacore packed in water. So I added some olive oil (I don’t like mayo with my tuna). I also threw in some chopped cornichons, fresh ground pepper, lemon juice.


And mustard. Now this is a great mustard, but as we searched my mom’s very deep pantry, it came up.


Notice the price on this baby, and the yellowed tag. Today you’d find this tub for around $29, therefore dating this particular example to the 80s. We moved on to a lesser, but “younger” mustard.


The tuna.


The matzah, waiting.


Here’s the Trefa, a little Prosciutto.

Matzah, ham, then tuna.


A nice aged cheddar (goes so well with the ham).


All four.


A little trip to the toaster oven and…


Voila.


Close up. Yum!


Others who aren’t tomato haters used some of these.


As shown.


And after baking.


Our explorations in the pantry also turned up this vintage can of hazelnut oil, complete with archaic french price tag. It might date back to the late 70s!

For a similar non-passover snack, see here.

To see my passover seder, click here.

Sushi Sushi Sushi

Restaurant: Sushi Sushi [1, 2, 3, 4]

Location: 326 1/2 Beverly Dr. Beverly Hills, CA 90212. (310) 277-1165

Date: March 30, 2011

Cuisine: Japanese Sushi

Rating: Old school sushi – fantastic fish and presentation!

ANY CHARACTER HERE

Sushi Sushi is fast becoming one of my preferred sushi places. I had actually intended to try out Sushi Zo, but they were closed for the week so I had to “settle” for this new favorite. We decided to try out the “large omakase” this time, as I had done both ala carte (HERE) and the medium one (HERE). It was great as expected, although not much different than the medium, which I think is a better value.

One of the chefs with the big slab of home ground real wasabi. This is one of many ways in which the men are separated from the boys. Accept no powdered green stuff.

Japanese bonito sashimi, lightly seared. Marinated seaweed and pickles. Soft and flavorful.

This device is used to shave the daikon radish into long paper-like strips.

Each of us got slightly different sashimi plates. This one is the “no sea urchin” version.

Ankimo (monkfish liver), with scallions and pickles in a ponzu. Perfectly fresh, with that rich creamy texture that it’s supposed to have, a hint of grainy, a hint of fishy,  but very mild (no such thing as monkfish liver with NO taste of the sea — what would be the point of that?)

Raw Japanese scallops with salmon roe.

Saba Mackerel with miso paste.

The urchin plate, only the middle is different.

Two kinds of uni (sea urchin). Santa Barbara and Japanese. It tops a pile of squid bits and includes pickles and wasabi. The combo is delicious, and all texture.

The rounds of regular sushi begins. Note that all the sushi here has been pre-applied with sauce, even when it’s just soy sauce. This red yummy is maguro (Blue fin tuna). This is some of the best tuna I’ve ever had, totally melts in the mouth.

Yuzu, Japanese citrus. Shavings or juice from this little fruit are added to a number of dishes. The chef keeps it sitting on the freezer pipes in the fish case so it’s easy to shave.

Tai (Red Snapper), with a ponzu and shavings of the yuzu. This is a lighter fish, but I’m very partial to it.

Chu-toro (medium grade fatty tuna belly). This is also melt in the mouth amazing.

Kampachi (young yellowtail). Like Himachi, but more tender.

The chu-toro was just a warmup for this o-toro, the even more fatty toro. It melted in the mouse like butter. Always one of my (and everyone else’s) favorites.

Some very specific kind of yellowtail, “vury yellowtail?” It was hard to remember the exact name. But it was darn good.

This was a piece of scottish salmon. One of the best pieces of salmon I’ve ever had. Incredible!

Aji (Spanish Mackerel), with only the very slightest bit of fishy. Again, a great mackerel. Somehow I missed the photo of it AGAIN!

Kohada (Japanese Herring) This was great herring, but is certainly a bit fishy — herring always is.

Saba mackerel, not as good as the Spanish one, but nothing to mock either. There is a bit of “batera” seaweed on top and some pepper.

A fiery new dish in the works.

Seared toro on the bottom, scottish salmon on top. Both delectable. They taste very different half cooked. Warm, fattier, with a bit fo char flavor.

Another round of sashimi. Sweet shrimp, Japanese scallop, giant clam, and taco (octopus). Are were prefect examples of the breed, and doused with a little bit of yuzu (just the fruit, not with the pepper) to test them up. The shrimp had a wasabi “ebi brain” sauce. This is really a mix of shrimp guys (liver). Sounds awful, but tastes good.

And it continues.

Ikura (salmon roe). Perfectly fresh, with just the slightest hint of brine (good). Wonderfully taught, they explode in the mouth like little brine balls.

They say you should judge a sushi chef by his tamago (sweet omelet). By those standards Sushi Sushi rules.

Kampachi cheek. This was marinated in one of those sweet broths I would frequently get in Japan. There was a bit of bone but the meat was incredibly soft (consistency like tuna fish?) and delectable. I really enjoyed the heavily marinated root vegetable. I don’t remember what these are, but I’d get them in Japan all the time.

Asari miso (clam broth miso soup). This is a very light miso, with a clam brothy quality. Not too salty, very nice.

Uni (sea urchin) sushi. I can’t get enough of this. It amazes me to think that even just a couple years ago (bear in mind that I have been eating sushi since 1978) I didn’t like the stuff.

Diced Toro handroll. This shiso leaf and shaved yuzu inside, which added texture, tang, and the exotic and wonderful flavor of the leaf.

Unagi (Fresh water eel). BBQ, with the sweet eel sauce. This was some damn fine eel, as good a piece as I’ve had.

The omakase included dessert, this concoction of fruit, green tea ice cream, green tea panna cotta, sweet bean sauce, and whipped cream. Oh yes, and with a “mens pocky” as garnish and corn flakes underneath. Pretty good, and all Japanese.

If  you like sushi —  and how doesn’t? — then you owe it to yourself to try Sushi Sushi. This is some seriously good fish.

CLICK HERE for a review of the Sushi Sushi medium omakase.

CLICK HERE for a review of Sushi Sushi ala carte.

Or here for the LA sushi page.

Takao Two

Restaurant: Takao [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]

Location: 11656 San Vicente Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90049. (310) 207-8636

Date: March 13, 2011

Cuisine: Japanese / Sushi

Rating: 9/10 creative “new style” sushi

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I’ve already covered Takao in some detail HERE, but we went back (we go often) and I built another “custom omakase” trying some different things. The full menu and some information on the history of the place can be found through the above link.

House cold sake. Masumi “Okuden-Kanzukuri” Nagano prefecture.

Miso soup. I think if you ask they have a couple different types. This is the basic scallion and tofu.

Big eye tuna sashimi. This displays the fish at it’s finest.

Wild Japanese Scallop sashimi. I love good scallops. These had that pleasant meaty texture, and the soft “scallopy” flavor.

Tai (red snapper), with garlic, salt, red peppercorn, onions, olive oil. A very bright flavor, and the peppercorns, not spicy at all, add a nice textural component.

Main lobster tempura (1/2). Takao has a lot of interesting tempuras. Uni (my second favorite), sardine, crab, unusual seafood pancake with shiso, and more. This is a decadent favorite of mine, and in a half portion is pretty reasonable.

Rock Shrimp Tempura Dynamite. The underlying component is in itself tasty. Sweet rock shrimp perfectly fried. Then you ad some dynamite with it’s zesty zing and it gets even better. For those not in the know Dynamite is a warm sauce consisting of mayo, sriarcha hot sauce, and masago semlt roe.

This is a very traditional Japanese egg custard with bits of mushroom, shrimp, and white fish baked inside. It has a very subtle mellow eggy flavor I find nostalgic from my many trips to Japan.

Just some of the sushi.

In the very front, Wild Japanese Scallop sushi. Behind that next to the wasabi is Tai (red snapper).

In the back, chu-toro (fatty tuna belly). Melts in your mouth!

Salmon of course.

Kanpachi (young yellow tail).

In the center, Ika (squid), perfect chewy pasty texture.

And fresh raw Tako (octopus). Most places serve it only frozen/cooked. This had a bit of yuzu on it, delicious.

On the left, Ikura (salmon eggs), and on the right Uni (Santa Barbara Sea Urchin). Both delicious.

Albacore with a bit of ginger and scallions.

Salmon tempura cut roll (technically for my two year old).

A bit more sushi. In the back grilled Unagi (fresh water eel) rolls, and Hamachi (yellowtail) and scallion rolls.

Kani (Alaskan king crab) sushi.

Tamago (sweet egg omelet) sushi.

And some vanilla mochi balls (ice cream covered with sweetened pounded rice). The red stuff is strawberry sauce.

Takao is top flight as always. I tend to enjoy ordering ala carte like this best, but it’s actually more expensive than getting an omakase, perhaps because I order a lot more sushi.

For my LA Sushi index, click here.

Food as Art – Takao

Restaurant: Takao [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]

Location: 11656 San Vicente Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90049. (310) 207-8636

Date: March 9, 2010 and February 12, 2011

Cuisine: Japanese / Sushi

Rating: 9/10 creative “new style” sushi

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Takao is my local outlet for high-end “new style sushi.” While my last sushi review, Sushi Sushi, is an example of a fairly traditional sushi bar Takao is more based on the model created by pioneer Nobu Matsuhisa at his eponymous restaurant (REVIEW HERE). In fact, Takao himself worked with Nubu at said restaurant in the early 90s. But he spun out in 1995 and started his own place, Takao. This however is no total “neo new style” joint like Sushi House Unico, but instead, like the late Hump (REVIEW HERE), marries Nobu-style sushi with a more traditional Japanese restaurant format. In fact, in homage to that tradition, Takao looks more like an old-school Japanese restaurant, and its menu includes the various set dinners like chicken teriyaki etc.  Nevertheless, this is some really good stuff if you take advantage of what they have to offer. One of the nice things about this place is that you can take people who just aren’t that into sushi. Takao is also the biggest beneficiary (in our family) of the Hump’s death, as we used to split our family Japanese outings between Takao and the Hump — now Takao gets them all.

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Storefront in Brentwood, conveniently located for us westsiders.

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Big Menu! Click parts to embiggen.

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I’m going to review a bunch of different takes on eating here, derived from two actual meals and several people. One option, for the more timid, but also an excellent deal, is to get the “set dinners.” They come with soup, salad, appetizer, entree, and dessert. This is the salad. If you ask you can get sunomono or possibly some other optons instead.

If you are an advanced eater you might find these next 8 or so pics boring, keep going, the good stuff is below!

Miso soup. I think if you ask they have a couple different types. This is the basic scallion and tofu.

Vegetable tempura. Again, there are some typical options in the set meal.

This is a basic “sushi dinner” plate. There are lots of other options like miso glazed cod or terriyaki salmon. You can ask for more or less whatever sushi you want (but perhaps not a whole plate of Uni and Toro). In the center, Ikura (salmon egg), cut tuna roll.

In the front, left to right. Halibut, albacore belly, Tamago (sweet egg omelet).

In the back, left to right. Maguro (Tuna), salmon.

In the back after the salmon, hamachi (yellowtail) and regular albacore.

Vanilla and mango mochi is one of the many dessert options.

This next “meal” is a custom high end meal with a sashimi/sushi focus.

House cold sake. Masumi “Okuden-Kanzukuri” Nagano prefecture.

Tai (red snapper), with garlic, salt, red peppercorn, onions, olive oil. A very bright flavor, and the peppercorns, not spicy at all, add a nice textural component.

Toro tartar and caviar. Chopped tuna Toro, onions and wasabi mixed with light soy sauce topped with caviar. The classic found at Matsuhisa (you can even see it in my last meal there). It’s still good, a big blog of succulent Toro!

Kampachi (young yellowtail), jalepeno, cilantro, and ponzu. Another Nubu classic, but for a reason.

Main lobster tempura (1/2). Takao has a lot of interesting tempuras. Uni (my second favorite), sardine, crab, unusual seafood pancake with shiso, and more. This is a decadent favorite of mine, and in a half portion is pretty reasonable.

Japanese scallop sushi. With yuzu and salt on the left, and with shiso on the right. I LOVE good scallop. I couldn’t decide which was was better. The yuzu/salt has a gorgeous tang, bringing out the delicate flavor and texture of the scallop. The shiso also pairs wonderfully, although it’s flavor dominates to a larger degree.

Aji, Spanish mackerel. Very solid mackerel in the traditional preparation. Soft, with only a hint of fishiness.

Blue fin tuna, special soy sauce. Straight up tuna at its best.

Taco (octopus) with shiso on the left, and sweet soy and wasabi on the right. Again, tough to choose, but I think perhaps I prefer the shiso by a small margin.

Chu-toro with sweet sauce. Pretty melt in your mouth.

Sweet shrimp, as sushi and with the head fried. The shrimp itself is sweet and soft, sort of the essence of fresh crustacean. The head (you do eat it, the whole thing), is crunchy, fried, sweet. Very tasty too, but watch out not to get stabbed by the legs as you munch it down.

Uni (sea urchin) with sweet sauce on the left, and yuzu on the right. Some top Santa Barbara Uni. The sweet one is good, but I think I prefer the yuzu as it shows off the uni itself to perfection.

Unagi (fresh water eel). Typical version of the BBQ eel, and good. Not quite as good as the eel at Sushi Sushi (HERE).

Tamago. Solid, with a nice sweetness, but the texture is just a tiny bit heavy, and feels less “handmade” than the superlative Sushi Sushi version.

This next meal represents the $90 Omakase, allowing the chefs to put together a full meal. They do an excellent job of this, and you can customize it fully. It’s actually considerably cheaper to do an Omakase then to assemble a big custom sushi meal like above.

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White burgundy is always a good choice with sushi.

91-92 points. “Similar to prior notes, though this time the oak is joined by a noticeably sweet perfume on both nose and palate, particularly immediately on opening. A hint of nuttiness comes as the wine evolves the glass. I really enjoy this style, and most of the wines I’ve had from Girardin.”

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Wine in the glass.

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Halibut carpaccio. Thinly sliced halibut sashimi with salt, black pepper, chives, garlic, and pink peppercorn topped with yuzu and olive oil. Very nice and light, emphasizing the flavors of the condiments and the texture of the fish.

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Toro sashimi, black truffles, sweet sauce, wasabi. How can you go wrong with this?

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Tai (red snapper), sea salt. The lemon and salt dominate, but I find myself very much enjoying that as they don’t overwhelm the very subtle fish.

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New style salmon sashimi with truffle. Thinly sliced sashimi with truffles, chives and ginger topped with hot olive oil. This is much richer, and the pairing of the warm oil always throws me a bit, but it does taste good.

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Santa barbara prawn, ponzu. Emphasizes the sweet meatiness of the prawn, as the sauce is fairly light and citrusy.

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Miso glazed snapper. Scallop dynamite. The fish is pretty close to the Nobu classic cod. It’s fine, but not really my thing, and the cod might be better. The dynamite, with it’s mix of flying fish roe, scallops, and whatever eggy rich thing dynamite actually is — is quite wonderful. I love to suck on the marinated ginger shoot at the end too.

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Fish tempura. One of the above mentioned “interesting” tempuras. Not unlike something one might get in Spain. They fry a lot of small fish there. I guess the Portugese did too, as they brought Tempura to Japan.

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The Omakase comes with some sushi. If I’m at the bar I will steer it more interesting, but I wasn’t. Left to right.  Blue fin toro, yellow tail, Spanish mackerel, ika (squid), sardines (?). All are good examples of type.

The Omakase also includes miso soup (of your choice — there are mushroom and clam versions) and desert. I didn’t picture them however.

The chefs at work. Takao himself on the left.

Overall, Takao is a great place. It’s perhaps 90-95% as good as Matsuhisa or the late Hump which it resembles. And it’s cheaper and much more approachable. We go here more often. There is/was a “mise au point” (sharp) quality to the above places that isn’t totally honed here — but it’s still fantastic — and bear in mind that I’m a pretty damn snobby and experienced sushi eater. Been doing so (a lot) since 1978 plus over 20 trips to Japan and many Japanese friends. There is certainly better straight sushi in LA, but I still go here more often because there is an enormous variety of very well made food, and they are extraordinarily friendly and welcoming. Our two year-old has even eaten here!

For a second Takao review, click here.

For my LA Sushi index, click here.

Matsuhisa – Where it all started

Restaurant: Matsuhisa [1, 2]

Location: 129 N La Cienega Blvd Beverly Hills, CA 90211. (310) 659-9639

Date: January 23, 2011

Cuisine: Japanese Fusion

Rating: As good as it’s always been!

ANY CHARACTER HERE

When I first ate at Matsuhisa 15 years ago it was a revelation. I’d been eating all this great traditional sushi for years and here was a totally new — even avant garde — take on the cuisine. Classic dishes like yellowtail with jalepeno have made there way onto countless less innovative menus. It’s been awhile since I’ve been here, and  I felt the hankering to know if they still had the stuff.

Nobu, a Japanese native (obviously), came to LA by way of Peru. And this is apparently the real genesis of the “Nobu Style,” mixing traditional sushi with Peruvian flavors. Apparently it has a relationship even to Peruvian street food. I myself only spent an hour int he Lima airport, so I can’t testify to that.

A Matsuhisa classic, “Toro tartar with caviar and a miso ponzu.” I’ve always loved the combo of the rich fatty toro and the acidic punch of the sauce. This theme of adding acidity to the fish is a consistant one.

Very very nice burgundy. Not many reds go well with the soy notes of this cuisine, but Burgundy does. The softness of the pino — minus the overzealous oaking that new world pinos usually have, works. Parker gives it a 97. “Grilled spices, and sweet red fruits are found in the aromatics of the 2003 La Romanee. Full-bodied, fresh and rich, this intense wine exhibits exceptional depth of fruit, concentration, and purity. Loads of candied black cherries dominate its juicy, extroverted personality and copious solid (yet ripe) tannin make an appearance in its exceedingly long finish. This offering, a beautiful marriage of power and elegance, should be drunk between 2009 and 2020.”

“Seafood springroll with heirloom tomato and caviar.” Certainly a tasty spring roll, and a dish I’ve had here before. Still it tastes mostly like fry and tomato. Good fry.

Clockwise from the back left. Monkfish liver with a little chille, tuna with onion and cucumber salsa, young yellowtail with ponzu, and spicy tuna taco. All of these were tasty, but I particularly liked the rich monkfish liver and it’s combined vinegar/spice tang.

Japanese baby conch, monkfish liver with ponzu and chille, tuna with salsa, young yellowtail with ponzu.

The conch pulled from its happy little home, coated in butter and parsley. This has a bit of chew to it, and a bit of bitterness, but is actually very pleasant.

“Artichoke salad.”

“Sashimi salad,” japanese scallop, tuna, mackerel, daikon wrapped greens. All very fresh. The scallop was particularly good. I love raw japanese scallop. Cooking them is a crime. Nobu has very good dressings. In fact, he sells a line of them commercially!

“Seabass with a sweet sauce and mache and grilled pepper.”

Half giant santa barbara prawn with cilantro, ponzu, and mache. Good sweet prawn. Too bad it didn’t have a nice juicy row like they sometimes do.

Seared toro with soba noodles and miso sauce.

Kobe beef, farro, mushrooms, and chipolte chili sauce. This was a really tasty dish. The sauce had a bit of heat, and that smoked chili flavor, paired perfectly with the tender/rich meat and the grains.

Left to right. Tuna, yellowtail, salmon, red snapper, tamago (egg). Fresh wasabi and picked ginger.

Toro, squid, mackerel, kanpachi, sea eel. The sushi here still is totally first rate. Melt in your mouth first rate. And I liked the big hunks of fresh marinated ginger.

Miso soup. Classic.

The vintage Matsuhisa dessert, “bento box” of flour-less chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream. It’s still a combo that works — even if it’s very overdone. They use a very high quality ice cream.

Banana bread pudding with vanilla ice creme and creme anglais. Even though I’m not much of a banana fan, this was really delicious.

“Green-tea tiramisu with chocolate ice cream.” This was my least favorite of the three, although certainly not “bad”‘ in any way.

Certainly Nobu has kept the quality level up. In an absolute sense things are as good as ever. One weird bit is that so many other places have copied the cuisine . Not that they do it better. Most don’t use the same quality of ingredients, or they overdo stuff, dumping too much spicy mayo or sweet sauce on everything. A perfect example of this is Sushi House Unico (REVIEW HERE). Like anything more or not always more. Not that Unico isn’t a perfectly tasty joint, but it isn’t in the same league as Matsuhisa. Takao (who used to work for Nobu) and the late Hump (memorial REVIEW HERE) are among the few places that have their own totally successful take on the style.

But something that has also nagged at me for years is this, given how innovative the whole cuisine was to begin with, how relatively little has changed. Does each great chef have only one break through? Is innovation of this sort only done by the young? Or is the novelty born of the fusion of Japanese and Peruvian flavors? Maybe we need to send Nobu on a world eating tour!

For a second review of Matsuhisa, in the private room, click here.

Ultimate Pizza – New Years

Finally, five posts later, we come to the main event, the Ultimate Pizza. This post is pretty epic, but just to recap. We set the stage with articles on the Dough, the Pesto, the Sauce, and the Topping Preparation.

Now everything is set to go. Most of the toppings and the workspace.

The pizza stones (actually, there’re ceramic) are in the grill, and it’s been heated to 800-900 degrees.

The dough balls (read about their preparation HERE) have been taken out of the fridge two hours before and are rapidly rising on the counter. In fact, they will soon escape their plastic prisions on their own.

The peels, spatulas and pizza cutters are on the counter.

And more importantly the wine station is set up. The bottles in the back are “best ofs” from previous nights.

Being New Years, it’s time for the big guns.

For the white lovers: “The 2009 Kabinetts were absolute knockouts, and the one from Dönnhoff’s famed Oberhäuser Leistenberg vineyard is a likely candidate for Kabinett of the vintage! A complex core fragrance of golden apple, vanilla, orange peel, and Indian spices are subtly interwoven with notes of clove and incense. In the mouth, the wine shows impeccable purity, concentrated tangerine and tropical fruits, livel y acidity and pretty mineral notes that become pronounced on the back palate. Complex and beautiful, it is the essence of why the wines of Dönnhoff are referred to as ‘the most perfect Riesling can ever be.”

And for the red lovers. A perfect wine.  Parker gives it 100+.   “This is a Le Pavilion of mythical proportions. Produced from extremely old vines, some dating from the mid-nineteenth century, with yields averaging under 15 hectoliters per hectare, this is the richest, most concentrated and profound wine made in Hermitage. The 1991 Ermitage Le Pavilion follows the pattern of the 1989 and 1990-it is another perfect wine. The saturated black/purple color is followed by a compelling bouquet of spices, roasted meats, and black and red fruits. Enormously concentrated yet with brilliant focus and delineation to its awesomely endowed personality, this extraordinary wine should age effortlessly for three plus decades. Very powerful and full, yet displaying silky tannin, this is a seamless beauty! Anticipated maturity: 2001-2035.”

The ’91 Le Pavilion was the first truly great wine I ever tasted, back in 1996, and I bring out a bottle of it every once and a while to remember the glory days.

For my first pizza I thought I’d give something new a try. The Tikka Masala Pizza. While shopping I had found this stuff, and it looked good.

This is basically a tomato butter spice sauce, perfect as a substitute for regular tomato sauce.

Then I had to imagine what would go well with it. Mild cheese I thought, so I went with ricotta. Some corn, fresh chanterelle mushrooms, and a bit of basil.

It tasted WAY better than it looked, which is generally the case with these homemade pizzas. Notice the cornmeal by the way. This is a very important part of the process, allowing pizzas to be slid around easily. Even after doing this about a dozen times (perhaps 100 pizzas) I still mess it up a lot. You need to make sure you can move the pizza without making a mess if you want a pretty result. I wasn’t totally successful this time and some of the sauce slopped to the edges. Next time I’d also put the basil on after cooking, or late on the grill.

It still tasted FANTASTIC! Like naan dipped in Tikka Masala sauce.

One of my friends concocted this one. Herb oil as the base (the one I made in the sauce article), and then the pesto I also described.

Sun dried tomatos, and goat cheese.

After baking, drizzled with balsamic glaze. This was real good too. Goat cheese and sun dried tomatos go really well together, and the herby/basil thing complimented nicely.

A mini. Sweet onion marmelade, gorgonzola, figs.

Also drizzled with balsamic glaze. This was really really good, sweet. Unfortunately half of it was accidentally knocked on the floor and enjoyed by Osiris (the dog).

My wife likes a fairly straight up pizza. The fresh tomato sauce I made earlier in the day, roma tomatos, figs, mushrooms, mozzarella, parm, pecorino. She did add some marcona almonds. Everyone enjoyed it immensely, as it’s a very bright and perfect version of the classic margarita pizza, but with a bit texture and sweetness.

This is another one of my cooky creations. Herb oil, the crushed tomato sauce, red onion, capers, and most of a jar of really really good Italian chunk tuna packed in olive oil.

I tossed on a couple morels too and baked it.

Then to dress it. My favorite fresh cheese in the world. Burrata. I’m going to write a whole post about this stuff in a couple days.

I put a virtual salad on top using my pre-prepared arugala tossed in meyer lemon juice and black pepper (discussed here in the toppings). Then I drizzled single vineyard olive oil and balsamic must on top. I’ll write about those with my burrata article. The net result is AWESOME. The tomato, onion, caper mix below provides a delicious tang that pairs with the tuna, and then the bright citrusy flavor of the salad, and the mild creamy cheese. Yum Yum.

For my next trick. I used as a sauce the pre-bought “black truffle sauce,” then added mozzarella, parmesan, gorgonzola, bucheron, marcona almonds, figs, corn, white asparagus, and morels. Then I drizzled blobs of pesto, tikka marsala sauce, cherry compote, and fig jam on top, and a thin swirling of acacia honey! This is a sweet and salty pizza, a variant of one of my masterpieces that I call Formaggio Maximus (that one has more cheese, and less funny sauces).

I botched the transfer again because it was so heavy and wet. So it’s ugly, but it still tasted great.

Then I dressed it with the burrata. This is a very tasty pizza, with all sorts of sweet and salty flavor surprises in every bite.

Another big bertha of a wine. Parker gives it 98!  “The Philadelphia tasting was the finest showing yet for this wine, which has been forbiddingly tannic, backward, and broodingly difficult to assess for much of its life. In the blind tasting, I thought it was Lafleur, and came close to giving it a perfect rating. Although still youthful, it has turned the corner and is emerging from its closed state.
A murky, dense, opaque garnet color is followed by spectacular aromatics of roasted herbs, smoked meats, cedar, prunes, black cherries, and black currants. Rich, powerful, and full-bodied, with a thick, unctuous texture, considerable fat and glycerin, and dazzling concentration, Certan de May has not produced a wine of such intensity, thickness, and aging potential since their 1949, 1948, 1947, and 1945. It is accessible, but do not mistake that for maturity. This 1982 demands another 5-6 years of cellaring; it should age easily for 30+ years. It is a modern day classic, and unquestionably the finest Certan de May I have ever tasted.”

One of my friends whipped up this peanut sauce by combining skippy, sugar, soy sauce, and a bit of water for consistency.

Then he put down the herb oil and white asparagus.

Corn and a few almonds.

Then the peanut sauce and a little bit of mozzarella.

The result.  Again it looks a little ugly, but tasted amazing. As a kid I used to melt peanut butter on pita bread in the toaster oven. This was like the 100x better version of that. Sweat and spicy. The thing with custom pizzas is that anything that goes well with toasted bread (and that’s a lot) will work on a pizza.

This all took a long time, but we still had to wait for the ball to drop. So expresso. I have a little Italian commercial machine because I’m ridiculously obsessive about doing everything at the maximum level of quality — work or play.


New Years approaches. And so time for the crystal and Cristal. Parker gives this 96. “The estate’s 1996 Cristal, from a legendary vintage, does not disappoint. Like the 1979, there are elements of austerity that will require some time to sort themselves out, yet the 1996 is an insanely beautiful Cristal loaded with floral, perfumed fruit and vibrant minerality. The wine turns delicate in the glass, yet this is a sublime, fresh Cristal that is in need of further cellaring. In 1996 Cristal is 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay. According to Lecaillon 1996 is a vintage that did not respond well to oak aging, so only 3% of the wine was aged in wood, while 10% of the wine saw malolactic fermentation. This bottle was disgorged in 2007 and dosage was 8 grams. Anticipated maturity: 2013-2026.”

I use Riedel Sommelier crystal because it’s well… excessive. Austrian leaded old school hand blown crystal. Nothing else will do. Just touch touch it, and washing is a total nightmare. It takes about 5 minutes a glass, and can only be done by hand.

Desert. From Bottega Louie. We had a passionfruit poof thingy (upper left) that was amazing. A coconut sponge cake (lower left) which was pretty good. A chocolate thing (upper right) which was fair.

A coffee creme brulee (left center) which was awesome. A hazelnut choc cake (lower left) which was pretty good. A real dense bitter chocolate “cake” (upper right) and an amazing creme puff (lower right).

 

After all that, Osiris has the right idea. Happy New Year!!

We have so many toppings that two more days of pizza are possible, so I’ll be back soon with more reporting.

Please CONTINUE HERE when we make even more pizza for New Years Day.