Tag Archives: wagyu

Le Bernardin

3 Jun

It’s been months since I last posted, but I did not have much to live for let alone write for.  Recently, Blister, the doctor, recommended that I eliminate all seafood, dairy, gluten, fruit, and nuts from my diet due to my severe allergies.  For weeks, I suffered.  After a recent visit to my allergist, she finally set me free and advised that elimination diets create super allergies.  Yes, Avengers allergies.  Blister the saboteur.  When I informed her of my allergist’s medical opinion, she just laughed and said, “I helped you lose five pounds, didn’t I?”  Blister, the cause of my demise and BDD.

Due to my unreasonable diet, the thought of writing about food killed me.  Now that I can eat again, let’s discuss New York.  Years ago during my freshman year in college, I went to New York to visit some friends.  It was my first trip to New York as an adult, and I was excited.  A bag, a bus ticket, a few girlfriends, and a lot of spontaneity led us to a weekend in New York.  As soon as we arrived, we realized spontaneity was slightly overrated.  There were three 18 year old girls without accommodations in a big, scary city.  In our minds, the nights would be full of so much partying that making reservations of any kind seemed futile.  But once the parties , after parties, and after after parties were over, we were homeless with no where to go.  Luckily, a friend who resided in the NYU dorms, snuck us in to the study rooms where we slept like squatters.  We slept under the desks and used the chairs as camouflage. We lacked blankets, showers, and pajamas, and used our one bag filled with hoochie mama disposable tops as a make-shift pillow.

Fast-forward 13 years.  Still filled with the same excitement and girlfriends in tote, we were on our way to New York City again.  This time, we had hotel reservations at … the Waldorf Astoria.  As we walked to our room, I noticed this.

Ooooooh sheeit.

The foyer.

The living room.

The view from the living room.

The formal dining room.

The kitchen.

The master bedroom.

The second bedroom.

The third bedroom.

As I walked around this palace fit for a Zamunda King, I imagined how many homeless 18 year old girls could sleep in this place.   Like Papi Chula said, “Sisters are doin’ it for themselves.”  And we were.  Not only did we have showers, but we had an unlimited supply of Ferragamo shampoo, conditioner, and soap.  As hard as it was to leave this mansion, we had to go to Le Bernardin for Blister’s birthday dinner especially since a significant deposit was required just to secure the reservation.

Amuse bouche

I’m not usually a fan of sea urchin, but as of late I have grown fond of it. I’m especially fond of it when it’s topped with salty caviar, a wonderful way to wake the taste buds.

Caviar-Wagyu

For my “Almost Raw” starter, the blend of Nebraska wagyu beef and langoustine topped with a generous layer of caviar was worth the $45 supplemental charge.  The pepper Vodka crème fraîche fills in the chewy bites of tartare for a creamy well-rounded bite.  Instead of layering the tartare on the provided “Ruffles” potato chips, I preferred smothering the delicious blend on the warm bread that regularly circulated throughout the night.

Because Blister and I are geniuses, we ordered different dishes and shared them to try more of the items offered by the silver fox Eric Ripert. She ordered the tuna– layers of thinly pounded yellowfin tuna, foie gras, toasted baguette, chives, and olive oil.

The tuna was a vibrant orange and beautiful to look at, but it was mediocre in taste.  It tasted like tuna and the foie gras had a pasty consistency that did not seduce me like foie gras usually does.  The wagyu kicked the tuna’s ass.

I ordered the langoustine for the “Barely Touched” second course.

The langoustine was perfectly seared and succulent.  I always face a dilemma when it comes to fleshy shellfish.  On one hand, I want to pop the entire morsel of succulent meat into my mouth.  On the other hand, it’s so delicious that it should be slowly savored.  Lucky for me, Mr. Ripert gave me two.  One to slowly savor with small bites and the other to completely devour with my eyes closed.

I also enjoyed Miggy’s Sea Medley.

A beautiful display of the ocean’s gifts in one small little package, but the best part of this national treasure is the smoked bonito broth.  It is the perfect warm temperature touched with a hint of uni and caviar.  When I die, I imagine God welcoming me into the gates of heaven with a cup of this smoked bonito broth.

For my third “Lightly Cooked” dish, I asked the waiter for the fish that the contestants on Top Chef had to replicate seasons ago.  The waiter had no idea what episode I was talking about and brought other waiters for further investigation.  They caucused and agreed it was Mr. Ripert’s striped bass.

The top layer of skin was not crispy enough.  After watching that Top Chef episode, I was expecting a  super crispy and flaky top layer.  The fish itself was perfectly cooked, but I did not like the black-garlic Persian lemon sauce.  It had a sharp bitter flavor that I could not identify but it tasted like star-anise’s cousin.  I would have enjoyed this dish more if the black-garlic sauce was substituted with the smoked bonito broth.  In fact, just pour that broth over everything.

For dessert, I ordered the apple-cinnamon which consisted of cinnamon caramel cream, green apple foam, candied walnut, and red wine caramel.

I took off its hat and found this:

It tasted like a modern apple pie.  The “hat” was crunchy and light, and the sauces swirled to make the most perfect bite of apple pie.  Even though I hate foam, it really worked in this sweet treat.  Ending this three-hour meal with apple pie and a hot cappuccino was the cherry on top.  Of course, I had to instruct the waiter to add the splenda before the cappuccino foam … a first for the barista according to the waiter.  I hate when the splenda gets caught in the foam and not in the cappuccino.

I was so full that I could not even touch the after dinner freebies.

I understand why Le Bernardin is ranked 19th best restaurant in the world.  It is definitely two whole Michelin stars greater and better than Providence and Melisse.  Although I no longer will rank restaurants on vacation due to my tendency to love everything because I’m on vacation, anyone who enjoys seafood should pay the proper deposit, make a reservation, and enjoy.

Blister loved her birthday dinner, company, and conversations of placenta, daddy dicks, and your usual girl talk.

Le Bernardin
The Equitable Building
155 W 51st St
New York, NY

 

Araki’s Japon

12 Apr

Work has been so hard these days.   Sometimes work can be fun, like the best work day of my life. What’s the best work day of my life? Well, Cellmate and I went to our local snack shop and asked if they had Smirnoff Ice so we could “Ice” Nibs.  To “ice” someone, you have to secretly present a Smirnoff Ice and the recipient has to get on bended knee and chug it.  If the recipient has an Ice and blocks you with his, the original Icer has to down 2 Smirnoff Ices.  Not only did our snack shop have Smirnoff Ice, they had Mango flavored Smirnoff.  Gross.  So I hid one of the Ices in Nibs’s tissue box and another in the spine of his legal reference guides.  I walked into Nibs’s office and pretended like I had to sneeze, and instantly he grabbed his tissue box for me and … ICE!  He chuggged it in his office right then and there.  NICE!

For the second Ice, I had the file clerk go into Nibs’s office and ask for his reference guides for updating.  Nibs grabbed the reference guide and felt the unusual heaviness of it and muttered, “Fuck.”  ICE!  He chugged his second Mango Ice of the day.  Now, we were hoping for 3 Ices but the third didn’t work out as planned.  We had Nibs’s boss hand him a file with an Ice in it, but Nibs refused to accept it because he knew an Ice was in there.  I think he owes us a Mango Ice.  What a sore loser.

But that’s considered an awesome work week, and last week was not awesome so Bubby said we should have sushi for dinner because I’ve been so busy with work and billed a record of hours for the month of March.  He always uses food to reward/manipulate me.  He suggested we go to Araki’s Japon.  A small sushi restaurant in a strip mall with neon lighting located next to a Coldstone Creamery in Foothill Ranch, California.  I’m sure I was in for an authentic Japanese treat.

The restaurant was full of white people and the only seats available were at the sushi bar.  Usually in LA, when an ethnic restaurant is full of white people, my natural instinct is to leave.  But this is South OC, all restaurants are filled with white people so we walked towards the sushi bar.  The menu is like a Japanese Cheesecake Factory menu, never ending.  Right when you think you know what you’re going to order, you look up and notice more writings on the wall.  Bubby loves to analyze the menu and asked, “Honey, what’s sylup?”

What a smartass.
My expectations of this restaurant were pretty low and since I was starving, I was slightly annoyed when they “ran out” of a lot of my favorites like fatty toro, aji, scallops, hama hama oysters.  So instead of fatty toro, we ordered chutoro, a medium fatty tuna.

Chef Araki instructed us to dip the ginger in his homemade soy sauce and brush the sauce on the fish.  Wow.  This is fantastic, even better than fatty tuna because sometimes fatty tuna could be a little too fatty.  But chutoro was a perfect amount of fattiness.  Amazing.  But fatty toro is pretty hard to fuck up, right?  It doesn’t mean this restaurant is good.

Yellowtail in yuzu sauce with cilantro and jalapenos.

These slices of yellowtail are so thick, like two inches thick, fresh and tender.  With the crunch of the cilantro and fresh jalapeno bathing in a yuzu sauce, this dish is ridic.

Wagyu beef seared sashimi.

Chef Araki prepared the thin rare slices of wagyu beef with thin slices of green onion and ginger.  He poured sizzling sesame seed oil and olive oil over it to lightly sear it.  Praise Him.  This is amazing, and better than the wagyu sashimi at Matsuhisa.  In fact, Chef Araki trained with Nobu for 9 years before opening his own restaurant.  The student has become the master.

Ikura with quail egg.

One of the quail eggs busted, but it was still creamy and cold.  I love cold, fresh ikura.  Both for me, Bubby hates ikura.

Pork belly “kakuni”.

Kakuni is thick cubes of pork belly simmered in dashi, soy sauce, mirin, sugar and sake. This broth is so light like a soup.  I expected it to require rice because it seemed salty, but it’s not.  The pork belly flaked off with my fork, and Bubby devoured the layer of fat.  I would throw in spoonfuls of rice and a fried egg on top, and mix the shit out of it.  Good comfort food.

Chef Araki: What are you doing?  Why are your eyes closed?
Me: I’m praying for your hands.  May they be strong and never get carpal tunnel.

Sushi.

Left to right: Albacore, Spotted Shad, Yellowtail

These were Bubby’s fish.  He ordered a lot more, but they never came out.  I asked him to use one word to describe each.
Albacore: Solid.
Spotted Shad: Interesting.
Yellowtail: Good.

We couldn’t stop calling each other a shad.  It just sounded funny.

I was waiting for my sweet babies, my sweet shrimp.  Here are my friends swimming in their fresh tank.

Chef Araki asked me if I wanted the live shrimp sashimi style or if I wanted it “his way.”  Uh, “his way” please.

Live sweet shrimp “his way.”

“His way” means there’s a sprinkle of yuzu, cilantro, chili sauce, sprinkled with sea salt.

The yuzu slightly cooked the top of the live shrimp and when I popped this baby in my mouth, a tear fell down my cheek.  I stood up and slow clapped.  He thought I was crazy but this was it.  This is the dish that pushed this restaurant from 4 clap-territory to 5.  This was it.  And the heads were lightly fried that every bite was crunchy and delicate like tempura.  Dissolved in my mouth unlike many fried shrimp heads.

BEST LIVE SHRIMP I HAVE EVER HAD!

Salmon Kami Shabu in Miso Butter.

Chef Araki:  Dip the salmon in the miso butter for 10 seconds for the perfect medium rare.

The perfect medium rare.

Holy butter.  If you love butter like Paula Deen and I do, miso butter is like butter on Asian steroids.  It’s not too oily but still coats that perfect buttery flavor all over the salmon.  This was so fantastic that we had to share with our neighbor at the sushi bar.  She was so grateful.  Good food should always be shared and I hope one day someone else will pay it forward to me and let me eat their food.  One day.  But we weren’t done.  Chef Araki dropped sweet white rice into our miso butter.

Haaaaallelujah!  Halleluhah! Halleeelujah!  Are you fucking kidding me?!!!!!  This is the ultimate comfort food in a paper coffee filter bowl.   It’s warm, subtle, buttery, savory and rich.  Chef Araki said he was going to take it off the menu because summer is approaching and I insisted he keep it on his dinner menu.  You’re welcome, everyone.

I told Chef Araki that I was giving him a perfect rating on my blog because it was obvious I was into him.  Little does he know that like 3 people read my blog and 2 of the 3 are vegetarians, but he gave us free desserts.

Creme brûlée in three ways.

Left to right: Yuzu, green tea, ginger

The creme brûlée was ok.  Nothing special.  But the cooked pear in chocolate sauce and ice cream was amazing.

As Bubby rolled me out of this place, I couldn’t believe I found such a gem in Foothill Ranch.  Where did this man come from? Why is he in Foothill Ranch?  Is he lost? Why is his food so amazing?  Why am I in love with him?  Even days later, I kept thinking about his food, his hands, his well-being.  Is he thinking of me?  I’m obsessed with him, his hands, and his food.  Urasawa is still one of my favorite restaurants in LA, but Araki has caught me by surprise.

Araki’s Japon
26612 Town Center Dr, Suite E
Foothill Ranch, CA