“Thank you for come, I’m so appreciate!” my friend Shigeko Fuke said as I arrived at Ono last night, forgoing the big restaurant opening of the evening (it might have been BLT Market, I don’t remember because the New York restaurant scene in September is a blur, even as it’s happening) to attend The 2nd Fundraising Event for the Japanese Culinary and Cultural Association of America.
I think I met Shigeko and her husband Miguel Cardona five or six years ago at the relaunching of one of the dusty midsize Midtown hotels that get refurbished every once in awhile and throw a press party about it.
Somehow we’ve been friendly ever since. Because of Shigeko I have judged sushi competitions alongside chefs Daniel Boulud and Gabriel Kreuther, spoken to groups of visiting Japanese restaurateurs about food trends in New York, and appeared in the Japanese version of Playboy.
Playboy spelled my last name Thom instead of Thorn, but they really do look similar. As you would expect, I was not the centerfold, but an interviewee. I was recommending restaurants for visiting Japanese tourists.
So how could I turn down Shigeko’s invitation for dinner, especially as I’ll be moderating a talk on all things Japanese and foodish in LA next weekend.
Having sampled a sparkling sake and then switched to Asahi Select, I found myself in a conversation circle with Peacock Alley chef Cedric Tovar, who was sharing stories about his time in basic training in the French army. After that he cooked for the prime minister, so his year's service wasn’t so bad.
Then Lee Jones from Chefs Garden arrived and railed against those who insisted on using local produce whether it was any good or not. Naturally he would rail against that as his super-high-end produce is shipped nationwide. Lee was in town to talk to the Experimental Cuisine Collective about soil today. I tried to make it, but my job and a misbehaving computer foiled my attempts.
I did have time to speak to chef Andre Christopher of Pops For Champagne in Chicago, but he came to my office, which makes it easier. He showed me some photos of his food, one dish of which was garnished with Chefs Garden's super-expensive Mimo chives. Seeing the chives was like seeing an old friend.
Anyway, Lee and I sat at the same table, but I was between the charming food and travel writer Karen Tina and journalist and Iron Chef judge Akiko Katayama, whom you might recall arranged for me to visit Japan’s Niigata prefecture earlier this year.
What I ate and drank:
First course by Nobuo Fukuda of Sea Saw restaurant
Assorted sashimi plate:
Aji/grapefruit, avocado, ginger, yuzukosho, ponzu oil, white truffle oil
Sockeye salmon gravlax/soy roasted almonds, Pecorino-Romano cheese, basil oil, soy and balsamic reduction
Maguro akami/roasted beet purée and Pinot Noir reduction
Tako-ashi/small heirloom tomatoes, yuzu, shallots, wasabi aïoli, pink peppercorn, mozzarella cheese
Madai/ceviche-style miyoga, taro and shiso
Hirame/kobujima and yuzu
Otokoyama sake (tokubetsu junmaishu)
Second course by Kazuhiko Hashimoto of Ono:
Cold egg custard with sea urchin, nagaimo, white truffle-scented edamame soup, sea grapes and shiso bulb
Third course by Akio Saito of the Conrad Tokyo:
Overnight dried barracuda with pickled Daitokuji natto miso paste with grated radish, black vinegar and black rice
Steamed lobster with akatuchi shimeji mushroom, grilled chestnut, fried ginko and leaf-shaped sweet potato chip
Pine needle shaped fried thin wheat noodles with leaf-shaped ginger
Nanotuki organic junmai ginjo sake
Fourth course by takashi Yagihashi of Takashi Restaurant (which isn’t open yet but will be in Chicago):
Seared Washugyu New York strip and braised short ribs with confit Japanese eggplant and caramelized gobo
Taiheizan Kimoto sake (Junmai Kimoto)
Dessert by Kiyomi Toda-Burke and Sandra Palmer of Three Tarts:
Chocolate Bar/bruléed ganache with sansho caramel
Lychée Gelée with goji berries and tarragon
Black + Blonde/black sesame ice cream sandwich and miso blondie
Hanahato Kijoshu aged sake
Petit-fours by Chika Tillman of ChikaLicious