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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Killer Whale Roll Challenge @ Bay Shabu Sushi Sake

Last week I wrote about things that can make a dining experience great, like tasty food, excellent service and experiencing something new. Well, this week I’m adding another thing to that list – entertainment. It’s what happens when you watch two of your friends attempt to eat four pounds of sushi in under a half an hour.

30 minutes isn’t a whole lot of time. But if there was anyone who might have a chance, it’s our friend Ray, foodie name: Kung Fu Prawn (which is a combination of his nickname, Kung Fu Panda and his last name, Kwan). He’s a champ. He’s the only person I know who attempted and actually completed Pho Garden’s Pho Challenge (5 lbs of beef pho in an hour) and still came to dessert with us afterwards. Our friend Hendrick, or Hen-chilada as he will now be known, attempted this challenge too. But first they had to sign a waiver.

Bay Shabu Sushi Sake is a relatively new addition (they’ve been open for less than 2 years) to the lively West Portal neighborhood. Upon entering the restaurant, photographs of Killer Whale challenge failures (in the hundreds) line the left side, and successes (only 12) line the right. It’s $30 for the 4 pound behemoth, free if you finish it within 30 minutes.

We watched the sushi chef fill three side-by-side nori sheets (practically the length of MFM's leg, as you can see above) with rice, shrimp & sweet potato tempura, cooked fish, and crab – roll it up – and top it with more stuff like eel, spicy tuna, veggies and sauce. It comes to the table and then the clock begins.

Both KFP and Henchilada put up a good fight, but as I said, 30 minutes isn’t a lot of time. The roll is cut into 16 pieces, of which KFP finished all but 4. Comparatively, me, MFM and the Cakes (Addiecakes and Debbiecakes) split just ONE Killer Whale Roll (for an extra $10) and struggled to finish even that. And just to give another (mind-boggling) perspective, the reigning Killer Whale Roll champion ate his in just 14 minutes.

It was tasty – the spicy tuna had a nice kick and sweet potato tempura is one of my favorite things to eat. My only minor dislike was the sauces drizzled on top – the sweet teriyaki-like sauce that they usually put atop unagi was yummy – but there was another indistinguishable honey mustard-like sauce that seemed better suited for wings or chicken nuggets. I’d like to go back another time to try the namesake shabu shabu, as we saw many other diners enjoying that dish around the restaurant. Their selection of sake seemed extensive, too.

Had it been an hour-long challenge, I’m certain our friends would have prevailed, but on that night it just wasn’t meant to be. We left the restaurant happy knowing that a piece of them would always live on their wall, even if it is on the left side.


Sunday, April 25, 2010

Kimchi Fried Rice

serves 4
recipe from my co-worker, Seungmi Louis
prep time: 15 min / cook time: 20 min

3 tbsp butter
3 tbsp vegetable oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 c kimchi, chopped
2 green onions, chopped
1 lb shrimp, diced
1 jalepeño, minced
2 slices spam, diced
3 c cold day old rice
1-2 tbsp kimchi juice (optional)
2-4 eggs

• In a large skillet, heat up vegetable oil and butter over medium-high heat.
• Add garlic to oil/butter mixture.
* Be sure to not burn/scorch the garlic.
• Add kimchi, spam and jalepeño to mixture. Cook until kimchi is wilted and slightly brown but not burnt.
• Add shrimp and green onions to mixture. Cook until shrimp is done.
• Add rice to mixture. If your rice is dry, you can add kimchi juice.
• Toss everything together until thoroughly mixed.
• Cook eggs sunnyside up, season with salt and pepper.

• Day old rice is key for making any fried rice. The rice needs to be dry and it helps reduces the chance of wet clumpy fried rice.
• You can use any type of meat in any amount. I happened to have left over spam.



Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Patxi's Pizza

For me, there’s a lot of things that can make a dining experience great. Sometimes it’s the taste of the food itself. And sometimes it’s the experience of trying or learning something new. In the case of Patxi’s Pizza, it was a little bit of both.

This little gem of a place totally won me & MFM over. Just walking up to the crowded storefront (I’ve been to both the SF/Hayes Valley and Palo Alto locations, and they are similar) and seeing people milling about builds up the anticipation. As does waiting a whole 30 minutes for your pizza (they recommend you order your pizza even before you sit down at your table, so the wait is considerably shorter.)

There's an option to order a thin crust, but we went with what they are known for, their Chicago-style deep dish. We saw tables actually ordering both, even for just a party of two! Which made me love this place even more - because it’s the kind of place where you know people are having a great time and truly enjoying their food.

We started with salads (a spinach and a wedge, which were good) but quickly made room for the main event, the pizza. It comes to the table with almost a thud – it’s thick, hearty, substantial. But the flavors are surprisingly delicate. Unlike Zachary’s, where I’ve felt the tomatoes in their sauce resonate loudest, here the sauce feels lighter, allowing all of the other ingredients to truly speak for themselves. The onions and peppers were crisp and sweet and the sausage was meaty and flavorful. And the cheese was the savory, gorgeous layer that tied it all together. All this atop a sturdy, but still light, almost biscuit-y crust.

So this is where the learning something new kicks in. We noticed numerous bear-shaped bottles of honey on almost every table except ours. What is this? What could this be for? So we asked, and the waitress said some folks like to dip their last bits of crust in honey. Not sure if this is a deep dish pizza thing or a Patxi's thing, but of course we had to try it. And wow, just wow. After mouthfuls of the salty, savory and spicy, the smooth sweetness of the honey mixed with the warm buttery crust was perfect. Just perfect.

I also learned that Patxi’s is pronounced like "pah-cheese" not "pat-sees," as I had been calling it. So that’s two new things I learned in one visit. Bonus!

And if there's a third thing that adds to the experience for me, it's great service, and Patxi's has it in spades. I've been to my share of crowded pizza joints, but despite how busy/chaotic it may be, every member of Patxi's staff still makes you feel taken care of. Down to making sure that when the pizza comes, each person in your party is served their own delicious slice. Don't you love it when you leave a restaurant smiling? I have a feeling Patxi's and I will become good, good friends.

P.S. I just read a Patxi's Pizza will be opening in Noe Valley soon. Can't wait!


Sunday, April 18, 2010

Coconut Almond Macaroons

makes 35 cookies
recipe from Odense
prep time: 15 min / cook time: 16 min

1/2 c egg whites, room temperature
* approximately 3 eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 box Odense Almond Paste, grated
2 c powdered sugar
14 oz. package sweetened flaked coconuts

2 c chocolate

Preheat oven to 325˚F.
Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
In a large bowl beat egg whites and extract until firm, but not dry.
* I have no idea what "firm, but not dry" means, so I just beat it until it was almost at stiff peaks.
In a separate bowl beat almond paste, sugar and coconut until the texture of small crumbs.
Gently fold mixtures together.
Drop tablespoons of dough 1 inch apart onto cookie sheets (small ice cream scoop with a wire release works well).
* I made my cookies about the size of a golf ball.
Bake for 16 minutes, or until lightly browned on bottom and firm to the touch.
* I baked mines for 24 minutes.
Cool cookies on a wire rack.

• Have cookie sheet with parchment paper prepared.
• Melt chocolate in a double boiler.
• Dip the bottom of the coconut almond macaroons into the melted chocolate and place onto the cookie sheet.
• Drizzle left over chocolate with a spoon/fork over the macaroons.
• Refrigerate to set chocolate.

Crumble the almond paste with your fingers if you don't have a grater.
The size of your cookie will change the baking time, so adjust accordingly.
Rotate your cookie sheet half way through for even browning.
The cookies are still soft as they come out of the oven, so let the cookies cool for 5-10 minutes on the cookie sheet before transferring onto a wire rack.



Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Izakaya Sozai

If you make it, they will come, especially if you advertise that only a limited 30 bowls of special ramen are made per day. It worked for me, who, along with MFM and two other ramen-loving friends were first in line when Izakaya Sozai opened their doors at 5:30 pm on a Sunday. And good thing too, by 6:00 they were packed.

I've been a life-long student of ramen, I’ve spent years "studying" the savory complexities of miso ramen, and pouring over the salty intricacies of shoyu ramen. But it’s only recently that I’ve learned about tonkotsu ramen. And Izakaya Sozai specializes in tonkotsu (not to be confused with the panko covered pork cutlets, that's "tonkatsu") ramen. The broth for tonkotsu ramen is made with pork bone, fat & collagen that has been simmered for days.

I've never been to Japan, but learned that an “
izakaya” is a bar-like after work establishment, where the primary objective is drinking & socializing. The accompanying dishes are smaller, appetizer-sized portions, so you can have a bite of this and a bite of that in between copious amounts of beer or sake. So for those with heartier appetites (myself included) you have to keep ordering. A lot.

The waitress recommended 3-4 dishes per person. Overall, they were all pretty tasty - the bacon-wrapped mochi was a mouthful of smoky-chewy genius and the grilled eggplant with sweet miso was so good I wanted to lick the plate. Others, like the spicy tuna on crispy rice,fried oysters, and beef tataki were good, yes, just not anything new or different from other restaurants I’ve tried.

And can I just say I love, love, love nigori (unfiltered) sake. (So glad you suggested this, CL & DT!)

After our fill of apps, we signaled to the waitress that we were ready for what we came for, the
ramen. Here it’s served as the last part of the meal. When the steaming bowls came to the table we paused and took everything in. There were so many interesting things going here. For one, the broth was light and milky, but intense and rich. There was a certain creaminess and hint of sweetness that made us wonder if there actually was milk in it, and the perfect amount of oiliness which made it smooth, not greasy. We ordered it with fatty pork (soft and melt in your mouth delicious!) and the accompanying
green onions and bamboo slices gave it a nice added crunch and texture. Another surprise was the inclusion of a soft-boiled egg which was cooked perfectly: soft, creamy and slightly salty. I could have eaten a plate of those eggs all by itself and been happy. Lastly, the slippery, slurpable noodles were chewy and toothsome with just the right amount of bite.

We finished the meal with two desserts, banana tempura and a
green tea cake with red bean that were fine, but again, nothing really standout or memorable about them. The ramen, on the other hand, will stay in my mind for a long, long time. I left the restaurant feeling I had tried something new and truly special.


Sunday, April 11, 2010

Blackberry Clafoutis

serves 6
recipe adapted from Food and Wine
prep time: 20 min / cook time: 25-30 min

1/2 c all-purpose flour
1/4 c + 2 tbs sugar
pinch of salt
3 large eggs, room temperature
3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1/4 c + 2 tbs milk
* This came out to be about 1/3 c milk
3 c blackberry (1 1/2 pints)
* I found 1 basket of blackberries to be plenty
confectioners' sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 350˚F.
• Butter a 9" pie dish.
• In a bowl, whisk the flour, sugar and salt.
• Beat in the eggs, butter and lemon zest until smooth.
• Add the milk and whisk until light and smooth, about 3 minutes.
• Pour the batter in the pie dish and top with blackberries.
• Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the clafoutis is set and golden.
• Let cool slightly, then dust with confectioners' sugar.

• The texture of clafoutis is almost like a dense custard.
• I think this recipe could use more sugar. I might try 1/3 c sugar the next time I make it.
• Your clafoutis will stick to the baking dish if you do not butter it well.



Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Roasted Crab & Garlic Noodles

I've never been to Crustacean, but have plenty of friends/relatives who rave about their crab & garlic noodles and now I know one of the reasons why. BUTTER! It's one of the magic ingredients in both the crab and the noodles. My sister's boyfriend Pat, whose new foodie name is Pat-strami, (clever, right?) found an adapted recipe online and kindly made it for my Mom's recent birthday dinner.

It was an impressive dish and incited plenty of oohs and aahs, but surprisingly not difficult to make (as long as you're ok with cooking live crabs) says Patstrami, who easily bought all the ingredients at local Asian market Sunset Super. Sweet roasted crab coated in butter and garlic, with hot, chewy, garlicky (who knew there was cheese hidden in there?) noodles on the side. The crab was delicious, I didn't even mind getting totally messy, and the noodles...well I could have devoured the entire plate myself (even Duff from the Food Network says it was one of the Best Things He Ever Ate.) It doesn't get much better than this. Thanks Patstrami!

garlic noodle recipe adapted from CD Kitchen
total prep time: 20-25 min / total cooking time: 40-45 min

16 oz. package of fresh Chinese noodles (medium size)
1-1 1/2 tbsp of garlic, minced through a garlic press
4 tbsp of butter
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tsp
Maggi seasoning
1/2 tsp sugar
2-3 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
parsley, chopped (optional)

Boil the noodles according to package, but only cook 3/4 of the way.
* You want the noodles al-dente because you will cook/saute them some more later.
Rinse the noodles in cold water and set aside.
In a large skillet/pan, saute the garlic with the butter and olive oil. Keep the heat on medium/low to make sure the garlic doesn't brown/burn. Cook for about 3-4 minutes until the garlic is cooked through.
Add the noodles to the garlic mixture along with the oyster sauce, Maggi seasoning and sugar.
Turn heat to high and mix everything together (about 3-4 minutes).
Once the noodles are heated through, turn off heat and add the Parmesan.
Mix again, sprinkle chopped parsley on top and serve.

Dungeness crab (about 2 lbs.)
1 tbsp olive oil
6 tbsp butter
4-5 cloves garlic, minced through a press
1 tsp chicken bouillon powder (optional)
2 tsp cracked black pepper, cracked with a mortar & pestle
1/2 tsp sugar

Preheat oven to 350˚F.
Clean and chop crab into small pieces.
Heat the butter in a wok (between medium and low heat) and saute the garlic until aromatic, but not brown.
Add the black pepper, chicken bouillon powder (optional) and mix well.
Add in the sugar and cook until crab is cooked halfway.
Remove from wok and place on a foil lined baking sheet/pan and roast in oven for 15-20 minutes.
Serve with hot garlic noodles.

* Special Mention: I can't stop thinking about the birthday cake we got my Mom from Yasukochi's Sweet Stop! I've been a lifelong fan of coffee crunch cake, but this was my first time having a lemon crunch cake, ever. It was light, luscious, zesty, crunchy, genius. I'm a fan! Addiecakes if you are reading this - can you please try making this, please???



Sunday, April 04, 2010

Lemon Tart

makes one 9" tart (I made one 8" tart and one 4" tart)
recipe adapted from
Joy Of Baking
prep time: 45 min / cook time: 40 min

1 c all purpose flour
1/3 c confectioners sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 c cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

5 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 c granulated white sugar
1/2 c fresh lemon juice (approximately 2 large lemons)
* I used Meyer lemons
2 large eggs
1 tbsp grated lemon zest

1/2 c heavy whipping cream
1 tbs confectioners' sugar

• Grease with butter, or cooking spray, a 9" tart pan with a removable bottom. Set aside.
* There is a lot of butter in the crust, so I did not find greasing the tart pan necessary.
• In your food processor, place the flour, sugar and salt and process to combine.
• Add the butter and pulse until the pastry starts to come together and form clumps.
• Place the pastry in the prepared tart pan and using your fingertips, evenly press the pastry onto the bottom and up the sides of the pan.
• Pierce the bottom of the crust with the tines of a fork.
* This will prevent the pastry crust from puffing up while it bakes.
• Cover and place the pastry crust in the freezer for 15 minutes to chill.
* This will help the crust from shrinking while it bakes.

• Preheat oven to 425˚ F and place rack in center of oven.

• When the pastry is completely chilled, place the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake until the crust is golden brown, about 13-15 minutes. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool while you make the filling.

• Reduce the oven temperature to 350˚ F.

• In a food processor or electric mixer, place the cream cheese and process until smooth.
• Add sugar and process until incorporated.
• Add eggs, one at a time, and process until thoroughly combined.
• Add remaining ingredients and process until well blended and smooth.
• Pour filling into pre-baked tart shell and bake for approximately 25-30 minutes or until filling is set.
• Transfer tart to a wire rack to cool and then cover and refrigerate until well chilled, at least an hour.

• Put mixing bowl and whisk in the freezer for 15 minutes.
• Beat the whipping cream and powdered sugar until stiff peaks form.
• Transfer the whipped cream to a pastry bag fitted with star tip (#4B), and pipe stars over the entire surface of the tart.

The tart needs to be stored in the refrigerator until serving time.

• I found my pastry crust still puffed up when baking, you can either use a spatula to push it down as soon as it comes out of the oven or use pie weights.
• If you're going to make tarts in various sizes and bake them together, adjust the baking time accordingly. The smaller the tart, the less time it takes to bake. I did not take this into account when baking the 4" tart (see semi-burnt crust picture).
• The filling puffed up while baking, but it will flatten out as it cools.
• I used Dream Whip instead of the topping recipe listed, it's much lighter than whipped topping. Thanks for introducing me to Dream Whip Rachel!


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