I was recently invited by Tabélog at SakaMai, a sake bar in the Lower East Side, for a meet and greet party with food bloggers that are part of a jury to elect restaurants in New York City in the following categories:
- Best Use of Truffles in a Dish
- Best Overall Plate Display
- Best Happy Hour Location
- Best Steak in NYC
- Best Ramen Noodles
Tabélog is the number one Japanese review website with over 50 million users, that is launching a US version: tabelog.us, focussing, at this time, on New York City and expanding in the near future to the rest of the US. The name Tabélog comes from: "Tabe" that means to eat in Japanese and "log" is for blog.
We spoke a bit with Kenta Hirai, the CEO of Tabélog US, and had a wonderful evening with Malini, The Restaurant Fairy, and her husband Yozo, that I met in previous press events. Of course, most of the discussion was centered around food, probably the only topic where rarely people would fight as opposed to politics and sports!
|With Kenta Hirai and Malini - Courtesy of The Restaurant Fairy|
So what best place for this event than a sake bar? I admit that I did not know there were sake bars in New York. I only have sake (rarely though), when going to a Japanese restaurant and, usually, one would think to grab a beer or a glass of wine, but rarely sake! That is such a mistake! And to make us discover incredible drinks, we were honored by the presence of 2012 world champion mixologist Shingo Gokan.
And they have tons of sake there (by the way, Sakamai means "rice to make sake")! But also a large selection of beer. I decided to try some sake and picked the Fukuju that is a smooth one from a brewery in Hyogo.
I liked it, better that the other cocktail I tried that was made with ingredients like gin and coconut water that was their cocktail of the evening.
Jodi got herself a ginger ale, made from real ginger and not from a can!
As soon as we arrived, we roamed around the place that was quite warm with the exposed bricks and the dark wood. There was the main room:
A back room where they served the food and a small room upstairs, perfect for small gathering:
Nicely and simply decorated:
Then, there was food prepared by Chef Takanori Akiyama and his team! Imagine that Kenta had to try the food the day before, to make sure it would meet the expectations of the bloggers! What a sacrifice!!!
This is a personal message: Kenta, next time, if you need an assistant for this task, let me know!
This is what we had; note that some items are present on the menu, some were prepared for the event:
Carrot puree, dashi gelee and summer truffle:
Dashi is a cooking stock that serves as base for Japanese soups like miso soup. This dish was great: great colors and,as you can see, a large slice of truffle!!! It was the best dish for me: mixing the dashi gelee and the carrot puree made a creamy mixture that had a smooth and sweet taste. Imagine that Jodi does not like carrots and got two servings!
Filet mignon tartare with sea urchin, wasabi mascarpone, crushed poached egg, served with a brioche toast:
That was very creative and a fantastic take on a beef tartare, elevating it for sure. I liked it, although I am not a big fan of beef tartare usually.
Temari Sushi: Tasmanian trout with caviar rouge.
They would not have said that it was trout, I would have thought it was salmon. Normal considering that Tasmanian trout is part of the salmon family! But it has a more subtle taste than salmon.
Croquette made of lobster, lardo Iberico, sansho pepper and served with a potato puree:
I admit that I did not care about the puree, that was quite good! My focus was on the croquette was was superb! Soft and creamy, with the lobster taste coming through at every bite.
It was composed of a chicken meatball, foie gras, caramelized onions, lettuce and harissa aioli. The inside was very good, soft with a nice combination of sweet and salty components, the harissa aioli blending in.
Secreto Iberico Pork, served with a faro salad and kogashi shoyu (I think it is soy sauce...):
Very good dish with the pork being perfectly grilled and a bit charred.
The last dish was dessert, an interesting one in fact!
It was a strawberry compote served with a mascarpone mousse and a truffled balsamic glaze. It was light with lots of flavors coming from the strawberry compote whose sweetness was balanced with the smoothness of the mascarpone mousse. A great dessert!
We had a great time and good food! Thanks to Tabélog for inviting us and all the best for your launch in the US! And thanks also to SakaMai for a wonderful experience!
Enjoy (I did)!
ご馳走さまでした (gochisōsama deshita)
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And Remember: I Just Want To Eat!