This week I went Japanese: for lunch and a dessert flight, if you will. The latter will be explained later on. On Tuesday, I went to Choshi Sushi for lunch. There are two reasons for this venture: (1) I craved for sushi, (2) Chowhounders recommend this place, and (3) I found out recently that this week is Japanese Restaurant Week and that they are participating this event.
I went there when it just opened for lunch (12 PM). The place looks clean and streamlined. Take a look:
The service has been a little sketchy in the beginning, the various waiters made me wait to take my order and later on, the service became attentive and toward the final ten minutes of my stay, I felt rushed. But to note, this place is really popular for lunch; ranging from NYU students, local businessmen, and tourists. In less than fifteen minutes since opening, this place is packed.
Anyways, the food. I ordered the “20th Anniversary Lady Set” since I felt starving and it’s quite a bargain for the menu price listed as $15. The menu stated that it contains: 4 pieces of sushi (shrimp, tuna, yellowtail, and salmon), Agedashi tofu, salmon teriyaki, seaweed salad, spicy tuna tartare and dessert. Sounds a lot? Oh yeah…but what puzzled me is how they came up with that name “Lady Set?”
First came the miso soup and salad.
The miso soup tasted fine but somehow, it’s still too salty for my taste as like any other Japanese restaurant that I’ve ever eaten.
The salad was really tasty. The ginger-carrot dressing was interesting: spicy, sweet and a bit crunchy from the carrots. The vegetables were crisp and fresh. It’s quite good.
As my waiter came in to bring in my lunch, I saw this big-ass tray that is coming toward me. I thought this set would be the size of a bento box but no…it’s practically as wide as my table! It just spared maybe three inches from the edge of the table.
The agedashi tofu is basically a silken tofu, tempura style (read: deep fried). It’s quite good. The tofu is silky soft and it’s sitting in a pool of dashi broth flavored with soy sauce.
The salmon teriyaki was decent. The salmon was perfectly seasoned but it’s a little too well done for me.
The spicy tuna tartare and fried shrimp ball, that is placed beside it was fine. The tartare is underseasoned (it needed salt) but spicy. There is cilantro underneath the tartare, the problem is that the cilantro’s flavor overwhelmed the flavor of the tuna and the endive lettuce leaf that is the edible container of it all, added a slight crunch and bitterness. I have to say this idea is nice but it needs a few tweaks to make it astoundingly good. The shrimp ball was yummy but I found out that it’s covered with wasabi. It was a good sinus clearer…and made me tear a little.
The seaweed salad was salty and slightly spicy (due to the red chili flakes). It tasted fine, nothing particular to mention about it.
The sushi was delicious and fresh. I just have a preference for tuna and salmon…but it’s fine; not mind blowingly great. I didn’t bother with adding a photo just because I’m lazy…
By the time I finished almost everything (I didn’t really care much of the seaweed salad), my waiter asked me, “Are you ready for dessert?” I replied, “I’m sorry?” He repeated the question and then I realized that I’m supposed to have dessert, since it’s part of my set. To tell you honestly, my gut felt like it’s going to explode and I started to feel a bit lethargic from all of that food. But then I went on and asked, “What flavors of ice cream do you offer?” He replied, “Vanilla, green tea, and ginger.” I just chose the last two.
It looks good and this photo is larger than the actual portion but still I felt full. I first started to eat the green tea. It tasted like green tea with a vanilla base: light, floral, and slightly bitter (which is normal for concentrated green tea, or any tea for that matter). The problem is that it’s a bit too grainy and the ice crystals are too large on the tongue that it doesn’t taste or feel smooth and creamy. The ginger fared a lot better. It is still vanilla based, flavored with ginger and it also contains small, minute pieces of ginger to reinforce the ginger flavor, and it’s a lot sweeter.
After I finished what I would describe as a feast of sorts, instead of a “lady set” since I certainly felt unladylike and huge, I asked for the check. I forgotten the fact since it’s Japanese Restaurant Week, this set is on a discount, that it came to $13, including tax. That is cheap…but I needed a walk afterwards.
Today, I went to Kyotofu for dessert. What was my lunch you ask? It’s just a plain ol’ salad from Whole Foods just because I know I’m preparing myself for a dessert flight (or glutton?). I didn’t bother taking a photo or write anything about a salad. I know you’re not a bit interested at all.
Pertaining to this dessert restaurant’s name imply, yes, all (or at least most) of these desserts are made from tofu (or soy based at least). “Tofu?! Soy?!” You say? Yes, it’s tofu and soy-based desserts and it’s damn tasty.
Finding Kyotofu was a bit of a challenge for me, since the sign is very small (I was across the street but fortunately wrote down the address) and the place itself looks pretty much nondescript.
Once I entered the doors to this heavenly dessert place, I noticed the chef, Ms. Ritsuko Yamaguch, and the staff were working on a few things. I requested for a table for myself, and I chose a seat in the middle. The comfortable white leather banquettes that line the opposing walls, designed with simple lines and soft lighting just screams serenity. You just feel like you’re transported in a different place, not New York City.
Chef at work…
As I perused the menu, obviously being the dessert loving self that I am, I wanted to try everything. But of course, I don’t have the stomach capacity to do so. I ended up asking my server, Nicole, about the menu. She was really attentive but not intrusive and she’s very well-versed on the menu. I ended up ordering the Sweet Sampler ($8), Seasonal Fruit Yokan ($5), and the Okara Cupcake ($5). Yup, this is a dessert tasting of sorts for me.
Round One: The Seasonal Fruit Yokan
As Nicole told me, it’s a white peach yokan with Okara cookies on the side. To the ones who don’t know what a yokan is, it’s basically a jelly made with agar (to gelatinize) and sugar. I love yokan from it’s many flavor varieties, usually I stick with red bean (also known as adzuki bean). Anyways, the white peach yokan is divine. It’s not as stiff or thick as the one’s I’m used to purchasing from Japanese stores. The white peach flavor just sings cleanly on your tongue, highlighted with little notes of berries, making you reminisce the flavor of a freshly ripened, sweet peach. This is a beautiful thing…
The okara cookies dipped in green tea cream, is basically a soy cookie. Somehow the flavor reminds me of peanuts. I guess the baking of the soybean makes the flavors more nuttier? It’s crisp, light, and a slight hint of butter. It’s tasty.
Round 2: The Okara Cupcake
I have read the past few days from New York Magazine, named this is the “Best Cupcake.” How can I pass on such a title? Hence, part of my reasoning.
This is a chocolate soufflé cupcake made with soy milk to reduce the amount of eggs and butter, believe it or not. It has the characteristics of a soufflé: light, fine crumbed, with the signature crackly top, dusted with powdered sugar and topped with whipped white bean paste. It’s hard to believe that this cupcake is so moist, rich and chocolatey, even though it’s a bit healthier. Man, I think I need to get this to-go every week now, since it’s so close to my campus.
Final Round: Sweet Sampler
I was full by the time I finished my cupcake but since I’m so willing to try and eat every conceivable dessert that is created by the wonderful chef, I can’t back down. Not while I’m nearing the end… Once the sampler plate came in, my first reaction was, “Wow…” Needless to say, I was blown by the amount of desserts I was going to get.
Starting first is the Mini Miso Choco Cake:
Innards shot; also showing the toasted sesame embedded.
This cake is really rich, chocolatey and dense. The first thing I tasted was the saltiness from the miso, and then it had the nutty (from the toasted sesame seeds on the bottom), chocolate-y finish. My analogy would be a healthier version of a super rich brownie. I love it!
Next up is the green tea truffle. The exterior is (I think) green tea flavored white chocolate that enrobed a toasted black sesame center. The red thing on top is just a red dyed white chocolate. The black sesame center is intensely nutty. Heck, the white chocolate skeptic that I am, I’m a dark chocolate lover, made me a convert.
Another round of okara cookies, but this time one of them is black sesame. The black sesame is a bit muted but it still tastes fine.
And finally, another round of yokan. It’s not the same thing at all, this one has a pink, strawberry flavored cube, with anmitsu, a helping of jellied squares flavored with plum sake, and garnished with mini mochi, azuki red bean sauce, and a bean-paste cream topped with a sesame tuile. Probably since I’m a bit unfamiliar with ammitsu, I didn’t like it too much since it lacked a bit of sweetness. The textures were different: mixing the chewiness of the jellies with the smoothness of the bean paste. It’s different but I think I like it.
So, that’s the end of my glutton of Japanese food and Japanese desserts. After writing and looking over my food photos, it scares me how much I’ve eaten…
Have a great weekend!