Friday, January 02, 2009

Loving the sushi nazi

I just finished reading "Fish out of water," a glowing cover story review of Sebo sushi restaurant, in San Francisco Magazine. (Yes it's a rather upscale publication in its current incarnation; maybe next time we'll talk about the latest issue of Robb Report.)

Sebo sounds like a nice place, the folks running the place sound cool, and I'd like to eat there sometime. I hope the place does well, and the article (likewise an earlier Vanity Fair -- another refined pub, kinda? -- piece on Tsukiji) is a really interesting, thorough exploration of the sushi-industrial complex.

This part got me a giant-geoduck-clam-sized head slap, though:
Few cuisines are as bound by custom and etiquette as sushi. Plug the word into any search engine, and you’ll come upon dozens of sites listing rules for eating it: Don’t rub your chopsticks together; dip the fish, not the rice, into the soy sauce; put the nigiri into your mouth fish side down and eat it in a single bite. It doesn’t help that chefs at some of the more traditional sushi bars often take a defensive stance against their customers (...) There are plenty of people who relish the intimidation and enjoy the challenge of mastering a purposefully opaque food culture. Me? I’d rather order a pizza.
Gah. Of course it's intimidating. It's, like, foreign. And the sushi chefs have pride.

Take an average Japanese person and imagine how intimidating a formal Western dinner would be to her: Do I sit down from left or right? Can I break the bread with my mouth? Can I pour ketchup on that fish? Is slurping OK? The last I checked, L'atelier de Joel Robuchon in Tokyo does not hold customer hands through these questions.

Actually that's a totally dumb comparison, because an average Japanese person would probably have done lots of how-to research before going into that Michelin 2-star, so it's a nonissue. You just don't hear about gauche Japanese behavior perpetrated upon Western restaurants nowadays, and that speaks volumes about their attitudes about foreign customs and how they embrace them in appropriate situations.

Sushi has been popular in the West Coast for, what, like 30 years now? How is it that we still hear these provincial complaints about how opaque and difficult its surrounding customs are? Why *are* people still rubbing chopsticks together?

I, for one, welcome our ganko overlords. User-friendly is for P.F. Chang. (The article also refers to a recent WSJ coverage on sushi bullies, another fun read.)


Sunday, December 07, 2008

Stupid Economy

The restaurant slowdown has claimed one of my local favorites. Local businesses are struggling, and this news to me is a big reminder to support the good ones. I hope the folks at Jojo will reopen in better times.
For Curt Clingman of Jojo, a neighborhood French restaurant in Oakland that just celebrated its ninth year in business, it's the lack of customer traffic that's killing him. When they do come in, diners tend to share a couple of starters instead of buying full meals.

"The depth and length of this economic downturn has been the worst I have ever lived through," said the chef, who owns the bistro with his wife, Mary Jo Thoresen, a pastry chef.

Clingman said that he started feeling the pain early this year, when his usual clientele began to thin out.

"We thought we could weather it," he said. "But things got nothing but worse."

During the next few months Clingman and Thoresen tried to retool the business, eventually scaling down to two dishwashers, two servers and a part-time sous chef.

"Where do you go from here?" he asked. "To persevere was becoming too reckless."

The couple has decided to shutter the place Jan. 1. They have already made a deal to sell most of the restaurant's assets and feel fortunate to have found a buyer.
(via Hunter's fine local economic stimulus plan)

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Sunday, September 21, 2008

When in Bangkok...

... eat tonkotsu ramen as the locals do. Of course.
From Bangkok '08

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Gyunoya WTF? FTW!

Where am I?
From Bangkok '08
Hint: People eat gyudon with a spoon in the right hand, fork in the left. Authentic-tasting 大盛り goes for THB 160.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Milpitas Moments

Dearest People of Milpitas,

The stellar reputation for East Asian cuisine in your fine city is well deserved; We truly enjoyed the Chinese dinner on our drive back from Monterey.

The parking skills/manners of the local residents, however, leave much to be desired:

(Something to beware on my next trip to the US outpost of Pepper Lunch.)

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Saturday, August 09, 2008


Put me in the true-believer category. Moore and Hopelain, who are married, have created a place that's distinctive and personal. While the flavors are familiar, the way they combine them is unique. Not everyone will appreciate their efforts, but those who do will probably become regulars.


Saturday, May 31, 2008


On Death Row, I would order Popeye's chicken and dip it in Jollibee gravy.


Sunday, May 18, 2008

Camino Restaurant - Open for Business

Woo-hoo! Can't wait to go eat.

Camino Restaurant
3917 Grand Avenue, Oakland

Sunday - Thursday 5:00 - 10:00 (Closed Tuesdays)
Friday & Saturday 5:00 - 11:00



Thursday, April 17, 2008

Great Moments in Corporate Missions

Old and Busted: Organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful.
New Hotness: Everything should taste like bacon.

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Saturday, March 15, 2008



Sunday, February 24, 2008

Tokyo > (New York + Paris)

3 months after publication, NYT and Newsweek pick up on the multitude of Le Guide Michelin stars being doled out in Tokyo.
Many prominent figures of the Tokyo food world, however, are saying to Michelin, in effect, thanks for all the attention (which we deserve), but you still do not know us or our cuisine.
... hmm, reminiscent of when a yakiniku place ended up atop the Zagat Survey for that fine city.

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Matcha Salt and More

More cool stuff to do with all that food ingredient you find at Pusan Market.


Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Cooking with NYT

Great tips on taming that 875,000 BTU Viking stove.

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Monday, December 24, 2007

Santa's Korean Helpers

It's 10:30pm Christmas Eve. 5 hours earlier, you made a tactical culinary error by using the last 4 cans of chicken broth for a risotto, when they were actually earmarked for the big osso buco dish tomorrow. What do you do?

You head on over to the best freakin' 24/365 supermarket in the Bay Area, that's what you do.

And then, you see the locked fine spirits cabinet and think: Last minute presents!

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Friday, August 24, 2007

Vanity Fair does Tsukiji

One of the better write-ups I've seen on sushi. Well-researched, with even a brief nod to True World Foods.


Thursday, May 03, 2007


This place near our warehouse, a former Pioneer Chicken location, apparently has an all-fried-foods menu:

Unfortunately for West Grand Avenue's Allstar Chinese Food & American Food, few drivers seem to be stopping to sample the restaurant's doughnuts, friend chicken or shrimp fried rice.


Saturday, April 28, 2007

Diet Coke Plus

Holy Mother of God, why wasn't I informed of this? Diet Coke with vitamins!

Tried it today and it wasn't bad -- somewhat sweeter than regular Diet Coke, which I didn't care for much. Next, can they infuse steaks with veggie-goodness?


Sunday, December 03, 2006

Uni & Ankimo by Mail

Uni Risotto: Tuna Tartare of the 21st century. There goes ingredient prices.

I should try this 4-pound-bag-o-frozen uni vana though.


Friday, July 22, 2005

Never eat airline food again

Woo-hoo! An honest-to-goodness, made-to-order-by-a-real-sushi-chef venued called Kyotatsu just opened up next to Gate 34 at Narita Airport. I was the envy of an entire 747 cabin... until I spilled soy sauce on myself. Doh!

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