It’s time for the fabled part three of Sushi Couture — was there ever any doubt I’d do the omakase there? Before I start though, I think there’s something important to be said about what I hereby christen “omakase politics.’ zomg information as opposed to foodblogging? Don’t fret, I’m doing both today in the spirit of the holiday season.
For those of you who don’t know what it means, ‘omakase’ is Japanese for “it’s up to you.” This means that instead of ordering from a menu, you simply tell the chef that you want them to, basically, show you their stuff. They’ll use their freshest ingredients of the day and utilize all of their creativity to present you with unique dishes that are treats for both the tastebuds and the eyes. Art and dining, so to speak. Certain Japanese restaurants such as Sushi Kaji, Yuzu, Japango, Ematei, and Nami offer “Omakase”, or Chef’s Choice specials that can usually range from $60-$120. Serious stuff. Sushi Couture and Ematei both have cheaper versions of the Omakase that can run you about $50, tax and tips already included.
Whatever the case however, for most university students, a meal costing $50+ is a rather massive dent in our shallow pockets. Still, it can be worth it. But how? Through what I call ‘Omakase Politics.’ More simply, it’s ‘getting the most bang for your buck.’ Have you ever gone to a place so much that everyone recognizes you, and sometimes offers you special deals, or even free things? I’m sure all of us have at least an in or two somewhere. What follows is something that some people may find obvious. I apologize in advance if that is the case for you.
In the context of getting the best omakase possible, you can accomplish this through a few simple methods…
1) Get to know your sushi chef: it’s surprising how far complimenting a chef’s food sincerely can go for you. Sometimes we as patrons of restaurants may find it awkward or difficult to engage the restaurant’s staff in conversation. However, establishing a relationship where you can actually talk to the staff is essential! Not just from the prospective angle of getting an in. Meeting new people is a good thing, and honestly? If you spend eight hours of your life every day working behind a counter or just waiting to a bunch of nameless faces, having someone you can walk by and vaguely recognize or talk to can definitely be a relief. This ‘networking’ of sorts is especially important at any place where you can order a special item off the menu where it is the staff of the restaurant, rather than yourself who have control of what you are eating.
2) To accomplish step 1, I recommend going at the off-hours of the restaurant, where there usually are not many people. We all know when the on-times are; breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Going at the odd hours of the restaurant will allow you to have a more intimate experience with the restaurant and its staff. If you go at a busy time of the day, say the evening, you’d be hard-pressed to engage any of the staff in conversation.
3) After a certain amount of talking back and forth, I think its poignant to introduce yourself. That’s right! Giving them your name, asking the same of them. That’s a really friendly gesture that shows you trust the chef. And when its your friend behind the counter whipping you up an omakase, you can bet it’s going to be better than some random person you don’t know.
As such, think of an omakase experience as something you need to invest in beforehand before you can have the ideal experience. I hope that was informative! I tried to keep it short in the spirit of not wanting to bore anyone. Onwards to the actual food blogging!
After my last final of the year, I decided that I wanted to reward myself with something nice. So I decided to go get Japanese at my favorite Japanese restaurant, Sushi Couture, which any reader of this blog will know that I absolutely adore. However, I Didn’t just want a regular lunch. I decided that I wanted omakase. So I called up my friend and we braved the cold together to walk to Sushi Couture. Upon entering, I said hi to my friend Ken and asked for the 5 Course Omakase special. After a moment of thought, Ken cheerfully said OK. I mentioned that my friend was allergic to shrimp, crab, and lobster, but that I was not, and he took that into account.
After waiting for a few minutes, our first dish arrived.
The waiter explained our dish to us after he put it down. Our first course was a tempura’d egglant, a New Zealand Mussel with a creamy, slightly cheesy butter sauce, and a grilled capelin fish. Notice that the fish has a small layer of aluminum foil around certain parts of the fish. This is because those areas would’ve cooked too fast and become too charred to be edible — with the addition of the protective layer of aluminum foil, the fish cooks more evenly. Inside of this fish was a lot of little eggs. Not even going to lie. See that belly? EGGS EGGS EGGS. It was actually really good, and seeing how much work he put into one tiny fish was a good sign for what was to come. The mussel was rather delicious as we;;, and it came with an assortment of different textures: the creaminess of the sauce, the slight crispiness of the top layer of the sauce, and the springiness of the mussel itself. The eggplant was delicate and soft, coming with a slightly sour, sweet sauce and bonito flakes on top that moved as if they were somehow alive.
This simple, delicious fish broth with clams was definitely different from the miso soup that I was accustomed to having at Japanese restaurants. Something fun to do with this dish is to take the clams and scoop up a bit of soup in the shell, so you get a bit of fish broth as you down each one of your clams. The shiso leaf at the top added a fresh flavor to the dish — and while you can just barely make it out near the top of the soup in this photo, lemon zest was also included to add freshness to this dish.
I reaaaallly wish that I took a separate picture of the oyster shooter. It was actually amazing. A fresh oyster, a thin layer of sea urchin, salmon roe, finely chopped green onion, and sake! How absurd, right? Apparently it’s a signature of Ken’s — you’re supposed to down it in one gulp, just like a shot. At first, I was weirded out when I took this shot. I was under the assumption that the alcohol would overcome all the other elements of this shooter. However, the saltiness of the roe as it popped in my mouth took the pungency of the alcohol away, leaving me with a taste that I can’t really describe as anything other than amazing. I’m so glad that he snuck this onto one of my other courses and made both of these count as one instead of two dishes! Ken used both butterfish and fresh hamachi. I;ve already raved about the butterfish before — lightly torched and delicious as always, with a small amount of crispy onions placed on top. The hamachi, or yellowtail, was extremely delicious and pretty in its own right. If I ever get it again, I’ll make sure to take a photo — it looked pretty much exactly like a small piece of really high quality steak, with all the marbling and colors. Unlike the butterfish, which pretty much melted in my mouth, the yellowtail presented a different kind of textural experience. It was more meaty, and definitely just as fresh. As usual, if I wanted to, I wouldn’t have even had to dip the sashimi into soy sauce to enjoy it.
Speaking of which, Ken provided us with some wasabi that had been mixed with actual fresh wasabi root, as opposed to the cheap stuff that we usually have at other restaurants. You know how the standard wasabi goes straight to your nostrils and hurts? The fresh wasabi root kind of wasabi is different in that it is spicy too, but it doesn’t come with the sharp nostril pain that comes directly after. Very refreshing!
Next was our sushi course. First was the deliciously fresh tuna, which had been given a tiny helping of finely chopped, fried green onion, and tobiko. Next was my favorite — a fresh, almost raw scallop that had been given a light blowtorching by Ken. He then added a dollop of sea urchin, and a small helping of seaweed. A fresh, raw scallop is just much different from a cooked one. If you guys are brave enough, I definitely recommend trying it! It’s one of those melt in your mouth kind of textures, and has a slightly buttery flavor that is accentuated by the sea urchin. Finally was my friend’s favorite, the fried teriyaki eel that had been wrapped with slices of avocado. We’ve all had unagi sushi, but the additional fry adds a new depth of flavor along with an extra level of texture. The avocado is refreshing and helps to balance the powerful flavors of the eel.
A favorite at all AYCE Japanese places. Try having a dynamite roll at any higher end Japanese place and you’ll be hardpressed to ever feel the same way about AYCE Dynamite rolls ever again. Of course, Sushi Couture is no exception! Freshly fried, crispy shrimp, avocado, flying fish roe that pops in the mouth, crunchy cucumber, and a small helping of sweet soysauce that made it unnecessary to dip the roll in soy sauce. Perfect! My friend of course could not have this, and Ken fortunately gave him the butter yaki maki instead (pictured as the featured photo on the top of this blog!).
Notice that there has already been 5 courses! However, Ken had one more surprise for me. He brought THIS out, saying proudly and cheerfully that this one was especially for me to celebrate me being done class for the year.
The most annoying part about shellfish like lobster or crab is how you need to break them apart to really get at the flesh. However, this halved… prawn? Lobster? Whatever, had all the meat ready to eat, with a creamy mayonnaise, cheesy sauce that made this… PRAWN utterly delectable. The cooked, buttery roe near the head of this prawn was a definite treat as well. Ken provided some lemon in case I wanted to cut the fattiness of this dish a little with some fresh lemon juice. Nice of him! Even nicer that he didn’t forget about my friend, who was allergic to shrimps, prawns, and their ilk.
Japanese style tuna tartare! With a quail’s egg at the top. My friend remarked that this was one of the freshest and most delicious things he had ever eaten. I tried a bite of it myself. Let’s just say I agree! When you mix the egg with the tuna, it introduces an even deeper flavor and a more nuanced texture to this dish.
To finish off this now seven (eight, if you count the shooter) course meal at Sushi Couture, we were provided with a deep fried banana, a large helping of green tea ice cream, and a chocolate drizzle. A good way to end an absolutely AMAZING meal!
Conclusion: I don’t think I need to include a verdict :P. If you guys ever want to do an omakase anywhere though, remember to get to know the chef! As this post goes to show, it’s very important. Cheers and happy holidays! Terroni is next on my holiday hitlist. >=D