Sunday, June 14, 2015
THE BEST RAMEN AND SASHIMI I'VE EVER HAD IN MY LIFE
Anything can happen at any time on any day. When you're old, you think about, maybe the end, and hope for the best. So it is some kind of miracle that on the same day, I have my best ramen and sashimi ever. Every so often, I walk into Honolulu to have lunch. I was already expecting excellence, for Lucky Belly at the edge of Chinatown serves pork belly ramen that ranks right up there.
A little more than a year ago, Chaine des Rotisseurs hosted at Lucky Belly our Young Sommelier Dinner. Here, Bruce, the grand leader, with Qi and John. Now, this is not exactly the usual venue for this organization, with La Mer and the Crystal Symphony the usual setting. Bruce and I, colleagues at the University of Hawaii, while sitting there, actually designed an infrared torch as we ate, for many of the dishes were too lukewarm. The standard blowtorch deposits a fossil fuel based carbonaceous deposit, and contributes to global warming.
Thus a few months later, strolling through Chinatown, I again walked into this restaurant and asked what was their specialty. It was pork belly ramen, and to quote my posting:
Note the size of that bowl. They placed five large slices of pork belly (I figured there must have been good reason for their name) and a sausage, with a lot of bean sprouts and seaweed, plus a whole egg, on the nicely al dente noodles. The pork was like butter and the bowl of ramen might have been the best I've ever had. I'm holding a glass of cold sake.
But a few months ago I came back, had the same thing, and was disappointed, for the pork was lukewarm and the inside of the whole egg almost cold. Worse, I ordered their Prosecco in such a manner that they opened a new bottle and thought that was what I said. When I lightly objected, they immediately backed off and said they would only charge me the glass price, which was $9. I felt so guilty that I ordered two more glasses to match the cost of the bottle.
So today, I thought I'd give their ramen another chance, with a bottle Asahi Dry. Yes, this is the best ramen you can have:
The bill was less than $20, but if you count the lunch I missed at 15 Craigside, add another $17.50. But not really, for I told our dining room I'd later pick up the misoyaki chicken, tossed salad and miso soup, for a charge of $1.50. Now knowing what I was having for dinner (which means I toss away another $23.50 for not eating it), I thought it might be nice to have some sashimi (raw fish with wasabi and soy sauce). So I walked around the Chinatown fish market and purchased one pound of abura (oily) for $25.50 if they provided a bag of ice to keep the fish cold on my walk home:
I didn't ask and couldn't tell, but would guess this was a blue-fin tuna. Note the hamachi (cultured yellow-tail) to the right at $24.50. I don't know what the name of this stand was, but it was manned by an old Japanese couple.
You wonder how something can become the best ever. The setting was my lanai, I had some hot sake and cold beer, fried the misoyaki chicken in butter and onions, placed the o-toro on the salad:
There was nothing much to enhance the experience, but this was the best sashimi I've ever had. I've been to the home of Tokyo University Professor Seizo Motora, whose wife was one of the three Mitsubishi sisters who lived in a mansion-like compound where the large next door park was once their land. They served a tray of sashimi that ranged from deep red to almost white, from akame (lean) through chu-toro to o-toro (oiliest). He said that the best sashimi was chu-toro, for the really fatty portion did not have an acceptable texture:
On the down side, o-toro has six times more dioxins and mercury than the "cheaper" and leaner flesh. Yet, current Japanese markets charge more for o-toro than chu-toro, which exceeds akame by quite a bit. I've bought from Marukai Market in Honolulu chu-toro for more than $50/pound. In Japan, one piece of o-toro sushi can sell for $24. Here is a 489 pound blue fin tuna that was auctioned off for $1.7 million two years ago at Tsukiji Fishmarket in Tokyo. That's $3476/pound.
So that $78/pound Miyazaki sirloin I bought at Marukai, or the $200/pound Matsuzaka rib eye found in Japanese basement markets are nothing compared to prime, oily, blue-fin tuna around the end of the year.