Showing posts from April, 2014

"here be dragons" | Nihonryori Ryugin - 龍吟 - Tokyo

There are few places I've been as to which opinions diverge as widely as Nihonryori RyuGin, the Tokyo restaurant of Chef Seiji Yamamoto. It holds three Michelin stars and, for whatever it's worth, has recently made a rapid climb up the S. Pellegrino "50 Best Restaurants" list.[1] More important to me, several folks whose opinions I've come to trust had spoken of great meals there.[2] And yet other reports – including more recentvisits from some of those same people – ranged from indifferent to disappointed.

I can't speak to anyone's experience but my own. And even then, there are few culinary genres as to which I feel less qualified to opine than kaiseki, which lies at the foundation of RyuGin's style, and which for me was unexplored territory prior to this meal.[3] So take it for whatever it's worth: I found RyuGin to be a beautiful, well-executed and fully realized dining experience.

My admittedly naive understanding of kaiseki includes at least…

Help Kickstart Zak the Baker's Wynwood Bakery and Café

There are few things as elemental as bread. And yet there are few things as hard to find in Miami as a great loaf of bread. For me, that changed when I discovered Zak the Baker. For the past couple years, Zak the Baker (a/k/a Zak Stern) has been making beautifully simple natural leaven country bread. I got turned on to Zak's bread via Chef Michelle Bernstein, who has been serving it at her restaurant, Michy's. I rejoiced when my CSA farmer, Muriel Olivares of Little River Market Garden, started selling it on Saturdays at the Upper Eastside Farmers Market at Legion Park on Biscayne Boulevard. His bread is almost intensely crusty, its interior crumb is pocked with big airy holes, its flavor is hearty and rich. His bread has character, maybe even - dare I say it - soul.

(You can read more about Zak and his backstory in this feature in Edible South Florida, or this profile in Miami New Times).

For me, these are the kinds of things that elevate a food community: the folks who dedi…

"frying wizard" | Mikawa Zezankyo - みかわ是山居 - Tokyo

We ate our share of sushi while in Japan, but sushi is not the be all and end all of Japanese cuisine. While planning our trip, several smart people told us we needed to, among other things, fit in at least one tempura meal while we were there. And just a couple weeks before we left, the New York Times ran a piece on one of Tokyo's high-end tempura temples, noting that such places are virtually nonexistent in the U.S.

It's not that you can't find tempura in the States; indeed, many Japanese restaurants here try to do a little bit of everything, folding tempura, sushi, yakitori, ramen, soba and stir-fries all into the same menu.[1] But Japan is a place where specialists thrive. And at several restaurants in Japan, the art of tempura frying is treated with the same reverence and respect as we typically see only devoted to sushi. To experience it, we opted for Mikawa Zezankyo, a small place in a quiet neighborhood fairly close by the beautiful Kiyosumi Garden.

(You can see al…