Maybe it is fallout from my years as a consultant, but I’m a firm believer that one should defer to — and learn from — the expert at hand, whatever the subject.

And this extends to food. As I said to one of the chefs in the Mexican station at Caffe Macs, “I wouldn’t ask you to write code. Seems silly of you to ask me how your food should be served! Please make a plate the way you would want it.” Deliciousness resulted.

I like to do the same at restaurants. Build up a relationship of trust such that the chefs and staff know that when I say “serve me whatever you want”, they know that I mean it and that I appreciate creativity.

I’m not alone in this. Several friends and I make a habit of this style of eating and we had an absolutely stunning Japanese meal the other night. Done in the omakase — “it’s up to you” — style.

Course 1: Oyster & Avocado/Tuna Roll

We have been eating at the Tanto Japanese Restaurant every now and then for the past year. It is an excellent little hole in the wall that specializes in serving small japanese plates of grilled, fried, boiled, baked, and raw yumminess.

After several visits where the chef took grand care of us, he asked that we give him a few days heads up prior to our next visit as he had some ideas and needed some lead time to obtain some ingredients from Japan (from the Tsukiji fish market, specifically).

This is the meal that resulted.

The first course was composed of a slightly warmed fresh oyster, very large, with a subtly sweet and fruity house sauce and accompanied by a fresh lemon.

Included was a lightly battered, deep fried, roll composed of avocado, tuna, and false crab (IIRC). Amazingly, the tight seaweed wrap keeps the rolls from being at all greasy!

The oyster was one of the most flavorful I have had. And it had two distinct textures; the typical slightly ooky oyster texture and bits that had distinct muscle texture.

Awesome dishes and a great opener.

Course 2: Lobster Claw, Seared Scallops w/Uni, Lobster on Mango with Caviar

It was the second dish, however, that confirmed that we were on a grand culinary adventure.

The chef put together a plate with three kinds of shell fish accompanied by a slightly tangy-sweet sauce.

On the right is the whole meat of a lobster claw. I’m not sure what kind or if it was the preparation, but it was considerably more tender than a typical Maine lobster.

On the left was lightly seared fresh (as in, live minutes before the dish was prepared) scallops with a chunk of some of the best uni (sea urchin) I have ever had on top. The scallops had just a bit of a bbq sear flavor, but was pure essence of ocean on the inside.

The centerpiece had a surprise! That is a thin slice of cucumber wrapped around a pile of fresh lobster meat with a dollop of black caviar on top. The surprise, though, was that the lobster was on top of a bed of diced mango! An amazing flavor combination.

Course 3: Hamachi with Special Sauce (Rendered Bacon Fat Base)

The chef knows that a number of us have a distinct fondness for hamachi (yellowtail).

Thus, it was no surprise that a dish focused on hamachi would be on the menu. What was a surprise, though, was the sauce! The hamachi sashimi was drizzled — on one end only, so you could enjoy the pure fish flavor, too — with a special sauce that contained freshly rendered bacon fat (if I’m not mistaken — the Chef would not tell us this particular secret).

On the end was pickled and fresh diced vegetables that were delicious wrapped in the fish and dredged in the sauce.

Course 4: Lobster and Tofu Soup

The next course was a bit of an intermezzo of soup.

But not just any soup. Each bowl contained a half of a steamed lobster and a block of Tofu that had steeped in the soup for a bit. The soup, itself, was a hearty fish stock.

Delicious and refreshing, if not exactly light.

Course 5: Salmon w/Mustard and Tobiko, Seared Sea Bass, Braised Beef Belly on Eggplant

After the soup course, I was fully expecting that we would be on to the main course. And I was not disappointed!

This course was a bit of surf and turf, if you will.

On the near side is a chunk of delectable seared salmon with tobiko. It is on top of a subtly spicy mustard sauce.

In the middle was a little chunk of seared sea bass. It was seared in sauce and, thus, had a coating of caramelized sugars on the outside.

The far end featured a circle of grilled eggplant on top of which was sitting a piece of grilled fatty beef belly. I suspect the chef used a blow torch to do the actual grilling as the fatty parts were cooked to tenderness, yet the stripe of meat in between the fatty layers was very rare. It was accompanied by two multicolored fish cakes that did a wonderful job of mopping up the beef juices!

Course 6: Nigiri, Including Kobe Beef w/Diced Garlic

The final dish was a more traditional course of nigiri, that included five different fish. All were excellent cuts and very delicious. The mackerel stood out for its intensity of flavor, extremely fishy but the very good kind of fishy.

However, the real star of this dish were the two pieces of raw kobe beef nigiri with a little pile of finely diced scallions and garlic on top. This beef is just ridiculous in flavor and texture. It is heavily marbled, extremely tender — even when raw — and packs an intense amount of beef flavor.

We closed the meal with a bowl of ice cream that included bits of rice cake and, of course, the whole meal was accompanied by multiple types of shōchū and sake (served cold, of course!).

Seriously. This was one of the best meals I have had. I cannot thank the chef and staff of Tanto enough!! I can’t wait to scrape together enough pennies (about 12,000) to do this again!!

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8 Responses to “Omakase”

  1. Jeffrey J Hoover says:

    Very nice. Good photos too!

  2. Peter says:

    I’m always a bit of a chicken for omakase sushi. I wouldn’t want the oyster, for example. But the rest of that meal looks freakin’ awesome. Now I’m hungry…

  3. Ben Holt says:

    It was indeed incredible; pretty sure no crabs were harmed in the making, however, the lobsters took this one for the team.

  4. annbb says:

    I do think you’ve missed your calling. This has successful food critic written all over it!
    What a meal! So wish I’d been able to taste all that with you. May my first omakase
    experience by with you, brother of mine! Next time I’m out??

  5. Amie says:

    Lordy, I miss dining with you. What an amazing meal! I am betting the experience was nearly as good for the chef. This reads like a Japanese version of Babette’s Feast! Ann’s right; the way you write about food (your own and other’s) is simply magical.

  6. Papa Joe says:

    it looked fabulous son. even made me, a non-fish eater want to try some.
    you reminded us of when we used to go to Dewey Wong’s in NYC and we would sit down and they would serve us per our request a pork or beef or fish dish(es). no specific menu item, just good food made by Dewey or his chef.

  7. kotatsu says:

    Tsukiji is famous in a fish market.
    It become the station name of Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line.
    There is the Asahi Shinbun Tokyo main office.
    The Tsukiji market is going to be moved to Toyosu where pollution is intense by a policy of Shintaro Ishihara.
    Olympics media center (NHK) is going to be established in the ruins toward the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2016.

  8. bbum’s weblog-o-mat » Blog Archive » Furu Sato says:

    […] The Japanese refer to this style of dining as omakase. Another favorite restaurant — Tanto — has served me some fantastic omakase meals. […]

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