Rounding out last week's izakaya probe, we bring you a run-down of the unfamiliar terms most likely to pop up on an izakaya menu. Our local Japanese chef know-it-alls Hiro Sone of Ame and Mari Takahashi of Nombe chimed in to walk us through words like agemono and onigiri. We've compiled their definitions below along with a few revelations on the secrets of perfect sushi rice. What makes the best grains? And why does sushi rice tastes so much better than the regular stuff from the supermarket? This and your izakaya 101 after the hop.
I first heard about cod sperm, and how it's an edible delicacy for the "jet set," back in December. Socialite wrangler Gilt City threw an upper crust mingle fest at Benu. Chef Corey Lee decided to serve a liquified version of cod sperm in shot glasses as a passed appetizer. The well-to-dos knocked it back and liked it with reckless abandon (even though most of them didn't know what they were sipping). And the Chronicle's Beth Spotswood wrote about the affair and her server's insistence that "it's like a thing. It's the male version of caviar."
Not long ago, we wrote about Monk's Kettle's (my, that's awkward sounding) new program of monthly beer-pairing dinners. Which, by the way, is a great idea, as beer is arguably just-as, if not more, food-friendly than wine.
So, it's nice to see other restaurants getting into the act. In this case on June 17th it's Ame, lending executive chef Greg Dunmore's and kitchen guru Hiro Sone's talents to a menu paired with the (in)famously extreme ales of Delaware's Dogfish Head brewery (which even earned a profile in the New Yorker not long ago).
It would be a lot more thrilling if fugu (blowfish) fin sake (called hirezake) could maybe, almost, kill you, if it weren't for the masterful, surgical skills of the sushi chef that extracted the fin from the infamously poisonous fish. As I sat at the bar at Ame, and took a sip of this piping hot sake yesterday—a dried and toasted blowfish fin steeping in the bottom of my ceramic cup—I asked Susan Johnston, the g.m., if I could expect imminent death. But apparently, unlike the liver of the blowfish (which is where the danger lies), the fin is utterly safe. My legs didn't go numb. Not even a little buzz. Just the savory flavor (finally!