If you found this blog by Googling my name or by following sundry noxious links (you know where), please note that all claims that I was fired from my job are 100% false, as are most of the other things written about me. I don't know the people who are libeling me, but it's clear they have some imaginary axe to grind and way too much time.

Thursday, April 9, 2009


Any of my friends could tell you that I have something called "extreme menu anxiety" in which I am unable to go to a restaurant without first reading every published review, with a good smattering of Citysearch/Menupages/Chowhound/Yelp opinions to round out the picture. Even then, I try to drag as many people as I can with me, and once I'm there, will usually interrogate some poor server multiple times before I order.

I just don't want to order the wrong thing. You know, the thing that chefs throw on the menu to get suckers who don't know better to order, thereby boosting their profit margin and allowing them to afford the less cost-effective but truly passionate dishes on the menu. Examples? Seared ahi* tuna, goat cheese arugula salads, anything with salmon.

Which is why I love tasting menus and omakase. No dodging there; the chef decides what you eat and therefore stands behind everything you eat. And, coming to the point, it's also why I think this buddy search thing might be a really great idea.

Sakagura was Noah's recommendation, and it was a solid one. Here's a guy who is married to a Japanese woman, spent time in Japan, and is discernibly obsessed with Japanese food, and he led me - with all the confidence you could hope for in an eating companion - to an underground lair where all the Japanese nationals go. A place I'd never even heard of before.

Plenty has been written about Sakagura. I won't repeat them here. I'll show you some pretty pictures though:

This is the "Jewel" Oke Bento, which is charmingly described on the menu as "seasonal sashimi, fried tidbits, grilled tidbits." I fucking love that. It's like, "No, I won't tell you exactly what is going to be on your huge round plate, just trust me, it's going to be tasty because it'll be either grilled or fried." You can't say no. (Noah had the same.)

The sashimi was top quality, not too big and slabby. The purplish mounds toward the bottom are three individual rice cakes seasoned with pickled shiso. The grilled bits were tofu, a thin slice of steak, and eel. The fried bits were two fans of tempura'd julienned veggies. The little cup had pickled mountain yams, and in the top left was a melon-ball scoop of taro in what tasted like a sauce spiked with sake.

A word here about shiso. Food writers and Top Chef contestants seem to wank all over shiso, but I'd never encountered it before. One of the sashimi was squid rolled with shiso leaf, and it was a crazy flavor pairing - spicy, herby, oceany. I am now wanking over shiso.

I guess I should also say something about the decor here: it was cool. Honestly, I don't care much about that stuff, but if you do, you'd like it. Woodsy and clean and as Japanese as you can picture in that authenticity-seeking, culturally tokenizing head of yours.

On to dessert!

Noah and I discovered we are both into savory desserts. He ordered a scoop of sea salt chocolate ice cream, which was crazy good. I got this:

It's a black sesame creme brulee, and it was even better. My menu anxiety also stems from not wanting to ever get food envy, so this was a clutch win for the home team.

Definitely a great meal, and not even outrageous at $27 including dessert. For my first "meat up," I really couldn't have asked for better. Noah was engaging, interesting, not awkward, and definitely not sketchy. We talked about his time living in Qingdao, my time living in Oaxaca, our takes on fusion cuisine, law, finance, and eggs.

The takeaway of the day: cooking someone an egg, just the way they like it, is love. No other food is so versatile, yet so particular. My dad cooked eggs for me growing up, forever defining my idea of perfection as whites fried to a crisp brown on the edges, yolk gooey but never runny within. Just a little FYI.

We parted ways at 53rd and Lex with a handshake. Back at the office, I saw that Noah had sent me a link to a Picasa album of food pictures. I sent back an Amazon link to Jeffrey Steingarten, and a promise to update him on Shang, which is my next meat-up. Will I see him again? I hope so, he was fun.

*Which, the way, is just the common yellowfin. Bluefin or bust!


  1. If I were in New York, you have no idea how easy it would be to drag me to eat... basically whatever. I'll just have to food it up in San Francisco for now (boo hoo?)


  2. Hey, you could start the San Fran chapter of the eating buddy project. Let me know if you're ever coming to visit!

  3. Haha for what it's worth, back home (where we actually catch tuna off boats and eat them the same day instead of staring at them in a fish market) yellowfin is considered preferable to bluefun. Nobody really paid much attention to bluefin until folks realized they could make thousands of dollars selling them to Japanese fish distributors. To be fair I'm much more of a fan of various forms of cooked fish than sushi (for which I will always maintain that yellowfin is better) as a result of my upbringing, because when you have an infinite supply of fresh seafood in the South sushi isn't usually the first thing to come to mind, especially when I was growing up.

    Also, whenever you get yellowfin in a restaurant it's frequently frozen to the point of blandness, while bluefin is going to be fresher simply because it's such a prized fish. So that's my seafood rant of the day