The Gohan Society is a non-profit organization bridging together US and Japan through food. Their programs are quite intricate and very educational. For example, they had a series on "how to use fish" courses, targeted to professional chefs, from filleting the whole fish to fresh eel butchering to ike-jime.
The students, from Wilie Dufresne (WD 50) to Mike Anthony (Gramercy Tavern) are basically the best chefs in the city. The way they educate US chefs the Japanese culinary beauty is pretty impressive. No wonder we see a lot of sashimi-style ceviche at many acclaimed restaurants nowadays.
To celebrate their accomplishments, they hosted a benefit dinner earlier this week.
It was a 10- course meal, created by 10 great chefs in the city. Gohan Society's connections with top notch chefs in NYC is amazing. The dinner theme was modern kaiseki.
Here is the rundown of the evening (it was a five-hour meal, by the way). The course names in the parenthesis is what the courses are called in Japanese kaiseki lingo.
First course (Sakizuke): by Union Square Cafe owner/chef Michael Romano. This looks like sushi, but it's an Italian twisted version. Kindai Tuna with Fregola, Avocado, Sardinian Olive Oil.
Kindai Tuna is one of Japan's recent exports. It is completely farmed, yet has nearly the same traits as the ones swimming in deep ocean. It tasted like fresh tuna with beany risotto underneath. Pretty creative.
Second course (Hassun): by Seamus Mullen (formerly of Buqueria).
Close up shot of hamachi with arbequina, yuzu and togarashi. Arbequina is a type of olive, and the yuzu flavor mixed with spicy pepper was excellent. Very tapas style.
Kobe beef sashimi with horseradish, wood year mushroom and uni. This was an interesting combo. Both beef and uni melted in my mouth, and a bit of crunch from wood ear mushroom was fun.
Littleneck clam, chorizo, crosnes, Piment D'Espelette (Basque-area pepper). Chorizo with clam was surprisingly great. It was sitting on some kind of foam.
Third course (Wan mono): by Ben Pollinger of Oceana.
Roasted barley, monkfish, nappa cabbage and ginger. The menu only said monkfish, but this is ankimo (monkfish liver). They cleverly didn't list it since many guests were American. If they ever saw Yoko's post on ankimo, they would not touch it. Soup was light, liver was smooth, but the plating was a bit off. It's modern kaiseki, but I wanted this to be in deeper bowl, with a regular spoon, instead of a thick porcelain spoon.
Fourth course (Mukozuke): by Brad Farmerie of Public. Tasmanian Sea Trout with Piccalilli, shichimi pepper and shiso. I like trout better than salmon since the flavor is more subtle, and this was refreshing. Pepper and shiso added a nice touch to rid the fishiness as well.
Fifth course (Futamono) by Micheal Anthony & Paul Wetzel of Gramercy Tavern. I don't know the difference between Ben Pollinger's course and this one since both are soups. Oh well, it was very autumnal, and we were expecting this might have matsutake mushroom.
And yes it did. Matsutake mushrooms with winter squash and duck. Usually, when Japanese people add matsutake to soup, it's very light soup base so that we can fully smell and taste matsutake mushrooms. This was quite the contrary. Soup was very strongly flavored with (I assume) duck. It was very intense and good, but wanted some rice with it or something. It was like ramen soup without noodle.
By the way, the event was sponsored by my friend's sake distributing company, and she kept pouring the best of the best sake for every course. As soon as she filled me up, I emptied the glass. At this point, it was past 10pm, but we were only in the middle of the meal, and I was getting wasted. Sitting next to strangers, yakking it up, drinking too much, eating awesome food, I was definitely happy.
Sixth course (Yakimono) by Chris Rendell of Double Crown. Grilled black cod with cashew chill relish, Hijiki and soy-mirin dressing. Cashew chili relish, AMAZING. Crunch from cashew, a little spice from chili and sweetness was perfectly in sync.
Seventh course (Su-Zakana) by Craig Koketsu of The Hurricane Club (his new venture). Fuyu persimmons with black sesame and ginger. WOW. I think this was my favorite, and I think I went up to Craig after I ate it, slurring "You are the man!, I loved your meal the best, maaaaan!" Hazy... Anyhow, sesame sauce tasted a bit like shabu-shabu dipping sauce. Nutty, sweet and vinegary. Persimmon on the left (below) was perfectly ripe, while the ones on the right were still crunchy.
The way he used fruit in this dish was clever, and tasted so great.
Eighth course (Shizakana): Pierre Thiam of Le Grand Dakar. Spice crusted lamb loin with sake sauce. This was a bit too spicy to be included in a kaiseki line-up, but the lamb didn't have the usual gamy flavor at all, which was nice. Le Grand Dakar is an African restaurant in Brooklyn, and chef Pierre's interpretation was smart and impressive. This was an Africa-meets-Japan dish.
Oops, I missed the ninth course (Tome-wan) by King Phojanakong (aka, King Kong) of Kuma Inn. It was apparently miso soup, glutinous rice and sweet pork sausage, pickled bitter melon, mushrooms and relish. Hm, as I am writing this, I remember eating it, but what happened to the photo?
Final (10th) course, dessert by Dominique Ansel of Daniel.
Apple confit with green apple, wasabi gelée and yuzu sorbet. No recollection of eating this, sorry! Pictures, like late night text messages, are sometimes scary to look at later. You wake up the next morning, and you are like, "Did I really do (say/ eat/ fuck) that?"
At this point, it was way past midnight, and everyone (especially at my table) was wasted. Somehow I got home, and passed out on the floor. My back hurt like hell the next day, but I found a goody bag filled with a bottle of sake (Dassai), whiskey (mini bottle, but Yamazaki 18 year!) a set of cute chopsticks, and free facial coupon at Shiseido.
It was one hell of an experience. Great food, and I talked a lot with chef Mike Anthony as well as Craig Koketsu. I asked everyone how to make the perfect macaron. Don't remember what they told me. Damn.