Sylvan Mishima Brackett is the mastermind behind Peko Peko, a Japanese catering service in the Bay Area. After working as Alice Waters' assistant for SIX YEARS (dude must have the patience of a Zen master. Just kidding, love you Alice!), he apprenticed in a soba shop in Saitama, Japan, then came back to the Bay Area to start Peko Peko. For the last two years, he's been hustlin' around town, poppin' up at various restaurants for a night here, another night there, and catering parties along the way.
This time around, he's at the ever popular Bar Tartine, in San Francisco's Mission district. The place was packed when I dined there last week for this weekly Peko Peko event-- we had Nagoya-style black miso katsu and curry udon among other dishes.
But Sylvan's culinary fancies shifts from week to week, according to what's available seasonally (we're all at the mercy of the farmers and purveyors, aren't we?), and he's going in a totally different direction for tonight's dinner. He's celebrating CALIFORNIA FISHES! Yippee! Here's a sneak peak at tonight's menu:
I was lucky enough to visit the Peko Peko Test Kitchen yesterday, where his staff busily prepared for tonight's amazing-sounding six-course dinner. Sylvan is extremely meticulous in his sourcing of ingredients-- only using what is the freshest, local, if possible, and if he has to fly to Japan himself to get an ingredient, he'll do it. (Tough life!).
Fresh wasabi (horse radish) flown in from Japan.
Blocks of dried katsuo (bonito) from Japan-- shave for umami.
Sylvan's engraved knife.
The cutest little kishu mikan for dessert.
Buri (yellowtail) from Ventura, that will be simmered with daikon. This thing was pretty huge.
Line-caught gindara (cod) from Half Moon Bay. Salted in preparation for the saikyo miso marinade.
Saikyo miso. You could literally marinate fish in this FOREVER, since it is used to essentially preserve fish. Ok, maybe not forever, but for a longass time. Kuni just told me one month, max. Whoa. That's pushing it though, obviously.
Fresh iwashi (sardines) from Monterey. For the satsuma age (fish cakes).
Preparing the hirame (fluke, from Half Moon Bay) for another kind of satsuma age.
Now, the homemade satsuma age, which will be served in the udon course, as well as a la carte tonight, is what sparked my interest most. I am a fish cake freak. I eat blocks of kamaboko during the New Year festivities, can endlessly consume oden (fishcake stew) and will order a plate of it for myself at Thai restaurants, if it's on the menu. The store bought kind is always chock full of MSG (which is why it's so addicting), but Sylvan and his staff will be making them tonight from scratch, with sashimi-grade hirame, with absolutely no MSG. DREAM COME TRUE!
I watched Yuko-san, a Peko Peko staff cook, make these step-by-step.
Put in chopped hirame into a food processor.
Add salt, mirin, corn starch, ginger.
Mix with chopped carrots.
Shape into patties and rounder balls.
Plop them into the fryer.
Gorgeously fried, perfectly moist and spongy. They taste so fresh and clean. No MSG!
The ones on the left here are the iwashi (sardine) version, which Sylvan will make with black sesame.
Another totally amazing fish that will be on tonight's menu is nishin (herring) that were caught right in the San Francisco BAY! He just got them delivered THIS MORNING! He'll be frying them and marinating in a soy vinegar for a traditional Japanese preparation called nanbanzuke.
Six courses, $60. All this fresh fish, all from California. Best deal ever!!! Plus, Bar Tartine is just so romantic.
Awesome sake and Japanese beer on the list.
Peko Peko will pop up every Monday through February 7th. Don't miss this tonight, though. Cancel all pre-existing plans right now! Trust me.