Monday, September 11, 2006

Creative sashimi

I had a great sashimi dish at Roy's in Austin. The dish suggests the possibilities of what a creative chef can do with raw fish.

The dish was suzuki (sea bass). It came on top of a small bed of an unusual tree-like seaweed. The suzuki was drizzled with a little yuzu (a Japanese citrus fruit), paper-thin slices of serrano peppers, grey sea salt from France, and a few leaves of a Japanese micro green, which was growing on a shelf in the kitchen. These minor accompanyments brought out flavors of the fish without overwhelming it.

The dish was a brilliant variation on typical sushi flavors. The yuzu replaced lemon, which is frequently served with fish and occasionally with sushi or sashimi. It gave the dish an exotic flavor. The sea salt replaced soy sauce. In addition to sodium, it added an unusual, crunchy texture. The serrano replaced wasabi for spicy heat. The dish did not ignore the traditional preparation, but it was very unique.

Some of the best, most creative sashimi dishes have been created by gourmet American chefs. Rather than relying solely Japanese tradition or trying to pander to American tastes by frying or adding sweet sauces, these chefs use simple flavors that accent sashimi and give it unique flavors and textures. For instance, in 2000 at Charlie Trotter's in Chicago, I tried yellow tail sashimi with cauliflower puree with a few micro greens on top. I usually do not like cauliflower, but it was an inspired pairing with the yellow tail. It was an incredible little dish that proved to me that sashimi can be made new and interesting, without sacrificing its simplicity.

Roy's is a national chain of upscale Hawaiian restaurants founded by star chef Roy Yamaguchi. All four of my meals at Roy's in Hawaii and Austin have been outstanding. Hawaiian cuisine is a combination of flavors and cooking styles from Polynesia, Hawaii, Japan, China, and the mainland. It has emerged as one of the great American regional cuisines in the last 20 years. If you can't make it to Hawaii, Roy's has locations in Austin and Dallas. I wish they would open one in Houston.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Try Uchi next time, the tasting menu is incredible!