Thursday, October 7, 2010

I Have Seen the Light

Do you ever find yourself in a situation where you know you're out of your element, yet instead of shirking into defensive mode you are overcome with excitement?

One Thursday night The Folk Singer and I walked into Horinoya on Poydras, and you could have shot a cannon through the dining room without hitting anyone. Literally, there was no person in the restaurant other than the employees. Most people would have turned around, but for some reason we stayed.

After taking our places at the sushi bar, I excused myself to the restroom to wash up. While walking to the rear of the restaurant, the sound of voices kept getting louder and then I noticed more than a dozen pairs of shoes lined up outside the private dining room. Apparently, we were not the only ones in the restaurant.

I felt like I had stumbled upon some underground Japanese businessmen's dining club. No intellgible English was being spoken, and all I saw were bottles upon bottles of sake on the table. "Who are these people and what are they doing here?" When I returned to the bar, I realized that all 3 chefs were furiously at work, constructing dishes which I had never seen before. It was at this point that I decided that tonight would be the night: Omakase. I had heard about the chef's "feed me" option from many reputable diners, but never before had I taken the plunge. The time had come.

"Omakase?," I said, indicating that I wanted to eat whatever the chefs were serving to the private party in the back. A few awakward moments of silence passed before I quickly followed up with a price inquiry. Chef Komei Horimoto shrugged his shoulders and said, “Depends on how much you eat.” Fair enough for me. “Do you eat everything?” he asked. Does it look like I eat everything? He chuckled and we were off.

First course, Ankimo - a cylindrical tower of steamed monkfish liver with thinly sliced cucumber rounds, green onions, spiced grated ginger, and ponzu sauce. I think that Lorin Gaudin put it best: "If sea urchin is the 'foie gras of the sea', then ankimo is the 'foie gras torchon of the sea.'" The monkfish liver was served cool, and its texture was a bit softer than pate de foie gras but with the same richness. And you know how much I love foie gras.

Next, Sugaki - oysters on the half shell in a similar sauce as the monkfish liver (pictured above). The sweetness of the ponzu matched unbelievable well with the ice cold oysters. Third, a trio of sashimi: giant clam, tuna, and live octopus which had arrived that same day from Japan. The clam was tough and chewy, the tuna super fresh, and the octopus sublime. Flavored with a spicy and slightly acidic "yuzu seasoning,” the octopus (left) was delicate and tender.

More on that "yuzu seasoning." Last week I returned to Horinoya for a quick bite and inquired further about this spice. Chef Horimoto revealed that it is simply a combination of dried chili pepper flakes and yuzu juice. But the flavor tastes much more complex. The heat from the chili pepper and the acid from the yuzu causes the fish to dance on the tongue, with an almost effervescent quality. It's unlike anything I had tasted before, and I am now a "yuzu seasoning" addict.

Back to the meal. The fourth course was a sampler of 4 pieces of nigiri sushi, my favorite of which was the fresh scallop spiked with yet more yuzu seasoning. At this point, the waiter asked if I wanted more, and I was having too much fun to stop. The fifth course was a salad of chopped fresh seaweed, cucumber, and steamed octopus which was tougher than I had hoped. After the sixth course of egg cake and spicy tuna roll, I had to tap out full and happy.

While waiting for our check, The Folk Singer and I estimated the cost of my meal. We both agreed that $75 was both an accurate and fair price for 6 courses. On the check, the omakase for 1 was $50.

I'm a believer.


Celeste said...

Happy to hear that you enjoyed my favorite sushi resto in the metro area!

Anonymous said...

I used to like the all you can eat place on Carrollton and Canal. It was all you can eat sushi! Boy could I do some damage in that place. And they used to have ice cream too. And it was like $12.

Kimberly Ranjbar said...

Wow! That is an incredible price and I must admit, you are brave. I don't know if I could eaten the octopus or the monkfish liver!

Shelly said...

Horinoya is my favorite sushi restaurant! If you haven't tried it, their Chirashi is excellent too.

Becky said...

Yep, my favorite too. We did an omakase anniversary dinner there one year that was, um, considerably more than $50 per person. They can really pull out all the stops if you let them, and it's fantastic!

Van Staub said...

"Omakase?". Years ago it was "KanPai" on a Jesuit half day ...