Archive for December, 2011

Another Visit to Morimoto

Back in June I’d written about our dining experience at Morimoto and how much we’d enjoyed it . Well ,the  Friday after Thanksgiving we relived our experience  as we dined again at Morimoto. Nine of us , (uncles , aunts and cousins ) met there for dinner and it was a blast … even better than the first time .

We met at 6:30 in the downstairs bar at Morimoto and tried some of their signature cocktails. I was one of the designated drivers but had  small sips  to see what the drinks  were like . The Morimoto Martini ( junmai sake , vodka and Japanese cucumber ) was only okay but the Tiger’s Eye ( Rye , ginger liquor, plum sake, bitters) was a winner . The White Lily( shochu, calpico and yuzu ) wasn’t bad either. The Mens Room with its unique sliding door and its designer facilities was close by the bar and I made a quick pit stop before we were summoned upstairs  for dinner. We were seated in exactly the same seats as we were the first time around and we took in the by now familiar surroundings : the dividing walls fashioned with water-filled plastic bottles, the pleated, cream-colored fiberglass ceilings , the blonde wood tables and the white walls. The wide seats were comfortable and the tables grouped far enough apart that the dining room felt busy but not crowded. Morimoto seats almost 200 and even on the Friday after Thanksgiving all the tables were occupied.

The previous time we’d had the omakase or tasting menu . This time we had the luxe version of the tasting menu with the chef given a free hand to do as he liked with the dishes he served us . Our wait-person , Delilah, told us later that of the nine dishes we were served , she’d only seen two or three before; the others were created on the spur of the moment by the chef using whatever he deemed was freshest and best. Naturally , cooking such a meal would take longer than usual and we were warned it might be some time before the first dish arrived . No problem . In order to while away the time till then we ordered an appetizer that we’d fallen in love with on our previous visit.

Rock Shrimp tempura served two ways with kochujang ( spicy Korean hot sauce) and a light wasabi flavored sauce came with a side of house ranch dressing and it was marvelous as ever. I’ve had plenty of tempura before but nothing like these morsels which retained their crispness even though they were infused with sauce . They were outstanding and whetted our appetite for the omakase courses that were to follow.

Rock Shrimp Tempura

The following were the dishes we had. A brief description of the dish is followed by my impressions ( in italics) and my rating ( 0 t0 5 stars , with 5 stars being excellent , 4 stars very good and 3 good). Since the dishes were created specially for us , they were not on the menu and I have to rely on the descriptions provided by the  wait staff  . I know I’ve got most of the ingredients right but I might have missed a few. Still there is enough, along with the photographs,  to give you a feel for each  dish.

1. Wafer thin slices of triggerfish ( kawahachi) ,topped with monkfish liver , sprinkled with edible flower petals, scallions  and caviar and dressed with olive oil . ( Triggerfish is related to the Japanese blowfish or fugu , the one with the highly poisonous innards. The soft , yet firm , flesh was nicely contrasted by the texture of the petals and the crunchiness of the caviar. The delicate taste was set against the saltiness of the caviar and mysterious hints of something sweet . Complex , with layers of flavor , many of us felt it was the best dish that evening.  *****)

Trigger Fish Sashimi

2. Stone crab claw with kabocha dressing , micro celery and scallion oil. ( Before you ask , let me say I don’t know what Kabocha dressing is . All I know is that it was light and delicious . The stone crab claw was small and there was no more than a teaspoon of meat but it was a treat .***** )

Stone Crab Claw

3.  Lobster chunks in a creamy lobster reduction with  Japanese mushrooms , shiso leaf and scallion oil. ( Personally , I’m not a big fan of lobster and I thought that the sauce was too rich and creamy. But then what do I know ? The others in our party raved about it and declared it to be on a par with the first course. **** )


4. Nantucket Bay scallops with yuzu-brown butter sauce , shavings of assorted vegetables , miyuga , daikon shreds , olive oil. ( The tiny scallops were perfectly cooked but I thought that the sauce was less impressive than it sounded at first . ****)


5. The sushi course ; Red Snapper , Tuna , Yellowtail , Bonito ( or skipjack tuna) and Eel Maki. ( Excellent for its freshness and taste . The red snapper was the best but the others were not far behind. In addition to the usual accompaniments of soy sauce , wasabi and pickled ginger, the sushi arrives with a slice of lemon . The lemon may sound strange but it really works . *****)

Sushi Platter

6.  A palate cleanser ;Fuji Apple sorbet in a lemon ginger decoction. Excellent.

7. The Main Course : Imperial Shabu-shabu. Perfectly cooked Wagyu beef with Sesame sauce , topped with mizutake mushroom foam and micro greens and served on a bed of braised leeks . ( Another excellent dish . However , it was served in a giant white bowl the rounded sides of which made it difficult to cut the beef. In spite of that, *****)


8. Okinawa Dark Sugar pot du crème with almond – passionfruit crème , sweet almond foam ,blackberry , and a baton of puff pastry sprinkled with sugar ( Delicious and refreshing. A complex composition that stopped just short of being too much . *****).

Put du Creme

9. Flourless chocolate cake with white chocolate cream and apricot sauce. Served with a side of Pear and green tea sorbet served on a bed of chopped stewed quince. ( I had the sorbet and the quince but left the chocolate cake alone. I wish that they would know when to stop. If the meal had ended with the previous dessert , we’d all have left sated and satisfied. This last course was totally unnecessary . Only ***. ,after all, chocolate cake is chocolate cake ).

Chocolate Cake

Because it was a special menu , the meal lasted almost three and a half  hours . However , the ambience , the attentive wait staff , the company, and the excellence of the food so beguiled us that we felt it was not that long. The menu was fearfully expensive ( $200 per person , exclusive of drinks , tax and tip and appetizer) but it is an experience that we will all  remember  for years to come . As we sat talking , one of the topics discussed was : “What is your most memorable dining experience ?  It was a difficult question to answer ( there have been so many memorable meals) but all of us were hard pressed to come up with an answer other than “Morimoto”.

Read Full Post »

Recently , I seem to be finding things of interest on the A&E channel. My latest “discovery” was American Hoggers , a series about the Campbell family whose vocation is to hunt down rampaging hogs ( feral pigs ) which are terrorizing parts of Texas. I only heard of this series last month but it’s a year old and apparently a big success because it already has a spin-off, Lady Hoggers . That series , which debuted earlier this month , is about the exploits of a pair of  women who catch and dispose of hogs which are running wild in Florida. What amazes me is the manner in which they subdue the hogs . After their hunting dogs have bought a hog to bay , the ladies wade in and ,with their bare hands,  flip the hog over and hogtie it ( pun intended) and cart it away. I find it amazing because these hogs are ugly ,vicious brutes , often with razor-sharp tusks.It surely takes a lot of guts to tackle them the way these ladies do. The hogs are butchered (off camera ) and the meat donated to churches and charities. I can’t imagine watching either of these series on a regular basis but they’ve opened my eyes to a few things .

I hadn’t realized the menace that these hogs pose to crops or livestock  in the South . Just one hog can root up and destroy an acre of crops in a single night , and often does. Hogs  are also vicious in nature,  attack small domestic animals and even pose a threat to young children who may be playing outside their homes. In one case , these feral  hogs scared away golfers and tore up parts of a golf course  before they were eliminated. The sheer numbers of wild hogs are staggering : four to five million , mostly in the Southern states. They have no natural enemies and they multiply like crazy , becoming fertile  when they are barely  6 months old. It’s thought that about 60 % of the hogs will have to be eliminated annually just to keep the numbers at their present level. It’s going to take more than the Campbells and the lady hoggers  to make a dent in their ranks.

I can’t feel much pity for the feral pigs but I must say that I felt bad when I read that 200 black bears had been killed in New Jersey on the first day of hunting season. Unlike grizzlies and brown bears which are larger and more aggressive , black bears keep away from humans. They have however learnt to scavenge for food in garbage cans kept outdoors  and that brings them into contact with humans, sometimes with disastrous results . I realize that their numbers have to be kept in check but I can’t help feeling sorry for them .

At one time , I used to think that hunting was wrong and that hunters were evil . I have long since changed my views about hunting . I still don’t consider it a sport but I think it is necessary to cull the number of deer each year . Any time that there is a mild winter , the number of deer multiply dramatically the following  spring . Edison is a heavily built up township with only a few stands of trees here and there but I am surprised sometimes to see  a herd of deer clattering down the street on their way to water. A couple of years ago , I was in my driveway just about to get into my car when a large deer with an impressive rack of antlers flashed across the bottom of my driveway. Deer are beautiful creatures and it may sound wrong to hunt them but what is the alternative? If they make it to  winter , they weaker ones die of cold and hunger ; Mother Nature is pitiless. And if the deer survive winter and  make it to spring , they often die in road accidents when they are hit by cars . I remember driving on the interstate one June , near Chambersburg , Pennsylvania , where there is a section of road with high embankments on either side . Some deer must have jumped down  on one side and been unable to get out . They dashed about and were hit by cars and trucks . It was absolute carnage because there were a dozen or more carcasses scattered about the sides of the road ; it made me sick to see it. Sometimes , even in Edison , I see the carcass of a deer lying by the roadside and it is a pitiful sight .Is being shot by hunters any worse than being hit by a car or freezing and starving to death?

As more and more areas get developed , the  natural abitats for animals shrink . Men and animals compete for the same space and , unfortunately for animals , in  such competition, they are bound to come out second best.

Read Full Post »

Not As Well Read As I Thought

The New York Times recently published a list ” The 100 Notable Books of 2011” and ,since I flatter myself that I am  well read , I quickly scanned it to see how many of them I had already read. I was in for a surprise . Of  the  hundred books on the list , I had read exactly …0 ( Zero) .

Suitably chastened at having been bageled , I turned to the  list of Notable Crime Books of 2011. Most of the books I read are in the Mystery genre and I felt confident that I would make a better showing here.

I did but not by much.

Out of 21 mysteries that made the honor roll , I found that I had read … just one , The Fifth Witness by Michael Connelly.

That was a bit of a surprise . Now in somewhat of a funk , I began to ask myself why I’d made such a poor ” showing”. I’d thought I might have read at least five and I began to ask myself why it was not so.

One reason , of course, is that I almost never buy books , preferring instead to get them from the library. I’m a member of two different libraries and between them I get a good variety . It is still limited to the choices made by the book buyers for the library and their choices may not , do not , always coincide with those of the New York Times critics.I am also very picky in what I read, preferring to read mysteries  and books on  travel , food , history, biography and very little else.I don’t read modern poetry, political memoirs , ” literature “, science and any  number of other categories. Even among  mystery books , I prefer police procedurals and  courtroom dramas. I don’t like books told from the viewpoint of the crim ( ” Dexter ” for instance ) and there are certain, well-regarded authors that I cannot stand and will never read .George Pelecanos , Walter Moseley, Richard North Patterson  and James Patterson are some of them . There are still others like Henning Mankell and Loren D. Estleman that I used to read in the past but have since soured on . Is it any wonder that I scored only 1 out of 21 in the mystery category. Of the other 20 mystery books there was only that appealed to me . If I can get it at the library , I will read Triple Crossing by Sebastian Rotella .

It strikes me also any list reflects the likes and biases of the one who makes it . The N.Y. Times list reflects the views of its critics and, while there are some who base their reading on book reviews in the Times , I am not one of them . I will always read what I like , not because some reviewer liked it . At the same time , I must admit that the Times reviewers have access to many more books than I do and I’m open to suggestions . Of the 100 notable books of 2011, there were seven  that I thought were interesting and that I would like to read if I got a chance . They are :

THE BARBARIAN NURSERIES. By Héctor Tobar. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $27.) about social and ethnic conflict in contemporary Los Angeles. 

SWAMPLANDIA ! By Karen Russell. (Knopf, $24.95.) concerns the pleasures and miseries of life in a failing theme park in the Everglades.

THE TIGER’S WIFE By Téa Obreht. (Random House, $25.)  uses fable and allegory to illustrate the complexities of Balkan history, unearthing the region’s patterns of suspicion, superstition and everyday violence.


 BLOOD,BONES AND BUTTER: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef : By Gabrielle Hamilton. (Random House, $26.) the chef at the Manhattan restaurant Prune .

CATHERINE THE GREAT : Portrait of a Woman By Robert K. Massie. (Random House, $35.) a sweeping narrative about the  minor German princess who became empress of Russia. 

EXAMINED LIVES : From Socrates to Nietzsche. By James Miller. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $28.) Philosophers  reflect on their own petty failings, and this makes their lives more, not less, worth studying. 

  WHY THE WEST RULES— FOR NOW. The Patterns of History and What they Reveal About the Future.By Ian Morris. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $35.)

I’m going to make an effort to read them all in the coming year.

Read Full Post »

Last week, I was flipping TV Channels when I happened upon , ” Storage Wars ” on A&E. I’d never heard of the show before and so, I settled down to watch some of it . For those of you who are unfamiliar with the show , it takes place in Southern California and is based on the fact that if the dues on storage lockers are not paid for three months then the lockers can be opened and the contents auctioned off. The TV show follows the fortunes of four men who make their living, bidding for the contents of such lockers  and selling it to antique stores , to collectors  or to consignment stores.It is an odd premise for a TV show but, surprisingly, it seems to have worked. About 3 million people viewed it regularly last season and this has resulted in a spin-off, ” Storage Wars : Texas” which is due to début this week.

The format is like this : After the lock is cut through , the door is raised and prospective buyers are given 5 minutes to inspect the contents . They may not enter the locker and they may not touch the goods . Their bids are  based on what they can deduce from their brief peek at the contents . As you can imagine , what they bid is in the nature of an educated guess since most of the contents are either boxed or hidden from sight . The bids are generally in the neighborhood of $ 600 to $1,000 though sometimes they can go as low as $100 or as high as $ 3,500. For viewers, the fun  is in seeing the clash of personalities between the four men and in trying to figure out whether they will be able to turn a profit on a particular transaction. We follow them right from the beginning , from the moment the locks are cut , through the auction  to their attempts to get their finds appraised.At show’s end , we are told what each of them made or lost that particular day.

But this is not about the show ; it’s about the contents of those lockers and what it says about us .

The first thing that surprised me  is that most of the stored items are junk. The second is that the items are stored higgledy-piggledy , the junk  mixed in with the valuable . Much of the stored stuff consists of things that have no particular reason for being saved from the junk pile. There are old headboards, matresses, sofas , stereos , boxes of toys , old shoes , posters , DVDs . (Why would anybody want to keep this stuff ? After all , there is a monthly fee for the usage of the storage lockers .I’ve no idea what the buyers do with the junk items ; probably they haul it away to the municipal dump.) 

For the buyers , rooting through these mountains of junk, looking for something that will enable them to earn back their outlay ,  is in the nature of a treasure hunt. They never know what they are going to find mixed in with the trash. In one case , “Barry” found an antique Stradivarius violin. Antonio Stradivari was the most famous violin maker of all time and his violins are masterpieces of the violin-maker’s craft , selling for hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars when they come on the market. Barry had visions of retiring to Florida but , unfortunately for him ,  the violin  was a children’s model , even though a Strad, and it turned out to be worth only $275.In another case , canvas paintings advertising the attractions at a long ago  carnival , fetched him a princely $ 3,000. One of the other buyers unearthed an old Wanted poster of Pablo Escobar , the Colombian  drug kingpin who was killed in an assault by the Colombian army in the mid nineties. The poster turned out to be worth $ 30. So,  the third thing that surprised me was the things that people find worth collecting and the amounts they are willing to pay for such items. What is so great about an old Wanted poster of Pablo Escobar and what could you possibly want it for ?

My main interest , however, is in what people consider worth hanging on to. Why do we collect so much junk ? ( I’m a fine one to talk , seeing that , though I don’t have a storage locker, my garage is full of stuff . In my defense I will plead that more than half of it belongs to my adult children who have stored it with me .) I think that , a good part of the reason is that we can’t bear to throw it away.Even when we know that something is never going to be used again , we hang on to it for sentimental reasons . I know , it is that way for me ,with books . With books , there is a certain pleasure in seeing them, handling them  and knowing that they are mine ,even if I may never read them again. These feelings show no signs of diminishing even though I am gradually , almost imperceptibly switching over to reading things on-line .

Why do we gather so much stuff ? Neither my wife have ever been into shopping and yet our house is full, overfull in fact. Is it because we have large houses ( compared to the rest of the world) and feel compelled to fill them up? Is it that, in accumulating these things , we somehow feel a sense of security? As a good friend of mine once told me ” My house is full of things which have no meaning to anyone else except me . I started to throw some of them out but then I said ” The hell with it “. One of these days when I am gone , my kids will come in , hire a trash container and throw it all away. ”

We know this couple  who used to have a beautiful house in Austin , Texas. The wife told me how she kept  her house so spick and span. Everything is arranged in orderly fashion within cabinets but anything else is likely to be thrown out . Newspapers and magazines for instance are thrown out immediately a new issue is received . That’s something I could never do. I have a pile of newspaper clippings dating back to the 1980’s and my garage has three years worth of my son’s New Yorker magazines . Lately I’ve started getting the Economist. I know I should be throwing all the old issues out but I can’t bring myself to do it . I’ll leave that to somebody else.

Read Full Post »

The day after Thanksgiving, our microwave oven died . There was no warning . One moment it was working ; the next moment there was a burnt smell and it just.. died. It reminded me of Oliver Wendell Holmes’ famous poem ” The Wonderful One Hoss Shay ” which begins like this

Have you heard of the wonderful one-hoss shay,
That was built in such a logical way
It ran a hundred years to a day,
And then of a sudden it — ah, but stay,
I’ll tell you what happened without delay,
Scaring the parson into fits,
Frightening people out of their wits, –
Have you ever heard of that, I say?

The difference was that our microwave was twenty years old , not one hundred like the one hoss shay.The demise was just as instantaneous.

At first , we were not bothered . The old microwave had served us well and I had been thinking of replacing it even before it expired. What I ( and my wife ) hadn’t realized was how essential it had become to us . We soon found out.

In the mornings we heat up a half cup of milk in the microwave to use for the tea that we brew. Next morning , no microwave . We had to heat the milk on the stove . A pain in the butt and extra vessels to wash. At lunch ,we wanted to heat up some of the Thanksgiving leftovers . Again , no microwave . We had to heat them on the range . More time , more dishes to wash. And so it continued throughout the day. As soon as we could ,we rushed to Best Buy and got ourselves a new microwave . All’s well again !

This whole episode made me think how we unknowingly become dependent on our kitchen appliances, and the consequences of that dependency.

I  remember how it was when we first got a refrigerator. Those born in America have never been without a refrigerator in their lives but, in India, refrigerators only became common in the fifties . My parents got their first refrigerator in 1956 or ’57 and  were the first in our extended family to do so. They were also an object of derision because they did so. One aunt scoffed at them and wondered why they needed a fridge and what they could keep in it . Within a year , every one of my uncles had a fridge too and this same aunt was in raptures about hers.

Once having gotten a fridge , lifestyles changed. I read a perceptive piece on this subject in which the author spoke of how previously they used to get  fresh vegetables at the market each day and cook them at the peak of  freshness. With refrigerators , it became the norm to buy three or four days worth of vegetables at a  time and store them in the fridge till  needed . It saved the trouble of going to the market everyday but the food was no longer as fresh. Having a refrigerator also meant that people could store leftovers , and they  did . Previously , people would buy just what they needed for the day and cook it immediately ; if any was left over , it would be given away to beggars. With the advent of the refrigerator,people became less frugal and less charitable .

Refrigerators are a necessity rather than a luxury. In these modern times , we cannot go to market everyday ; nor can we cook just enough for our needs each day. The influence of microwave ovens , however, is more pernicious.  In millions of American homes , ” cooking ” means heating up a frozen , pre-cooked meal in the microwave . There is no other way to explain the statistic that the average time American housewives spend on  making  dinner for their families is 29 minutes.  29 minutes !! In spite of the popularity of the Food Network and the Cooking Channel, I firmly believe most people in this country don’t know or don’t want to cook. So much easier to use the microwave !! Is it any wonder then we rely on processed foods and, as a nation , are plagued by obesity?

This is not to decry refrigerators and microwave ovens . They have their place in the kitchen ; it’s only that some of us seem to have forgotten how to use them wisely.

Read Full Post »

Mr. & Mrs. 55 - Classic Bollywood Revisited!

Two Harvard students relive the magic and music of old Bollywood cinema

Golden Ripples

About Food, Travel, Sports , Books and other fun things

47 Japanese Farms: Japan Through The Eyes of Its Rural Communities -- 47日本の農園

A journey through 47 prefectures to capture the stories of Japan's farmers and rural communities


WordPress.com is the best place for your personal blog or business site.

%d bloggers like this: