Denveater - Deconstructing Colorado Cuisine, Dish by Dish

Dish of the 8-Day Week: Unagi Tojimono at Domo

Grubbing & shrugging, grubbing & shrugging. Though I pigged out plenty last week, more on which to come, as Sunday rolled around I just couldn’t get whipped up enough about any of it to name a Dish of the Week. By Monday I knew why—I was destined to wait for a taste of an old favorite: Domo‘s tojimono.

Domoomelet2

To Google the word is to get the sense chef-owner Gaku Homma made it up; it only appears in connection with his restaurant. As it’s served in the breathtaking cabin of wood & stone & antique bric-a-brac or in the garden out back (for more views, along with a full review, click here),
P1060212

it’s essentially a cross between an omelet & soup. With a choice of both broth base & meat, smart cookie that I am, I went for miso & eel, the inherent sweet muskiness of each of which suffused the ragged-creamy eggs ringed by shiitakes, bok choy & wakame. Earth & watery depths, earth & watery depths.

Dish of the Week: Grilled Mushroom Salad, Izakaya Den

Though the monotexture—soft, softer, softest—left my dining companion cold, it didn’t bother me a bit, befitting the incredibly lush, meaty flavors of this warm, earthy salad of grilled shiitake & oyster mushrooms & melted shavings of parmesan atop creamy avocado puree, ringed by pricklier dollops of roasted tomatillo–jalapeno sauce.

IDmushroomsalad
Let’s take a closer look, shall we?

IDmushroomsalad2

The sprinkling of chives &  (I think) micro amaranth, those lovely crispy bits at the edges of each velvety, juicy slice of ‘shroom…quite the creation. Between this, the famous crab & pistachio panzanella, & the pan-fried calamari with spinach & yuzu-soy vinaigrette, Izakaya Den deserves recognition for its way with salads as much as anything that constitutes the Kizaki brothers’ bread & butter. Maybe their next venture should be a…sarada-ya? Is that the word for salad bar?

More Adventures in Mixed-Breed Maki: Fontana Sushi

Of all my cruddy culinary habits, & I’ve got a lot of ’em, ordering sushi in is surely one of the worst. It flies in the face of the whole extraordinary tradition: of engagement with the itamae, of spontaneity—choosing items per his (occasionally her) suggestions of the moment—of revelation in their pristine state,** fresh from his cutting board to your mouth, even of the importance of tableware to the experience of the meal (which of course gets lost with takeout containers) . And since you can bet the best sushi bars—the ones whose masters would just as soon commit harikari with their own naifus as ever hear the words “California roll” again—don’t deign to deliver, you can also bet that the ones that do amount to your friendly neighborhood joints, whose bread is buttered by customers who consider cream cheese a key ingredient in their deep-fried candied bacon-chipotle maki.

And yet. Precisely because these friendly neighborhood joints aim to please the friendly neighborhood Americans who frequent them in anticipation of the Japanese version of friendly neighborhood American food, they’ve come to specialize in just that. Since Japanese cuisine inheres in purity & elegant simplicity like no other, & because it was introduced to us much later than many other cuisines with less emphasis on precision—Italian & Mexican, say—the acceptance among serious eaters of the Japanese-American hybrid is coming slower than it has the Americanization of those other cuisines. But so long as we acknowledge & appreciate the difference between a sushiya that’s dedicated to promoting & preserving its centuries-old craft in strict terms & a Japanese-American goof—just as we acknowledge & appreciate the difference between a trattoria vera & a red-sauce parlor—we can enjoy what each has to offer. I ain’t about to pick a Lovesexy Psychedelic Groove Roll over needlefish sashimi at Sushi Sasa—& the reverse is true when it comes to a place like Fontana Sushi.

So it is that, giving in to my cravings for comfort food, & wanting to try something other than Go Fish (which I generally dig) & Hapa (which I generally don’t), I called Fontana up a couple of times recently to see what was what. And while I wasn’t wildly impressed overall, I was, at moments, intrigued & pleased, enough to be nice & categorize it under Eateries That Give Me Hope (next time I & it might not be so lucky).

The ebi asparagus roll—not a roll at all but skewered, teriyaki-glazed shrimp & asparagus cuts—wasn’t one of those intriguing moments. Nothing wrong with it, really—in fact the sauce had a consistency evocative of homemade, which it damn well should be in a world devoid of cynicism, but mine isn’t—but nothing to disabuse me of the opinion that teriyaki sauce just isn’t one of Japan’s more thrilling contributions to world cuisine, even used properly for grilled items. It’s basically Japanese ketchup.

Fontanashrimp

Far more interesting, however, was the Dancing Roll.

Fontanadancingroll2 Fontanadancingroll3

With shrimp tempura (the quality of which was admittedly hard to judge in such circumstances) on the inside & red clam over shredded kani mixed with some sort of sweet (not spicy, despite the menu description) soy-based sauce—maybe even that same teriyaki—on top, it was a bit like eating a kaleidoscope, a swirl of balancing flavors & textures. (Let’s pretend we don’t see that dark spot in the middle of the piece of shrimp or the sunlit spot indicative of loose rolling.)

Ditto the fried oyster roll topped with red snapper, tobiko, jalapeno & tiny dabs of “special sauce,” making for a neat mix of sweet-delicate and salty-pungent.

Fontanaoysterroll3 Fontanaoysterroll4

But I have to admit to having serious questions as to whether the oysters came smoked from a tin. After all, since Fontana doesn’t serve raw oysters in any form (note that raw oysters aren’t often used for sushi, since, if Wikipedia is to be believed, they’re thought to clash with sushi rice—although, hmm, Sonoda’s offers them), it’s hard to imagine that the owners—whose emphasis on thrift is evident in the fact that they serve $1 sushi all day, everyday—would invest in such an expensive product only to deep-fry it for the occasional customer who requests either of the 2 dishes incorporating it. So curious was I that I threw the other one, kaki fry, in with my next order.

Fontanaoysters

All I can tell you—& I also admit I may be a victim of my own conviction here, as well as of my New England–based knowledge of what fresh fried oysters should taste like—is that they sure resembled smoked oysters, with the same strange chew, basically chicken-fried rather than in tempura. Surprising how hard it was to say for sure. Regardless, still hot & crisp when they arrived with a side of sweet chili dipping sauce, they were really some fun.

With shrimp, egg & avocado, the East roll (below right) did not benefit from the balance of flavors the others had, proving very bland. Why the scallop (top left) was napped with wasabi cream was beyond me, since no mention of sauce is made on the menu; why I received red clam (bottom left) when I’d ordered white tuna was also beyond me—not that I’d have minded if one piece hadn’t been awfully tough (my teeth slid satisfyingly clean through the other).

Fontanasushi

The pickled daikon in the Sunshine Roll overpowered the mild salmon within, though not the tuna on top, & I’m a fan of oshinko as a vibrant (& traditional) maki ingredient in any case.

Fontanasunshine
It remains to be seen whether the next round will further raise or dash or my silly hopes for good bad sushi. For a fascinating primer on the bogglingly arcane subject of sushi tradition, check out this Chowhound thread.

**Keeping in mind, of course, that pristineness is relative in the landlocked US of A.

Fontana Sushi on Urbanspoon

Hapahazard

To natto or not to natto? Nah, at least not from Hapa, which of Denver’s mid-level sushi bars is crapa compared to Go Fish. Pieces of scallop like clenched fists, tough & oddly hued eel, pulpy tuna, barely a smidge of ume shiso. 2nd chance, 2nd bummer.

Hapanatto

Den Deli Done Decent—So Far

Oh, to be young again. And lesbian.

I’d be skulking around Den Deli Seafood Market & Japanese Noodle Bar day in & day out, awkwardly stalking the counter clerk with the milky skin, pert features & furious red curls, asking all about

DenDeli1 DenDeli3
the potato salad & the pumpkin snow mountains

DenDeli2 & the nikumaki

in excruciatingly shy lieu of asking her out.

As it is, I may be doing the Den Deli Shuffle daily anyway.  It all depends on how fully it lives up to its pedigree (it is, of course, part of the Kizakis’ mini-empire at the corner of Old South Pearl & Florida, along with Sushi Den/Izakaya Den) . . . not to mention its prices. After a month, it’s still showing more promise than actual polish, but time will tell.

Of course, it’s a treat just to browse here, just to sit & look around the urbane café with its requisite brick walls, wood floors & exposed ceilings, its blackboard menu & open kitchen, its display cases filled with hors d’oeuvre-worthy morsels—Greek salad scooped atop cakes of tofu (sourced, I’m told, from Denver Tofu), miso eggplant stacks, thick-sliced smoked salmon filet—& a seafood counter lined with not only fish & octopus tentacles & fat scallops but also wasabi by the root, whole yuzus & the like. There’s also a small selection of dry goods & prepared condiments like miso & a very simple cabbage kimchi (no daikon or scallions), pungent to be sure but not painful.

DDkimchi2

To my piggy American eye, though, the Bento boxes near the register look pretty skimpy, with little more than a tablespoon of any given side & a cup tops of the main item. And on that note, skimping is so far my biggest complaint. Take this 12-buck quart of what’s listed as tomato udon with tiger shrimp & scallops I got to go:

DDtomatoudon1 DDtomatoudon2

First off, I’d expected something more like this, not a rich & creamy soup base. I’ve got no beef with rich & creamy, granted, especially when balanced by excellent, chewy, housemade noodles & greens, but the description could’ve been a little clearer. That goes double for the shellfish: in that whole container floated exactly 1 shrimp & 2 scallops. If I had an ounce of gumption I’d have hauled my ass back out & given someone an earful, but I don’t, especially in snow, so I didn’t.

Speaking of earfuls as well as skimping, one of the line cooks got a bit of one after searing the duck for our order of pan-fried udon, also $12.

DDduckudon
I couldn’t hear why, but I wish it had been for the portion size. Even just 1 or 2 more slices—or, conversely, 1 or 2 fewer Washingtons—would have gone a long way toward a sense of goodwill if not wholesale generosity. Am I being greedy? If so, I blame the duck—it was just so lovely, as delicate as its color suggests, with a fragrant, juicy broth, sliced shiitakes, & those same stand-up toothy noodles.

And I certainly don’t blame Den Deli for this mess;

DDpotsaladstickers
the signature mashed potatoes & pork potstickers with the standard sweet soy-based dipping sauce are much more attractively presented in-house. So goes takeout.

But I will bitch about the fact that I shelled out 15 clams for it—5 for the potstickers & 10 for 2 orders of the spuds—especially because the former were surprisingly tough & near-flavorless (day-olds from the elder Dens?). To be sure, as was not the case with the made-to-order noodles, I could see what I was paying for before I paid it, so I harbor some complicity here. Besides, the potato salad, at least, was damn near worth it: chock-full of ham, egg, seemingly lightly pickled cukes, carrots & raisins—yes, raisins—plus a couple of strips of fried sweet potato (which serve as garnish, per the pic at the top). The occasional bite that contained no such toy prizes, just potato & mayo, was a little bland, suggesting the salad as a whole could use a smidge more S&P. But I nitpick where I’d rather just picnic.

A 2nd potato salad, by contrast, was bland all over. With wedges of cold roasted red potatoes, cherry tomatoes & coins of octopus, it certainly should’ve been a winner—& no doubt it can be; all it needs is a stronger vinaigrette à la (I’m afraid so) Batali.

DDpotako

The same, I hope, goes for Den Deli; it just needs to get a little more seasoned. Per the blackboard, a selection of sandwiches is coming soon, from tuna salad to Japanese French dips; regarding them apples, I’ve already got loads of questions for my little red-haired girl.

Den Deli on Urbanspoon

Dish of the Week: Izakaya Den’s Lamb & Lotus Root Potstickers

Somehow a recent happy hour turned into a nutso half-marathon that took us from Black Pearl to Izakaya Den & back again, through wine, oysters & sweet potato tempura, sake, sushi, shumai, potstickers & more wine, yet more wine, bread & butter, shishito peppers, mezcal, spiked milk & cookies &, finally, steak & potatoes, in that order.

But the blockbuster of the whole rockin’ bunch (of which more later) was Izakaya Den’s quartet of pan-seared lamb & lotus potstickers.

IDpotstickers
These weren’t the traditional wonton-skinned pouches but flat, open-faced wedges of pastry with disc-shaped lamb meatballs in the center, flanked by dollops of lush baba ghanoush & tangy sweet chili sauce, an intriguing combo (but not such an odd one in the light of relishes like pickled eggplant or caponata).

Though the edges were too dry, the middles were outright scrumptious, the rich gaminess of the lamb mellowed, if I understood the menu right, by red wine & “sweet soy,” presumably kecap manis. Here’s to a seriously suave creation.

When Journeyman Cooks Kick Master Artisans’ Asses: Go Fish

Its name does Go Fish a disservice, implying you have go to some lengths to discover what in fact this Baker District Japanese joint offers freely: reliably satisfying maki & nigiri (as well as some solid apps) delivered with deeply genuine hospitality.

Are you wowed à la Wayne Conwell? Probably not. Are the Kizaki Brothers sweating? I’m guessing negative. But do you feel more welcome here than at galleryesque Sushi Sasa, calmer here than at eternally slammed Sushi Den? Are you more comfortable overall? I call hell yes…

based, that is, on my 1 or 2 experiences in the dining room. The remainder of the many Go Fish meals I’ve had (& blogged about) have been consumed in mine own dump, couriered by The Director. It is he who, over the course of his takeout stop-ins, has charmed & been charmed by the folks behind the sushi bar to the extent that they greet him like a long-lost pal, ply him with sake while he waits & send him out the door with freebies galore.

GoFishgift
Recently the gift was a lettuce-wrapped, special sauce–drizzled roll stuffed with avocado, mango, tempura crunch & I’m not honestly sure what all else—

GoFishgift3 GoFishgift2

the Director didn’t ask, & I didn’t care. I just appreciated the kind gesture. Such rarities are as exquisite as the choicest morsel of toro.

***

Postscript: Lest this need spelling out: don’t go to Go Fish thinking you’ll automatically get free stuff. Go for a nice, relaxing meal; enjoy; tip accordingly; repeat. That’s all.

Domo qua locus of empirical evidence that we’re all Wanko

The consensus on Domo is so large as to be virtually irrefutable: remarkable décor; very good food; slow, indifferent service.

Ever itching to refute up a contrarian storm, I lucked out on my first try by ordering the soba noodles with shrimp tempura & calamari teriyaki, a bowl of slop I couldn’t point to solely & conclusively as disproof of social reality—see also the roundtable it inspired on the debatable concept of “ordering wrong”—but could at least use as 1 solid piece of evidence that the food might be overrated.

But that was about a year ago, & ever since I’ve been getting facefuls of the same evidence everybody else has to show that those noodles were likely a fluke & that the kitchen can, by and large, deliver fairly reliably—even if said smooth delivery has a way of being ironically intercepted by the servers themselves, who have, among other issues, the most annoying habit of refusing to bring everyone’s meals out at once. Perhaps there’s some rule of Japanese dining etiquette stipulating that food come out the instant it’s ready; after all, owner Gaku Homma is proudly ganko, a stickler for authentic experience even at the risk of diner alienation:

Customer service is, of course, extremely important, & service should be efficient & friendly. [Good luck with that.—Denved.] Sometimes, however, customers mistakenly think they’re following traditional customs for eating Japanese food, & restaurant owners & employees alike become intimidated. Not wanting to displease their clientele, staff members refrain from saying anything about improper requests or eating manners & instead try to accommodate every request. This is commonly thought to be good service, but in the long run, this approach does not serve customers well. (Much more here; I’m especially charmed by this little rant:

I have seen people in sushi bars order wasabi & gari like bar peanuts with beer. This would be the equivalent of ordering au jus & horseradish as a main course. Au jus & horseradish are used to compliment the taste of good prime rib. The same should apply to sushi.)

Really, his attitude is one I’m totally down with; I always try to start from the premise & operation on the notion that the chef knows best—for if I knew better, why would I go through the inevitably disappointing motions of dining out? Rather, I want to experience & discover & soak it all up. However, when such cross-cultural culinary teaching is left to a staff that is not, for the most part, efficient or friendly but rather appears apathetic & contemptuous by turns, nothing gets learned—& plenty goes resented. Thus the standard complaints about Domo’s service.

But to scoot back to the competent kitchen—as usual, it’s the little things that loom largest. Take the signature “fruit-based” teriyaki sauce, which has more in common with mostarda di frutta than the blend of pancake syrup & petroleum derivative that typically goes by the label in that it’s so vibrant, flickering with tartness and spice. Good thing, too, because the menu’s soaking in it. It’s what lends the teriyaki curry’s grilled beef tenders, for instance, their especially smoky intrigue (while leaking a bit of sweetness into the accompanying rich & redolent, if slightly viscous, curry with carrots & potatoes).

Domobeefcurryteriyaki

And I think it’s what acts as the red sauce to the deep-dish slice of omelet pizza that is a wedge of battara yaki—adding fruity tang to the seafood-and-scallion pancake, which is fluffier & drier than the Chinese version.

Domoomelette2

Personally, I prefer the scrumptious slickness of the latter, but this is good too, with its squeeze of aioli & sprinkle of bonito.

Speaking of mostarda, Domosushi4

the karashi saba, or raw mackerel lacquered with hot mustard, is stellar, the latter in its sharpness being the ideal match for the oily, dark flesh of the former—the only fish but one on the Wanko Sushi list to get such treatment, which goes nicely to show that in Homma’s kitchen, unlike so many places where there’s a lot of mixing & matching of meats & sauces, one flavor doesn’t automatically fit all. (That said, the other option’s squid, which I’d think far too delicate for hot mustard. Taste test next time.)

So yeah, Wanko Sushi.

Domosushi1

It’s Domo’s wholly unnecessary trademark on, to again quote the website, “sushi rice topped with fresh sashimi [& served on] small plates, or wanko.” With a name like that, it not only has to be good, it should really steer entirely clear of thick white squirts of mayo & such. It doesn’t.  Regardless, it’s a treat for its unusual style & mostly (see: squirts) lovely, chirashi-like presentation.

Of course, unusual style & lovely presentation are what Domo’s all about. Insisting everywhere on its rural underpinnings, it not only looks the part—

Domodoor

think some woodcutter’s tool-lined feudal-era cottage

Domodiningroom
DomoadsDomomask
DomooctoDomowine
Domosalt

leading to a rock garden replete with 

Domopond
lily pond & painted bridge—

it acts it, too, what with such touches as the array of side dishes served family-style à la Korean panchan at dinner, individually at lunch. They’re chef’s daily choice, so it’s a crapshoot, but 1 with amazingly good odds—in fact, among all of these,

Domosides
Domosides1Domosides2
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the only dud has been the virtually flavorless rice noodles (top center). The rest form a kaleidoscope of light & rich, bright & funky, crisp & saucy, incorporating everything from black beans & corn to daikon & soba.

You might even get meatballs. Domosides3

Miso soup’s pretty special too, Domomiso

a whole slew of veggies fortifying the light, almost frothy broth. Likewise, the tofu nabemono is way more mono than nabe. It looks like an ice floe just broke up in a bowl of Antarctica.

Domotofu

Still, like everybody else, I just can’t bring myself to embrace the place wholeheartedly due to that nagging sense of not being welcomed with totally open arms in turn. It’s as though Amerikajin customers, in management’s mind, are the necessary evil of running a successful Japanese restaurant—the unpredictable, malfunctioning obstacle to perfect culinary machinery.

And yet we all keep flocking back. How wanko.

Domo on Urbanspoon

Hapa Sushi via Delivery by Jeeves: not worth the non-trouble

Let’s leave aside the disclaimer that no washoku connoisseur has any
business ordering sushi in—that content is & should be
inseparable from context in this case, the food from the
experience of engaging with & eating according to the
expertise of your itamae. A,
I’m no connoisseur, & B, to get all poetic on you, one could
equally argue that there are no ideas (i.e. mental processing, i.e. experiencing) but
in things
: if, as I suggested in the above-linked Chowhound
thread, delivery sushi is akin to poetry in translation—i.e.,
something other than the real thing—it’s still a thing you can
gauge on its own merits. So, for instance, if nigiri brought in
from Sushi
Den
is inferior to nigiri consumed at Sushi Den, it’s
nonetheless inarguably superior to nigiri ordered in from, oh,
say, Hapa
Sushi Grill & Sake Bar
, the batch of which I had recently
was so insipid as to make the thought of an in-house taste
test—though eventually necessary & only fair—altogether too
dispiriting for the nonce.

In Japanese, happa, 2
Ps, means “leaf,”
including the ganja, or maybe “explosion.” A Google search
yielded conflicting translations, though it did help confirm that
hapa, 1 P, doesn’t mean anything in
Japanese. It’s actually a Hawaiian word, which per Hapa’s website
describes “a harmonious blend of Asian and American cultures” but
per Urban Dictionary is derogatory slang for a half-breed. Guess which
source I trust more.

Actually, the menu explicitly pledges allegiance to a Hawaiian
influence or 2, which is kind of cool, but what clinched an order
from me 1 night when I didn’t feel like cooking & the
Director didn’t feel like getting off the couch was the listing
for umeshiso maki. So far as I’ve searched, no one else in Denver
serves the rolls filled with pickled plum paste & shiso leaf
that I thought were a given in US sushi bars. (If any of you are
aware of other local purveyors, please send word!)

Though I’d looked into using By Jeeves before, this was my first
experience with the delivery service, & I was quite pleased
with the process. The “phone waiter” was very nice &
efficient (if not exactly a whiz in Japanese pronunication—for
one of many instances, hotate nigiri, or ho-TAH-tay nih-GIH-ree, became
HO-tayt ni-ZHEE-ree.
Kinda cute, actually). The delivery dude arrived only a few min.
past the hour allotted, & the service fees were already added
in. In short, the whole affair was fairly hassle-free.

Not so the yaki onigiri.

Hapayakionigiri

Being unfamiliar with these “grilled balls of rice served with
teriyaki sauce,” I was intrigued, imagining a sort of naked Asian
version of Sicilian arancini; what I got was a clump of plain rice,
somehow sticky & dried-out at the same time, except for the
quarter-inch bottom layer that was saturated with cloying goo
(the inclusion of which was altogether an Americanization
according to my fellow Chowhounds, who also assured me the
interior should be almost melting).

The sauteed edamame was fine if a bit messy beneath its
smattering of “Hapa’s seasonings”—a not-so-proprietary blend of
garlic & sesame.

Hapaedamame

And some of my sushi was just fine too. I was indeed delighted to
be reunited with my sour-salty

Hapaumeshiso Hapaoshinko
umeshiso maki, & I’m always down with punchy oshinko (pickled
daikon) rolls.

HapaM&MrollI’ll
sheepishly cop as well to getting a kick out of the Mork &
Mindy roll with white tuna (presumably albacore?), salmon, chives
& a bit of mandarin orange—not surprisingly a nice combo,
given the easy affinity between fish & citrus, though what it
has to do with the goofy old sitcom is beyond me (any ideas?).

But the nigiri was flat-out flavorless.

Hapatuna Hapasalmon Hapahotate Hapamackerel

From the yellowtail & the salmon to the grilled scallop (i.e.
the aforementioned hotate, which the Director chose over raw on a
lark) & even the mackerel (not an easy fish to defang), what
should have been the sparkling centerpieces seemed like
storebought afterthoughts. Granted, my bad for not just assuming
that Hapa would have it all ass-backwards once I saw the way the
menu was categorized—whereby the “beginner” rolls are very
simple, just raw fish & veggies, while the “advanced” rolls
are mostly abominations of baked cream cheese, fried smoked
salmon & garlic-basil butter, bearing names as tacky as their
ingredients. To willingly request the Climax or the Booty Call is
to just ask for it in every sense of the phrase. I’m not
objecting to the inclusion of such concoctions on the menu, mind
you; again, I’m no purist. What gives me hives is the
oh-so-American & no-so-Japanese equation of novelty with
sophistication. The difference, it seems, is in knowing the difference. That
culinary experimentation is, at least in my book, a good thing
does not automatically mean the results thereof are too.

Hapa, you got me up on my soapbox, where I tend to be
particularly awkward (hey, does this platform make me look fat?).
For that reason alone, I damn thee.


Hapa Sushi (Cherry Creek) on Urbanspoon

Back-to-back meh: Blue Moon & Twin Dragon

***
“One sits and beats an old tin can, lard pail…one beats and beats for that which one believes,” says Wallace Stevens in “The Man on the Dump.” But sometimes one beats too hard, too fast, causing pain for herself & others. I wrote a blogpost the other day that (lest you arrived here in search of it) I have since taken down for that reason.

Enough said, besides I’m truly sorry to those I hurt.
***

What with the new kitty, I’m less inclined to budge from the couch than ever, so the Director & I have been ordering in a lot lately, including once from (make that “in a”) Blue Moon Asian Cuisine & Sushi. In keeping with the space it’s made in—that low-rent chalet on S. Colorado—the food’s pretty utilitarian. By the same token, of course, it’s also a sight cheaper than most (with a majority of items costing less than, for instance, their Sushi Den counterparts by a buck or more).

The Dynamite was Dynamite. Which isn’t the same as being dynamite. ‘Twas what ’twas.

BlueMoondynamite


By & large the maki was quite all right. Keep in mind that, while I know a thing or two about about a fish or 2, I’m no aficionado—not like Chowhound regular cgfan, whose fascinating thread (which links to photos & videos) on a day in the kitchen with his favorite itamae can be found here.


Therefore, I’m all too glad to snarf the stuff the snobs (sympathetically enough, really) sniff at. Hey, we all have our issues, as both the aforelinked & this Chow thread attest; mine just happens to be with bastardized Italian rather than Japanese. Besides, I ordered uni too, but the hostess called back to say the kitchen was out (a claim of which I’m slightly suspicious. Not to be a snob myself, but are Blue Moon habitués really that into echinoderms? Acquired tastes like [at least here in the US] sea urchin tend to develop only with investments of time & money—the very things places like Blue Moon aim to help you save.)


So I was happily stuck with my tricked-out rolls. Ignoring the Director’s basic nigiri from 12 to 2 o’clock (see, time really is of the essence at Blue Moon!), going clockwise from about 3, we got unagi (eel w/ avo) maki; east maki w/ shrimp, egg & avo; salmon skin maki; & spicy scallop maki. At the center top is sunshine maki stuffed with salmon, avo & pickled burdock & covered with tuna & tobiko; below that is Manhattan maki filled with spicy crab (maybe actual crab, since it’s one of the pricier rolls & since the menu specifies kani elsewhere?) & layered with tuna, salmon & avo. Nothing wrong with a one; all was just fine—the scallop being especially fine, bursting with meat & not especially gloppy, while the sunshine roll’s heavy dusting of flying fish roe was nice & messy.


BlueMoonsushi


The takeout menu for Twin Dragon boasted its past Best Ofs; though none were recent, a leaf-through pointed to a curio or two—5-flavor pork loin, honey roast pork, creamy walnut chicken (shrimp being the more usual version). And these

TDwrappedchicken TDwrappedchicken2

paper- {sic] wrapped chicken.<
/span>


They were basically chicken meatballs, boomerang-shaped, scallion-spiked &, I’d swear, lightly egg-dipped, then browned to a turn.


The rest of the order, though, took a turn for the worse. I knew I was taking the name “crispy, tangy pork” too literally, but I couldn’t help but hope against hope that it wasn’t actually just a euphemism for “doughy, sweet & sour pork.” It was. Still, the addition of what I guess was some sort of seaweed, almost mushroomy in flavor, was a nice touch.


TDcrispypork


Similarly, “sesame egg noodle salad” was just overcooked sesame noodles with undercooked veggies & none of the advertised citrus-soy dressing.


TDnoodlesalad


Plan on moving an inch again any moment now, so more reports on the big bad world of eats out there soon.

Blue Moon Asian Cuisine & Sushi on Urbanspoon

Twin Dragon on Urbanspoon