Urasawa

This is a composite post of our many dining experiences at Urasawa. I haven’t included any of the sushi dishes – just the beginning courses. You will notice how important seasonality is in Hiro’s approach to his cuisine. Also since the beginning, the wood of the sushi bar has been completely replaced with Cypress wood. What is interesting is that this smell of Cypress perfumes the air and surrounds you in its fragrance. As always Hiro-san is friendly, down-to-earth, warm and willing to explain each and every dish. As a side note, Hiro is now using about 175 grains of rice per piece of sushi

Serene is the best way to describe dining at Urasawa. It is almost as much an aesthetic experience as it is a dining experience. Nothing from the “outside” intrudes. Because the maximum number of diners is 10, not even your dining companions disrupt this calm. In many respects this is like a ballet – carefully choreographed, unhurried and focused.

 

April

The flower arrangement behind Hiro

1. Okinawan Spring Seaweed with tiny, little shrimp and topped with Gold Flakes. This was to be consumed in one gulp – spring in a bowl!

 

2. Kinuta Maki – this was a very labor intensive preparation. Red Snapper and Shrimp is laid on nori with shiso and then very thinly sliced daikon encases the fish to resemble a traditional maki roll. It is topped with finely grated yuzu and a slice of pickeled ginger. 

 

3. Goma tofu, Kyoto-style. Tofu made from sesame seeds, stuffed with sweet Uni (urchin “roe”), topped with freshly grated wasabi and gold leaf, served in a light dashi seasoned with shoyu and mirin. I love this dish.

 

4. Toro Tataki- Ohtoro, from Spain, lightly seared topped with Shiso no Hana flowers, Shiso buds, Radish and Gold Leaf

 

5. Uni Nikogori – absolutely unbelievable. Fresh Uni, Small Shrimp, Red snapper, Fish eggs served atop Yama no Imo (Japanese Mountain Yam), topped with Pure Gold Flakes.

 

Hiro prepping the sashimi

 

6. Sashimi served in a hand carved ice bowl. The ice bowl is never re-used; Hiro carves a fresh one for each person. The Sashimi consisted of Ohtoro, Red Snapper and Santa Barbara Uni placed in a manila clam shell. The wasabi is freshly grated, Hiro’s soy sauce is made by him and the gorgeous Iris flower again defined the beautiful seasonality of this dish.

 

7. Asami Age, a tempura “sandwich” of Fresh Bamboo, Shrimp Paste and more Fresh Bamboo. Many tempura dishes can be greasy – never at Urasawa.

 

 The prep for the beef

 

 

8. The next dish was absolutely amazing. Thinly sliced Hokkaido Beef was topped with Matsutake mushrroms, uni and shiso. Then Hiro rolled up the beef in a roll. We were then presented with a bowl to which Hiro added water so that steam immediately erupted. The beef was being steamed in front of us. The beef sat on a grate and obviously the stones had been heated to piping hot. It was served with a “radish” mixture and Hiro insisted that we use a generous amount of radish.

 

 

9. Hoba Yaki – On a giant Hoba Leaf was fresh shrimp, scallop and Hokkaido beef and miso sauce. The dish was being lightly roasted in the Hoba leaf for a couple of minutes over the coals. Yoshie removed the Hoba leaf from the coals to prevent overcooking. Unbelievable.

 

10. Shabu Shabu with Sweet Shrimp (the shrimp were alive and kicking minutes before), Boston scallop, Toro and Foie Gras. Our waiter did the cooking for us – the scallop took only a second with the foie taking the longest. We were given a soup spoon after the foie had been consumed and then had the Shabu Shabu broth as a soup course.

April  2006

Notice the similarity between this meal and the one above, even though they were a year apart – seasonality!

April Flower arrangement

 

1. Spring Vegetables from Okinawa in a light broth to be consumed in one gulp. It was like a whiff of spring air in one swallow.

 

2. Goma tofu, Kyoto-style. Tofu made from sesame seeds, stuffed with sweet Uni (urchin “roe”), topped with freshly grated wasabi and gold leaf, served in a light dashi seasoned with shoyu and mirin. Unlike other times, Hiro had infused the tofu with green tea to signify spring. What I particularly liked about this dish was the silken softness of the uni in contrast to the slightly springy, chewy quality of the tofu.

 

3. Red Snapper Fish Eggs marinated in sweet sake – delicate with a pronounced sweetness and a wonderful combination with our champagne.

 

4. Small squid from the Toyama Sea with soy sauce, sake and ginger. As before this was very pungent and tasted of the sea.

 

5. Sashimi Sampling Served in a Hand-Carved Ice Bowl– Boston Toro, Santa Barbara Uni placed in a manila clam shell and Japanese Red Snapper. To the right are Hydrangea flowers again to signify spring.

 

 

6. Chawan mushi with uni, bamboo shoots, red snapper sperm sac, spring vegetables and ginger – The first picture shows the dish as presented and the second picture the dish mixed. What elevated this dish to the sublime was the red snapper sperm sac – absolutely incredibly delicious.

 

7. I am not sure of the Japanese name of this dish, although Hiro did give it to me and he called it the Japanese equivalent of a sandwich. My notes say that this was shrimp based with bamboo, ginger and daikon. There was some type of coating that resembled light tempura.

 

8. Seabass with Kyoto Miso and Lotus Root.

 

9. Shabu Shabu – a bowl of hot broth is presented. Our server then added scallions to the broth. On a separate plate were slices of foie gras, scallops and Kobe Beef – not Wagyu but real Kobe Beef.

We cooked the foie, scallops and Kobe in the broth and then were presented with a spoon for finishing the broth as a soup.

June 

June flower arrangement 

 

1. Junsai marinated in vinegar. “According to a pictorial book of wild grasses, junsai, or water shield,Brasenia shreberi J.F. Gmel  belongs to junsai genus of the suiren, water lily, family. It grows in clumps in water of one to three meters deep in natural ponds and irrigation reservoirs. It is a perennial water grass with a long leafstalk whose leaves reach the surface of the water. The flower is violet red. The sprout is covered with a transparent, viscous jelly. This jelly contains various kinds minerals and albumin. The taste and feeling of this jelly is characteristic of junsai.” Junsai are very precious and expensive;their short annual harvest used to be reserved for friends of the emperor. You can’t eat these with chopossticks as ther are very slippery – one gulp dish.

 

2. Maki made with red snapper, shrimp, shiso, radish and pickels.

 

3. A gelatin cube encasing uni, shiso, ebi (shrimp), yama kaki (mountain root) and an egg custard with soy sauce topped by gold leaf and wasabi

 

4. Abalone with Miso and yuzu

 

5. Sashimi of Toro, Shima-aji (mackeral), Red snapper in an ice bowl

 

6. Chawan Mushi with uni, clam sac, shitake mushrooms,mizuna (Japanese mustard leaf)

 

7. A hot stone is place in front of the diner for you to sear the Toro. Hiro remarked that the toro was from Italy

 

8. Shabu-Shabu. Foie Gras, Kobe Beef and Lobster

 

Hiro making Green Tea

 

Oct 

Flower arrangement for fall.

 

1. Hama Fish with King eel (underneath the hama) marinated in a sweet and sour sauce- this was delicious.

 

2. Salmon eggs on top of a shrimp and uni custard with Mizuna vegetable – there is no way to describe the difference between Hiro’s salmon eggs and those you get at other sushi bars. He marinates them himself and they literally pop in your mouth.

 

3. Abalone, marinated in miso, with yuzu

For some reason I have no photo of this dish

4. Spiny Santa Barbara Lobster with Lobster brain sauce. Hiro took out a kicking, live spiny lobster and prepared it to order. I made a huge mistake with this course and forgot to dip the lobster in the “sauce” served on the side. As soon as I tasted the sauce, I realized that I had failed to augment the taste of the lobster.

 

5. Turnip filled with Shrimp paste, chrysanthemum flower and an almost gel-like sauce of bontio and seaweed

 

6. Beef from Saga (I think Hirro said sirloin) with Yuzu – For some reason the Saga Beef just wasn’t the equal of Hiro’s Kobe that I have had before. Although a later piece, during the sushi “section”, was much better.

 

7. Seabass with miso and yama kaki

 

8. Dobin Mushi – In Japan, dobin mushi is usually served as a medicinal soup made with Matsutake mushrooms – dobin means teapot and mushi means steamed. The specially designed pot for dobin-mushi looks just like a small teapot. However, on top of the lid of the pot, there is a small inverted saucer. When you “drink” the soup, you use the small saucer as a soup bowl. Included in the dobin mushi were shrimp, white fish, ginko nuts, Matsutake mushrooms and  Mizuna vegetable in a broth of Bonto and Japanese citrus

 

9. Grilled Toro

March 

March Flower arrangement

 

1. Sea cucumber with radish

 

2. Fugu liver first wrapped in shiso then the whole wrapped in fugu sashimi topped with 24 carat gold leaf, chrysanthemum petals and shiso flower. Absolutely wonderful.

 

3. Bamboo (spring vegetable) mixed with Kyoto miso – this had a woody taste with the texture somewhat like jicama

 

4. Small squid with soy sauce, sake, ginger, scallions. This was very pungent with a pronounced taste of the sea.  You knew exactly what you were eating or this was very far from the comment: “frog legs?”  Well  “it tastes likes like chicken!” This tasted like squid.

 

 Hiro preparing the fish for sashimi.

 

5. Sashimi – giant clam, uni in a manila clam shell, red clam, red snapper, spanish mackeral, toro with shiso buds and micro purple basil. Hiro makes the ice bowls every morning- the threesome to our right got the ice bowls, we got the “other” presentation. The clams were spectacular, the uni perfect and only the toro just wasn’t as good as Masa’s.

 

6. Steamed dish of cherry blossom, red snapper and shrimp with Ankake sauce – this was excellent, almost soufflé like in quality.

 

7. Sea eel tempura with green tea salt – the green sea salt made this dish and took what could have been ordinary to extraordinary.

 

8. Oyster with egg and scallion – I have never eaten a Hangtown Fry, but I would imagine that this was Hiro’s rendition of an omelet with oysters sans bacon.

 

10. Shabu Shabu – a bowl of hot broth is presented. Yoshie then added scallions to the broth. On a separate plate were slices of foie gras, Kobe beef and red snapper. I should be able to master the technique by now, but it is so much easier to let Yoshi do the 30 second cooking.

The wonderful Yoshi

 

 

 

 

 

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4 Responses to “Urasawa”


  1. 1 Julie July 16, 2008 at 10:10 pm

    Liz,
    I have a reservation for tomorrow…. FINALLY! I can’t wait. 🙂 You’ve made me so hungry with all your Urasawa posts!

  2. 2 lizziee July 17, 2008 at 6:43 am

    Have a wonderful time, You will love it.

  3. 3 Julie July 17, 2008 at 11:02 pm

    Just got back from Urasawa. Wow. I couldn’t stop smiling the whole time and by the end of the meal I was ready to profess my love. It really does live up to the hype. Can’t wait to go back.

  4. 4 lizziee July 18, 2008 at 6:47 am

    I am so happy that you loved Urasawa and yes it deserves the hype.


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