Nodaiwa: Unagi Restaurant

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Nodaiwa is a traditional unagi restaurant (grilled freshwater eel) established during the late 18th century in Tokyo. This michelin-star restaurant has 4 locations in Tokyo and one in Paris. Its main location is in Azabu, near Tokyo Tower. The 5th generation chef, KANEMOTO Kanejiro, is running the restaurant.

The building in Kamiyacho is an old style kura (storehouse) brought to Tokyo from Takayama in Gifu Prefecture. the restaurant stands out juxtaposed to the tall office buildings around it. The shop in Azabu dates from the 1970s, but the history of the restaurant goes back 200 years with the first chef opening a restaurant called “Nodaya” in Azabu during the Kansei years (1789-1801). Many articles throw around the year 1850 around as the year of establishment.  The Japanese articles just state late Edo period (1603-1868) or the Kansei years (1789-1801).

Menus: Turkey and the Wolf

Of all the incredible restaurants in the South this sandwich shop in New Orleans makes my top ten of places I’d like to visit. I know they’ve made news being selected by Bon Appétit magazine as best new restaurant in America.  They only have five sandwiches on the menu and that is exactly what I adore a restaurant with few option, but all done with high quality ingredients and expertly made.

They are located at:

Turkey and the Wolf

739 Jackson Ave.
New Orleans, LA 70130
504.218.7428

Peruse their sandwich menu and tell me you don’t want to try all five.  If you’re not swayed check out the video of them making their sandwiches it’s certainly drool worthy.

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Palm Valley Fish Camp : An Afternoon Lunch

Originally published in 2013:

Recently I stopped by for lunch after being out shooting some photos, my other passion.  I was immediately greeted with a smile and an eager server.  I was asked if I’d prefer to sit at the bar or a table.  I don’t sit at the bar often these days after my liver transplant, as it brings back memories of a time in my life I have put into the past.  I chose a booth with the sun nicely warming my side of the booth.  I read down the daily specials board as my waitress went to get me my soda.  My plan had been to order an appetizer as I didn’t feel I was starving.  I was quickly drawn to the fried green tomatoes and maybe a side of their bacon butter beans which I love.

Fried Green Tomatoes
Bacon Butter Beans

Ready to order the waitress returned with my soda and offered to explain the specials.  I agreed even though I was certain I knew what I was going to have.  I smiled and said, “I’ll have the cod special.”  She had sold me on the roasted cod knowing I could have the fried green tomatoes and butter beans anytime.  I realized this would be my first time here not having the bacon butter beans in nearly a year.  I love them that much.  I waited and watched the interactions of the staff as they took orders, filled drink orders, interacted with the cooks and delivered each meticulously designed plate.

Specials Board

Soon my meal arrived, roasted cod with black-eyed pea succotash, and squash puree all resting on a fried green tomato.  I instantly knew I had ordered the right meal today.  There was a voice in the back of my mind screaming out for a side of butter beans, but I ignored it on this occasion.  It is rare when I am at Palm Valley Fish Camp that I will order anything that is not a local wild sustainable fish, but the cod was very fresh and flown in from the west coast.  The cod was lightly roasted with just a bit of color and flaked off easily so you could see how moist it was.  One of the things that keeps me returning over and over again is that they hardly ever overcook a piece of fish.  It sounds easy, but I’ve lost count at how many seafood restaurants server a dry tasteless and thoroughly unsatisfying fish fillet.

Roasted Cod

The cod had a nice salt balance which was perfectly complemented by the sweetness of the fresh corn and black-eyed pea succotash.  My first bite was of the fish alone.  It was very pleasant, but did not blow me away.  When eaten with the succotash the flavors melded into a delightful light tasting lunch.  The squash puree was richly sweet and left me perfectly wanting more.  Then there was the thick sliced fried green tomato upon which the cod rested.  It was nicely crisp and hot inside with just the right amount of breading.  The tang of the tomato was a nice counterbalance to the lightly roasted cod.  After all the fried green tomatoes was what I had planned to order the whole time anyway.  I was very pleased that my waitress had enticed me with her suggestion of the special today.  I would go away with only a slight yearning for their bacon butter beans, but I’ll be back and quite soon I am sure.  It was a great lunch for only $16.00 with the soda.  As I left I made reservations for the Friday after Thanksgiving.  I wonder if I’ll make it the two weeks between visits.  I know those bacon butter beans will be calling me to return sooner…

Ai Fiori : a guest review by Phyllis Hewitt

The beautiful place setting at Ai Fiori. We had the 4 course tasting menu.

This review was originally written in October 2011.

I recently (October 2011) had a lovely meal at Ai Fiori, meaning Among the Flowers in Italian, in NYC on a Friday night.  It is one of numerous NYC restaurants by chef and owner Michael White.  I reserved at the last minute, which means simply that I called a few days in dvance.  I really wanted to snag a reservation at Eleven Madison Park, but that will have to be done with more planning.  My husband and I dined  at Ai Fiori right after they were awarded 28 points by the new Zagat Guide 2012.  We were lucky!

The space is large and lovely, and situated in the Setai Hotel in midtown.  The room is neutal with subdued lighting, bordering on a little too dark. Having an early reservation at six, we were able to watch the wait staff(numerous) perform their magic, and the changing of the guard with the clientele.  But of course, it’s all about the food.

The Amuse Bouche….wild mushroom soup with crouton.
Granchio (crab)….blue crab, watermelon, prosciutto di parma, sorrel.

We chose the 4 course tasting menu, and we believe it’s the best way to test the chef as well.  We started with an amuse bouche that was mushroom soup, but so much more in a beautiful presentation.  The appetizers and pastas were outstanding, as were the desserts.

1st course Sardine….mediterranean sardines, tomato confit, ceci mille foglia, olio nuovo.
2nd course Agnolotti (Ravioli)
2nd course Pasta stuffed with escargot (a special for the evening)

The fish or  meat course (pesche/carne) we could have done without.  My halibut with trumpets, corn, pomodoro and polenta was perfect with a beurre blanc sauce.  My husband felt that the rack of lamb was ordinary, and bordering on heavy.

3rd course Ippoglosso (Halibut)
3rd course Agnello (Lamb)

Desserts were a triumph.  I had a sweet called Budino and it may have been one of the best desserts of all time.  the olive oil, lemon cake was good, but not in the same class.

4th course Dessert
4th course Dessert Olive oil cake

Go to Ai Fiori and do appetizers, pasta, and dessert.  Amazingly creative.

Phyllis Hewitt

 

 

Photo Essay : Palm Valley Fish Camp & Marker 32

Palm Valley Fish Camp Palm Valley Fish Camp

Palm Valley Fish Camp and Marker 32 are two restaurants in the Jacksonville area that I frequent.  They are both seafood restaurants owned and operated by the same owners.  Palm Valley is a much more casual restaurant, and usually my preference, but Marker 32 is a great date or special occasion restaurant.

Palm Valley Fish Camp

Broiled Oysters Broiled Oysters
Fried Green Tomatoes Fried Green Tomatoes
Cajun Crawfish Cajun Crawfish
Stone Crab Stone Crab
Flounder Pan Sauteed Flounder With Mashed Skin-On Red Potatoes And Sauteed Zuchinni & Yellow Squash
Fried Shrimp Fried Shrimp, Fries, Hushpuppies, Coleslaw
Bacon Butter Beans Bacon Butter Beans
Cod Roasted Cod with Blackeye Pea Succotash, Squash Puree over a Fried Green Tomato.
Lowcountry Boil Lowcountry Boil : Shrimp, Clams, Crawfish and Andouille Sausage for two.

Marker 32

Broiled Oysters Broiled Oysters Appetizer : with bacon, spinach & sundried tomatoes.
Crab Cakes Southern style Blue Crab cakes with caper dill aiolli, Crushed Portatoes & steamod Spinach
Fried Shrimp & Fennel Fries Fried local shrimp with celery root slaw, sweet fennel salt fries
Seared Scallops with spicy shrimp and corn broth, Grits, Collard Greens and House Dried Tomatoes Seared Scallops with spicy shrimp and corn broth, Grits, Collard Greens and House Dried Tomatoes
Herb grilled Snapper with basil pesto and Hoppin John Herb grilled Snapper with basil pesto and Hoppin John
Bouillabaisse Bouillabaisse

Bistro Provence – Bethesda, MD

Cam

Executive Chef Yannick Cam opened Bistro Provence, a decidedly casual restaurant, in the spring of 2010. Arriving in America in 1973 Cam has built his strong reputation as one of the top French chefs in the Washington DC area. His long list of restaurants begins with his four years as the head of the Four Seasons Restaurant, to Le Coup de Fusil, Le Pavillion, Yannick’s, and Le Paradou before Bistro Provence. His awards as a James Beard award finalist are staggering. I knew his pedigree before I stepped into his restaurant and was anticipating quite honestly to be blown away. If it was anything but near perfection I was bound to be disappointed. Simply I expected a lot from this meal, after all it was exactly the type of restaurant I love casual atmosphere and incredible food.

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So did Cam and Bistro Provence meet my lofty expectations? Walking up to the restaurant my initial reaction can best be described as disappointed. If there was one thing I was asked to make it a better evening it would be to clean up the front of the restaurant. It not only wasn’t inviting, but I seriously wondered if there were two Bistro Provence in Bethesda. This simply couldn’t be the place. While I appreciated the embarrassment of plants outside, they could have some rhyme or reason to them and not the jungle of foliage that you must explore. We attempted to first enter the side service entrance as the entrance is not clearly marked. Entering the restaurant that is where my disappointment ended. I loved the décor, the casual elegant atmosphere. Don’t get me wrong it wasn’t paper placemats and plastic knives and forks. As a matter of fact it was one of the few restaurants you’ll enter these days with true linen tablecloths. My dining partner and I were allowed to choose a table; we were the first ones there that evening, not always a good sign but it was early.

Bis1

We ordered a bottle of San Pellegrino mineral water, as many of you know I do not drink alcohol or wine due to my liver transplant. I used to be such a wine snob, but ah that was in another lifetime now. A quick glance at the menu and I knew the choices would not be easy or at least they shouldn’t be. To be honest though I am a one-hundred percent confirmed absolute escargots fanatic, addict, and snob, pick your adjective. My eyes eagerly scanned the menu finding my quarry. There it was, “Fricassée D‘Escargots aux Pleurotes, Purée D’Aubergines, Beurre a L’Ail” (Escargots, Eggplant Puree, Pleurotes, Garlic Butter). Pleurotes, it had been thirteen years since I lived in Paris and my French was rusty to say the least. Honestly I didn’t have a clue to what it meant. I knew it was a fricassée so my guess was a kind of mushroom, Oyster mushroom by the way was the answer. They were pure perfection. Honestly the perfect amount for an appetizer, but if there had been twice as much I would have greedily devoured them.

Bis2

My aunt, my dining partner, ordered “Poupetons de Poisson Jus de Bouillabaisse,” (Fishcake, Bouillabaisse Jus). As much as I am an escargots devotee, my aunt sees the word bouillabaisse and the rest of the menu might as well be blank. She enjoyed every last bite and we were both more than pleased with our first course. A little about my aunt, she is a vegan with a seafood exception. Yes, that is a mighty big exception but she mostly keeps a vegan diet except on special occasions. To say I am not used to a vegan diet is a gross understatement. I have to admit that keeping a vegan diet probably made this meal even more luscious for me. I have great respect and admiration for vegans for their dedication to depriving themselves of so many delicious bites. The thought of merely giving up bacon makes me shiver, much less all meat. I was tempted to order a tall glass of milk, because that seemed so elegant to me at the moment after all the soy I had been drinking. One thing I learned on this trip, that I could have guessed before, there was absolutely zero chance I would ever become vegetarian or vegan. At least not by choice. I simply do not have the constitution to deprive myself of so many things which I love.

Bis3

My main course option was simply elegant, delicious and absolutely perfect for the night and most definitely not vegan. “Poitrine de Canard Roti, Gateau de Patate Douce, Boudin de Volaille, Choux de Bruxelles,” (Roasted Duck Breasts, Sweet Potato Cake, Boudin, Brussel Sprouts). Roasted duck breast sounded delicious, I love properly cooked brussel sprouts, the sweet potato cake was enticing, but oh Boudin de Volaille. Duck and Foie Gras sausage was all I needed to know. I was sold. As I waited for the meal to arrive I realized I could easily be disappointed as this bite was so set up in my mind. The verdict… it was absolute perfection. It was easily the best thing I’ve eaten this past year. The duck breast was exquisitely cooked, the perfect counterpoint to the sausage. The roasted brussel sprouts were delicious. The sweet potato cake was light and elegant. The sausage though blew away all of my lofty expectations. I knew this restaurant would definitely go onto my list of restaurants to return to simply due to that one bite of perfection, much less for the rest of the elegant meal.

Bis4

There was really no doubt what my aunt would select, “Bouillabaisse de Coquilles St. Jacques Poelees, Grosses Crevettes, Bar Roti,” (Bouillabaisse of Sea Scallops, Shrimp Sautéed and Bass). She seemed to enjoy every bite. The desserts were delicious, but couldn’t match the elegance of the first two courses. Unless you are an absolute dessert devotee then I would say focus on the first two courses and if you have room left for dessert then great. I’m honestly not the dessert fan that I once was, so the chances of a sweet course blowing away a savory one were very slim. The desserts were very good and my aunt seemed to adore hers’.

Bis6

Bis5

Would I return? Without a doubt next time I am in the area Bistro Provence will be on my short list of restaurants for an elegant evening. There are so many mysteries left on the menu waiting to be discovered. I might even discover one of them if I can pull myself away from the escargots and boudin. Thank you Chef Yannick Cam for exceeding my lofty expectations.