Tuesday, January 22, 2013

15 East: Live Spiny Lobster is back! (food)

I wrote about the spiny lobster at 15 East back when I crowned that meal my favorite meal of 2011. It's also one of my favorite posts because it has a video clip of the lobster!

A couple of weeks ago I brought a friend to 15 East and forgot that it's that time of the year again. I was a bit hesitant at first because while my friend loves great food, this was his first full-on omakase experience. But my friend was game and I'm glad we decided to get the lobster.


Speaking of being game and adventurous, let's not forget the signature slow-cooked octopus in all its glory.

The meal started innocently enough with a kitchen amuse of pickled daikon radish, carrots, and sweet wine vinegar. Just sweet and tart enough to get the taste buds going.

The salmon roe (ikura) here is fresh and lightly marinated with dashi and sake. This means it's way less salty than what you get at many other places while retaining its texture so that you get that burst of flavor with each egg.

Our first full appetizer was a trio featuring the signature super-tender slow poached octopus from Spain, as well as a super meaty Japanese conch with the simmering liquid having all kinds of umami. But the simmered shirako was something that I'd never had before. Speaking of being game and adventurous, shirako is essentially cod sperm. I didn't find it particularly flavorful or unique in texture, but I can cross it off my list of things I haven't eaten before. I did find it amusing that while they were perfectly fine to serve it, the chef and server were relatively shy about saying what it was, using the Japanese term and saying "boy reproductive" when I asked to make sure.

The lobster sashimi was once again a perfect crisp texture. A ponzu sauce was provided which further accentuated the lobster's sweetness. The lobster sashimi was served alongside the usual plate of sashimi, which that night featured melt-in-your-mouth otoro (fattiest tuna) from Spain, saba (mackerel), shima aji (striped jack), red snapper, mirugai (geoduck), and aoyagi (orange clam). I dove right into the sashimi plate and forgot to take a picture. That was a common occurrence that night.

I was probably most wowed by this the entire night. The light tempura batter was crispy and covered a perfectly cooked piece of lobster. Enough to give you some chew, but not chewy in any way. The sweet flesh was paired with a lemon butter sauce and the accompanying shishito pepper tempura provided a slight bitterness that balanced everything out.

Then came the sushi. According to my notes, we had shima aji, akamutsu (sea perch), red snapper, kinmedai (golden eye snapper), tuna from two different parts of the fish, bonito, kohada (gizzard shad), aji (horse mackerel), saba (mackerel) served with marinated seaweed, sayori (needlefish), ika (squid), uni (sea urchin) from Santa Barbara and Hokkaido, and anago (sea eel).

This was either the shima aji or the akamutsu, which was my friend's favorite piece.

My favorite piece as always is the lightly seared kinmedai.

Akami, or lean tuna.

A cross-section picture of tuna, which the chef used to show where the next piece of tuna came from.

He pointed near the top of the picture, so I guess this piece was right off the top of the back.

This was the Santa Barbara uni, which was creamy. My favorite is still the Hokkaido uni, which is brinier and tastes more of the ocean. I devoured that without even giving thought to a photo.

The anago is another signature of the restaurant, and is perfectly sweet, savory, and meaty. It just gives you a satiated feeling.

I asked for this because I wanted my friend to experience some good quality soba. We were pretty full at this point. They originally wanted to bring out an even larger portion but we just couldn't.

The remaining course was a delicious, flavorful soup made from whatever was left of the lobster.

The dessert had cooked fuji apple, vanilla ice cream, and another fruit that I've forgotten. It was satisfying without being over-indulgent.

While I was a little dissatisfied with the non-food aspects of my experience at Brooklyn Fare, 15 East is just a bloody good time! It's great to have a place serve this quality of food while allowing you to put back half a beer too many. I've seen a couple of rowdier (nothing over the line) customers in the past and it's a good thing the sushi bar is completely separated from the rest of the dining room. This is especially true on the weekend, when his regulars tend to show up.

They were also very friendy and open to my friend who wasn't as experienced in sushi. The chef let us have a look at his knife, which he said cost $2000 (while his senior itamae's knife cost about $1000). That same night, a few enthusiastic regulars even got the chef to make matcha (traditional Japanese green tea from powder)!

The chef getting sufficiently prepared (impaired? lol).

The chef making matcha.

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