August 27, 2009

The best Japanese barbeque

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I had dinner tonight with a group of current and former chefs, getting together for some Japanese yakiniku (焼肉) at Iroha (伊呂波). I normally don't write about barbeque dinners, because we end up cooking the food oureselves and the experience has nothing to do with the skills of restaurant chefs. But last night's experience was something else.

First of all, Iroha's ingredients are of very high quality. We only ordered one plate of Japanese wagyu, and the rest were all US beef. The meat was as fresh as I've seen in any of these places in town. Funnily enough I didn't realize on my previous visit that this place is actually a Japanese adaptation of the Korean barbeque, which explains the Korean dishes on the menu...

We had multiple orders of the incredible thick-cut ox tongue, which was fatty, tender and juicy.

The short ribs with tendon and the marinated kalbi in a pot were also very, very good. The traditional Korean kalbi looked very interesting, as the strip of meat attached to the bone was cut to split into three strips. When this is spread out over the grill I was reminded of chicken feet... 

Apparently they ran out of most of the offal, so we had to make do with beef liver. I do have to say, though, that this was some of the best liver I've had in recent memory.

We finished with a bowl of Korean cold buckwheat noodles. I'm normally not a big fan but this was not bad.

Now, why am I writing about this dinner? Well, this was simply the best barbeque I've had because of the company. Here I was dining with a bunch of chefs - people who are both passionate about food and know exactly what they are doing. Instead of casually flipping the meat on the grill - and usually over-cooking it in the process - the professionals carefully lined up the pieces, making sure all sides are cooked evenly, and arranged the meats so that the proper pattern is seared onto the surface. Together with fresh, quality ingredients, the end result was just perfect. I've never had it so good.

To top it all off, we were treated to a little slice of flourless chocolate cake made with gourmet 100% cacao, and served with quenelle of chocolate sauce on the side. Where did this wonderful treat come from? From one of the chefs, of course! I haven't been this happy with a chocolate dessert in a while... rich with flavor without being overpowering with sugar. Definitely tasted the fruity, raspberry flavor even though it was all chocolate. Wonderful acidity balance. The cake just crumbled as there was no flour.

So...when are we doing the next barbeque dinner?

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