Great Ocean Food: Reminisce of Japan
You may have read my last column in which our French cousin was to be married. The service went ahead despite some COVID restrictions and Alexandra and Romaine are now happily married.
It was a shame we were not there but, like everyone else in this crazy time, we must be content with the memories of travels past and look forward to future adventures. Other than France, a destination I will consider again is Japan. It is fabulous and such an easy country to visit from Australia.
I have only been to Japan once. Before we left, I asked a friend who lived in Tokyo for many years for recommendations of sights to see and, most importantly, where to eat. Except for some insanely crowded temples, his suggestions were superb. My wife was happy to stand in a queue with 50,000 tourists to glimpse an ancient shrine, but it’s not my cup of tea. My daughters and I preferred to immerse ourselves in the local food and culture which was a little overwhelming at first.
We had many memorable meals, too lengthy to describe here but one absolute highlight was dinner at XEX Morimoto. For many years, my Saturday night entertainment was relaxing with a glass of wine and watching Iron Chef and Rockwiz (sad, isn’t it?). Much to my wife’s chagrin, I was (and remain) a dedicated Iron Chef fan. It so happens my favourite was Iron Chef Morimoto; so to eat at his restaurant in Tokyo was an opportunity too good to refuse. Now this was my kind of shrine! The altar of Iron Chef Morimoto was one at which I was happy to bow.
We chose the teppanyaki menu which consisted of seven courses beginning with the most sublime and meticulously prepared starter I have ever seen. It was a prawn tartare with seven kinds of condiments presented on a tiny bamboo platter with a row of each flavour precisely aligned in horizontal strips as only a Japanese chef could. The flavours were delicate and powerful at the same time. Second course was oysters and foie gras with a teriyaki and wasabi sauce – this was truly unbelievable. The experience was one spectacular dish after another including lobster, wagyu beef and exceptionally paired wines to match. It culminated with a beautiful and delicate green tea sorbet.
The night will live with me forever and after dinner we strolled to the Park Hyatt Hotel (where Lost in Translation was filmed) for a nightcap and jazz. I don’t think I could script a better day; it was sublime. Following is a simple recipe for Morimoto’s brown sugar salmon with avocado cream.
Morimoto’s brown sugar salmon with avocado cream
Half avocado, peeled and pitted
2 tablespoons sour cream
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 garlic clove
Quarter cup packed fresh flat-leaf parsley
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon chili powder
Half teaspoon salt
Pinch of cayenne pepper
4 salmon fillets
4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 lime, thinly sliced into rounds
For the avocado cream combine the avocado, sour cream, lime juice, garlic, parsley, and salt, and pulse in a blender or food processor until smooth. The consistency should be similar to sour cream. Cover and set aside until ready to serve.
For the salmon combine the sugar, chilli powder, salt, and cayenne pepper in a small bowl. Lay the salmon fillets on a clean work surface and sprinkle the mixture evenly over each fillet, rubbing it into the flesh on all sides.
Fry salmon fillets (skin side up) and cook, undisturbed, until their undersides are crisp and just beginning to blacken, about four minutes. Turn the fillets and cook until the fish feels firm to the touch, four minutes more. Transfer to a warm plate. Set the salmon aside.
Add the lime slices to the frypan and cook just until they begin to caramelise, about thirty seconds. Flip and cook for an additional thirty seconds. To serve, divide the salmon fillets among four plates and spoon crema over each. Press a caramelised lime slice into the crema to garnish.