Archive for January, 2009

A (unfavorable) trend in sushi rolls

Saturday, January 10th, 2009
Houdini roll from Blue Nami, Roseville, CA

Houdini roll from Blue Nami, Roseville, CA

Back in my early sushi noshing days when I lived in the SF Bay Area, the emphasis in sushi was on the preparations to feature the fresh flavorful seafood being enjoyed. I had my wonderful introduction to the sushi world by a Japanese college friend at Kirala in downtown Berkeley, CA. The evening started out as a ‘try these first since you’ve never had raw fish before’ and ended up being a tour of Kirala’s nigiri menu. I still don’t know how much we ate/spent that night (my friend insisted on paying since I was still a poor college freshman), but this experience was my benchmark for all subsequent sushi bar visits.

During my past 2 years traveling to California, I’ve noticed a trend as I satisfy my sushi cravings. You know what it is – that humongous roll covered in 1 or more sauces & various toppings. They go by flashy, trendy names (Caterpillar, Train Wreck, Flying Tiger, Rolls Royce, Rainbow, etc).

These rolls are visually very stunning – topped with various colored sauces, chopped fish, different types of fish eggs (tobiki, salmon eggs, etc), deep-fried or including various fried items & sometimes even flambĂ©ed/torched – taking up an entire rectangular plate. I’ve tried at least 20 different variations and have come to the same conclusions :

  • Too much sauce – the rolls I’ve gotten are coated in the accompanied sauces, which are usually mayonnaise-based & overwhelm the other ingredient flavors in the roll
  • Too much ‘stuff’ – when I order a roll, I assume that my roll ingredients are going to be contained within the roll. I don’t want to have to juggle crushed macadamia nuts, wasabi tobiki or chopped tuna as I try to get the roll piece from the plate to my mouth without leaving a colorful seafood trail.

Is this trend giving in to the typical American palate’s penchant of drowning food in various sauces, in an effort to reduce the ‘fear factor’ in ordering sushi? :?

As for me, I would much rather have my bowl of edamame, a plate of nigiri and my wakame salad.

Club Noma/Noma Restaurant

Thursday, January 8th, 2009

Club Noma/ Noma Restaurant
119 North Michigan Street
South Bend, IN

Good Food : 4.75/5 | Good Service : 3/5

After returning from one of my California trips, the husband and I decided we didn’t feel like cooking so we decided to try one of the new restaurants in downtown South Bend, IN. So we went to Noma, a new restaurant which was opened by Nat Buraprateep, the owner of the Siam Thai / Say Cheesecake! restaurant & dessert cafe.

Noma Crabcakes appetizer

Noma Crabcakes appetizer

The restaurant space is broken up into 2 areas – the club/bar area & a dedicated restaurant seating area. The 2 sections are separated by a modern glass partition. Because they are trying to bill themselves as a trendy eating place, the dim lighting reflects this & made taking pictures a little challenging.

Noma bills itself as ‘Club Noma’, touting fusion Asian cuisine & designer martinis. And their menu definitely reflects that.

We started with their crabcake appetizer since the hubbie has a crabcake weakness. 3 adorable mini crabcakes were presented on a rectangular glass plate. Each crabcake was a perfectly porportioned bite of crab, with just enough sauce topping each cake. We were diplomatic and shared the third cake :)

Noma squash soup

Noma squash soup

Noma Baked crab salad

Noma Baked crab salad

Next was a luscious winter squash soup with 2 delicate cooked shrimp pieces on top. A small dollop of creme fraiche added a delicate light refreshing taste.

My husband ordered the baked crab salad, which turned out to be a romaine-based salad topped with flaked crab.

Noma duck entree
I spied the duck breast on the menu and had to order it – perfectly cooked duck breast slices glazed with a slightly tart plum sauce graced gently wilted bok choy and asian udon noodles. The husband ordered the glazed pork tenderloin, which came with steamed veggies & herbed mashed potatoes. The sauce was wonderful – sweet and slightly tart, adding a nice dimension to the pork.

Noma palate cleanserA nice touch which we didn’t expect was the sherbet palate cleanser that came before our entrees.

Our main disappointment with our visit was not the food or environment, but the service. Even though we went on a Friday evening around 7:30pm, the main house manager station was not manned when we first walked in. The main phone rang several times while we waited, and another couple who had arrived before us evidently didn’t want to wait & they walked out. We weren’t sure if this was due to staffing issues or the owner trying to keep his staffing costs lean (as we saw him running dishes from the kitchen to the dining tables), but it did slightly tinge our otherwise great dining experience.