living in the city and relying on restaurants make it very rare that eating brings back memories of one's childhood days. specially when i'm eating in a japanese restaurant.initially i wanted to have dinner in dessert factory but moved out of the place when they can't find me a decent seat. i mean, solo table, facing the entrance, waiters not even bothering to take my order and poor lighting. duh.
i moved to teriyaki boy and forced myself to order dishes i HAVEN'T ordered previously and looked at options from their fusion maki-zushi and tori karaage selection. if you're not familiar with the terms, think california maki and fried chicken cutlets with a definite twist.
this is where it got interesting.
there's about a dozen selection of the maki-zushi combination with beef, chicken, vegetarian varieties but my eye got caught by the philadelphia roll stuffed with smoked salmon, cream cheese and rolled in paper thin fish flakes otherwise known as Katsuobushi shavings or bonito flakes.to balance all the rice i wanted a spicy counterpoint to the smoky flavor of the roll and the tori karaage (crispy fried chicken bits) seems like the perfect partner. served with a choice of teriyaki, barbecue, ranch or chili dressing it more cuisine fusion than authentic japanese. then again, i had to go back to my primary purpose: VISUAL gastronomic experience. if i wanted authentic japanese i'd be in tokyo.
the maki-zushi got served first and the first bite is always a plain one. no dip, no dressing, just one piece right into my mouth.
that's when it hit me.
i literally closed my eyes as the smoky flavor of the salmon and rich musky flavor of the creamed cheese hit the back of my tongue. the bonito flakes added to the fish flavor that reminded me of smoked dried tuyo.
when i was a kid, my cousin-yaya used to form sticky balls of rice using the cusp of her palm and right in the middle, she would press a bit of smoked dried tuyo or a sweet piece of pork asado, clench her fist to make a rough ball then feed it to me. i loved it. i had fun stacking my rice balls not knowing exactly what surprise i'd find right in the middle. is it the pinoy's version of the maki-zushi roll? in my gastronomic adventures, i find that there are common influences across cuisines that is universal.
if the maki-zushi roll was an experience, the tori karaage was just so-so. it had too much batter, in fact, it was almost all batter with very little chicken. not only that, i think they fried it too long or the oil they used needs to be replaced, there was a slightly bitter aftertaste that usually comes when oil has been re-used multiple times.
visually though, it looked gorgeous. the only saving grace was the side dish of crispy wafer thin fried flour chips garnished with parsley and the creamy chili dip that came with the dish.visually i had fun posing my models, taste wise i'm split and probably would give it a total of seven stars out of ten only because the tori karaage missed out on the last three stars. on the other hand, what started as a visual gastronomic experience ended up as a trip down my childhood gastronomic memories.