Month: December 2013

Notable Nosh: Izakaya’s Beef Tataki

Tataki - Izakaya

I just recently published a post featuring my own version of Beef Tataki and at the time I did the cooking I had only ever eaten that particular delicacy when made by myself at home. Since then, however, I have managed to experience it at an Ottawa restaurant called Izakaya, and so I not only get an opportunity to show you a professional version of the dish, I can also compare and contrast with my own modest effort…

The rendering I was served at Izakaya was served with a sauce they described as a ‘Sweet Soy Mirin’ and it was served on the side rather than beneath the slices as I did it with my Ponzu style accompaniment. The little salad on the side was composed of shredded daikon and carrot and was not particularly remarkable as such things go, but it did add some interest to the dish as a whole. The only other significant difference between their production and mine was the addition of crisp-fried shallot and garlic sprinkled over the slices. This was a pretty nice embellishment actually as the textural contrast was very pleasant.

And…  the comparison in overall quality?

Well, Izakaya, I have to say, had me beat hands down in terms of presentation as their plate looked so much more interesting than mine. As far as the beef itself, however, I think mine had a slight edge although, in all honesty, I think this came about chiefly because I luckily happened to select a cut that turned out to be very good indeed. In any event, I enjoyed this little small-plate offering and was very glad to see somebody else’s interpretation…


Notable Nosh: Steamed Octopus

Empire Grill Octopus

Every time I have eaten octopus in a restaurant it has either been grilled or else served cold and sliced as a sashimi selection. Recently, in Ottawa, however, I saw an appetizer selection on the menu at the Empire Grill which was called ‘Steamed Octopus alla Parmentara’. I am not sure what the Parmentara signifies (and a google search reveals nothing of note), but I couldn’t resist giving it a try. In the event, the dish, which you see pictured above, proved not only to be quite a bit different from what I was expecting but also something of a disappointment…

The menu description ran as follows:

STEAMED OCTOPUS ALLA PARMENTARA … Octopus with green onions, dried cranberries and pistachios with garlic lemon dressing served over potato puree.

What was surprising about the dish was that it was served cold (or very nearly so), which was not something I anticipated from the menu description. The octopus part was completely cold while the pureed potatoes were somewhere between cool and lukewarm. I am not sure if this was intended, or whether they were supposed to be warm and cooled off, or cold and weren’t chilled sufficiently, but the result was something I really wasn’t sure I liked.

As for the rest of the dish, the cranberry and pistachios worked nicely towards the final effect but the octopus itself was very poorly done. What I like best about properly prepared octopus is the lovely, chewy texture of the flesh but, here, the effect was dry and had rather the cardboard-like texture of canned octopus. Since they specify that their octopus is ‘steamed’ I would hate to think they actually did use a canned product but, given the quality, I have to wonder.

Anyway, as I mentioned, this dish was a disappointment, both in terms of visual appeal and taste experience and, were I to render this dish myself, the potato puree would definitely have to go. Would any of my readers have any suggestions as to a suitable replacement?


Tataki Appetizer Rolls

Tataki Appetizer Rolls 01

Today’s dish will use a few nice thin slices of the Beef Tataki I prepared the other day and will also incorporate some sprouts grown by my wife as part of her on-going sprouting experiment. I have taken as my inspiration a Japanese preparation known as Negimaki in which grilled beef slices are rolled around a central filling (usually, but not exclusively, scallions). In this case, however, the beef strips I am using have only been lightly seared and are thus, for all intents and purposes, largely raw… Continue reading “Tataki Appetizer Rolls”

Seasons Greetings (and LOOK WHAT I GOT!!)

Merry Xmas Prezzie 1

First of all, many thanks to all those who have read and supported my blog this past year, and best wishes for the season …

Next…. Look at what I was given by my wife this morning…. A Bradley Smoke!  It is capable of both hot and cold smoking different foods. The only drawback is that it must be used outside so, given the average temperatures here, I may have to wait a few months at least to test drive it.

Still, one of my other presents was a Kitchen Aid Blender thingie that comes with a whole range of attachments including pasta rollers and cutters and (best of all) a pasta extruder that can make tubular forms like penne rigate, maccheroni etc. You’ll be seeing the fruits of this a lot in the coming months, I predict.

Anyway…  Enjoy the day!

Beef Tataki

Beef Tataki 01

You could probably call this Japanese Steak Tartare, or maybe Japanese Carpaccio, but the proper appellation is Beef Tataki, where the ‘Tataki’ is actually the name of the specific cookery technique involved.  This technique was originally used specifically for steaks of Bonito Tuna but has now been widely adapted for beef as well. Essentially, it involves grilling meat (or fish) very briefly over high heat to sear the outside and then cooling it rapidly to prevent further cooking, thus leaving the interior almost raw. The result is most commonly served sashimi style but can be easily put to other uses. In either event, the technique is one well worth having in your repertoire…  Continue reading “Beef Tataki”

Review: Fresco Bistro Italiano – Ottawa

354 Elgin Street, Ottawa – 613-235-7541- Webpage

Fresco Bistro 1

Date of Visit: December 2, 2013

Fresco has a presence on the internet but I had not come across their web-page before and I discovered the place while scouting out the neighborhood close to my hotel on my recent trip to Ottawa. I happened to have a bit of a yen for Italian food on that particular day and their menu looked rather interesting…  Continue reading “Review: Fresco Bistro Italiano – Ottawa”

Barbecued Beef Rack

Barbecued Beef Rack 1

I was planning to do a Korean meal using some flanken-cut ribs I have in the freezer but then I saw an entire rack of beef ribs in our local grocery store. I have often seen individual ribs for sale, but this is the first time I recall seeing them in a rack locally and I thought they would work very nicely for what I had in mind. The marinade I settled on is typically Korean, featuring lots of garlic, ginger and soy but, rather than the Asian pear that is sometimes used as a tenderizer, I am using some canned pineapple instead… Continue reading “Barbecued Beef Rack”

Review: The Lieutenant’s Pump – Ottawa

361 Elgin Street, Ottawa – 613-238-2949 – Website

Lieutenants Pump 1

Date of Visit: December 4, 2013

I have planned to visit this place ever since I first saw it from the nearby, but now defunct, Big Daddy’s Crab Shack. As it happened, it was only on this last trip to Ottawa that I finally got around to it  but I am happy to report that the visit  was worth the wait…  Continue reading “Review: The Lieutenant’s Pump – Ottawa”

Translation Help Requested…

Translation requested

Hi Readers… I am hoping someone (friendlytm maybe?) might be able to help me with a bit of a translation difficulty. I am trying to translate a recipe for 紹興醉蝦 (Shaoxing Drunken Shrimp) written in Chinese Characters. The first instruction reads:



I gather this requires one to add scallion and ginger to boiling water, then add the shrimp and bring to the boil again. The next part of the instruction is the four characters you see pictured at the beginning of the post and it is this that is giving me a bit of a problem…

I have an idea that the instruction, presumably referring to the shrimp, is to ‘keep on ice’, or ‘plunge into ice water’ maybe, but I am not completely certain about this. In particular, it is the second character (鎭) that is making things difficult. I can’t locate any compound word formed by the first and second characters ( although I do see them occurring together in other texts), and the usual meanings of the individual character itself don’t seem to work here. Is the whole instruction a Taiwanese idiom, maybe?

Anyway, any confirmation that I am on the right track would be helpful, but a detailed explanation would be even better!