Posted in Notable Nosh

Notable Nosh: Unagi

Nosh - Unagi

Unagi, or freshwater eel, is a Japanese delicacy I have enjoyed many times and I thought I would share my most recent experience of it with you here. Japanese cuisine also makes use of sea eel (or ‘anago’) but you tend to find unagi appearing much more frequently on the menu at Japanese restaurants.

Like octopus and a few other fish products, unagi is always cooked, even in sashimi or sushi preparations. The cooking generally involves grilling but the eel is also sometimes steamed first. Often (indeed, every time I have ever had it) a sweetish glaze is added before grilling, but there is also a ‘shirayaki’ or ‘white-grilled’ version that does without. The glaze, when used, is often a Teriyaki sauce type preparation but here, on this particular occasion, I rather think that actual Eel Sauce formed the glaze. This is more than simply a sauce prepared for eel; it actually contains an extract from eel in the same way oyster sauce contains oyster extract and it has the same sort of sweet, umami flavor.

Although the sashimi and sushi pieces I ordered came plated very prettily with shiso leaf, shredded daikon, pickled ginger and wasabi, I didn’t think the eel was nearly as good as usual. It may have been due to overcooking but, in any event, I found the flesh really quite pallid and lacking in texture. Without the sauce, there probably wouldn’t have been a great deal of flavor and, on this occasion, the ginger and some soy were welcome additions. Normally though, I really enjoy this dish and, if you enjoy grilled fish you really should give it a try…

Posted in Notable Nosh

Notable Nosh: Saba

Nosh - Saba

Typically, Japanese Sushi and Sashimi preparations involve raw fish (where fish is used) but this is not always the case. Indeed, some varieties, most notably mackerel, are lightly first lightly pickled using salt and sweetened vinegar. In some ways, Saba Sashimi, or Sabazushi (as preparations with Sushi rice are known) is a bit like a Japanese counterpart to the Latin American dish called Ceviche that I sampled and then wrote about a few days ago. Generally however, Saba undergoes a very brief pickling (often less than an hour), while Ceviche is typically (although not always) marinated for several hours.

I have eaten and enjoyed Japanese style pickled mackerel many times, but the day after sampling the aforementioned Ceviche, I hastened to the Wasabi restaurant in Ottawa’s Byward Market to taste it again for the purposes of comparing and contrasting the two. At Wasabi, Saba is offered as both a sashimi and a sushi item and, not being able to decide between the two, I opted for both.

As you can see, the two delicacies were plated with wasabi (which I am not keen on), shredded daikon, and pickled ginger. Soy sauce was also provided on the side. There were three pieces of fish and, though the single piece of sushi was not terribly well formed, the color of the skin was absolutely gorgeous. I dipped the very edge of the sushi rice in just a little soy (foregoing the ginger entirely) but I sampled the sashimi slices without any accompaniments at all as I always think this is overkill.

As for the taste, the fish was clearly very fresh and nicely textured and the pickling was lightly done and added just the right fillip of flavor. I enjoyed the Ceviche I sampled the day before but, though I will try it again, I don’t think it matches the lovely, sophisticated simplicity of the Japanese preparation. I think I could quite happily eat this every day…

Posted in Restaurants

Review: Hokkaido Sushi

272 Dalhousie St, Ottawa – 613-860-9898 – Website

Hokkaido 1

Date of Visit: March 19, 2013

Although I love Japanese cuisine, I can generally only manage sushi in very small doses as I find the sweet, vinegared rice very rich after just a few pieces. I wanted to give this place a try however, and, aside from a bit of linguistic confusion over the menu, I had a pretty decent meal… Continue reading “Review: Hokkaido Sushi”