Tuna Tataki at The Empire Grill
In the Japanese ‘Tataki’ grilling method, pieces of meat or fish are seared at very high heat for just a few seconds, and then quickly cooled to arrest further cooking. Some sort of marination usually follows, and then the result is served thinly sliced with dressings and garnishes, rather like a Sashimi. The appetizer of Tataki-style Tuna you see pictured above was served to me at The Empire Grill in Ottawa as a first course before a grilled steak. The Empire Grill, now defunct, was not a Japanese restaurant, but they did a fairly decent job with this menu offering.
The slices of tuna, crusted with white and dark sesame seeds were served over a bed of seaweed dressed with soy and ginger. This salad, which certainly added to the visual appeal of the presentation, was very pleasant in both texture and taste, although I rather suspect that a pre-packaged seaweed salad was used rather than prepared from scratch.
The dark sauce you can see was not mentioned in the menu description but it had a sweet and rich umami background with tangy citrus notes. It was, I am fairly certain, a light miso thinned with Yuzu, or Lemon juice, and a little Mirin. Whatever the precise nature of the blend, it worked really well with both the fish and the seaweed.
My only real criticism about this dish was that the tuna slices were ever so slightly dry. The waiter confirmed for me that the sesame seeds are pressed into the meat after grilling and I rather think that the restaurant probably prepared a large section of fish then kept it pressed by wrapping tightly before slicing individual portions as ordered. It makes sense for restaurants to do this, but it does, unfortunately, result in a slight diminution of the nice, soft texture of a freshly prepared piece. Still, this was really only a minor flaw and I really enjoyed the dish as a whole