Omakase is the ultimate Japanese dinner in my mind. For those of you that don’t know what this is, Omakase translates to the phrase, “I’ll leave it up to you.” Here in the United States, we use Omakase to describe a selection of dishes left up to the chef, typically starting with the lightest and working its way up to the heaviest. This type of Japanese meal usually ranges from $70 – $300 dollars. Crazy, right? There are only a few places where I would be willing to spend $300 on a single meal, and even then my broke-ass would be kicking myself in the face afterward. Or possibly regurgitating the food and eating it again so that I get more bang for my buck…. Anyway, being a food critic has its perks and I got to try this amazing Omakase spot in Astoria, New York called Gaijin.
I used to live in Astoria off the Steinway stop, and there are lots of delicious foods in this borough. One usually goes here for authentic Greek food, so when I was invited to Gaijin I had my reservations. Two words, worth it! Worth the money, worth your time; and at $125 dollars per person for a fifteen-course meal you really are getting a money-worthy experience for your taste buds.
Chef Mark Garcia of Gaijin is a freaking sushi-making rockstar, and it’s no wonder with his extensive training under Chicago’s Chef Kaze. He chose the name Gaijin for his restaurant because it means “foreigner.” He is essentially describing himself, because he is not of Japanese descent. At least he’s not like Chef David Bouhadana who is a white dude using a fake Japanese accent. Chef Mark respects Japanese food and the culture.
We started off our meal with Dewasansen Tobiroku – Sparkling Sake . This is to cleanse the palate. I pretty much love sparkling anything and sake is no different.
Next, we were served: Seasonal Dobin Mushi – Dashi Broth, Chicken thigh, Fresh Shiitake, Korean Daikon, Mitsuba (Japanese parsley). Chef Mark told me this broth takes a day to make. It is complex and yet so simple to the taste.
We then moved on to a Jumbo Pacific Oyster – Homemade Ponzu, Spicy Grated Daikon, and Chives. I have never seen an oyster that big. It was so buttery and not at all chewy like one might expect with over-sized bivalve mollusks.
Friends, this is only two out of fifteen courses, plus we were served A LOT of different sakes. If I continue to describe each dish in detail you will be reading this forever, and we all have better things to be doing, like making a reservation at Gaijin, so you too can enjoy first hand what I experienced. So for time’s sake, I’m gonna be brief. Enjoy the descriptions and the pretty pictures. They are sure to make your mouth water!
Kasugodai – Japanese Red Snapper, Soy, and Grated Daikon.
Shima Aji – Japanese Stripejack, Ume Soy, Garlic, and Ginger.
Kamatsu – Japanese Baracuda, Soy, Yuzu Juice, and then it’s torched.
Hamachi – Yellowtail, Soy, Banana Pepper, and Butter (everything is better with butter).
Akami – Lean Tuna (from Spain), Soy, Roasted Almond, and Shiitake.
Here we were served Kokuryu Black Dragon. Light and refreshing, but WAY overpriced. I can find this sake at a wine shop for half the price.
Toro – Fatty Tuna (from Spain), Soy, Hokkaido Uni, Kaluga Caviar, and Roasted Sesame.
Zukesake – Soy Marinated king Salmon (from New Zealand) Truffle Carpaccio, and Torched Chives (More fire).
Wagyu – Soy, Uni, and Chives.
The next few courses were paired with Kamotsuru Tokusei Gold – This goes perfectly with robustly flavored fish! Did I mention there’s real gold in it? This is considered very lucky. Oh and Obama drank it when he met with the Prime Minister of Japan.
Hotate – Live Hokkaido Scallop, Yuzu Juice, and Sea Salt.
Aji – Horse Mackerel, Soy, Ginger, and Roasted Sesame.
Kinmedai – Golden Eye Red Snapper, Soy, and Grated Fuji Apple.
Ebodai – Tempura Japanese Butterfish, Soy, and Uni. Butter Fish is probably one of my favorite types of fish and it is so hard to find on the East Coast. Just like its name, it melts in your mouth like butter.
For dessert, we had a refreshing Ginger Gelato.
After dessert, we tried Iwatekura Bakushu Oyster Stout – dark and chocolaty; would totally go well with a scoop of gelato. I told Chef Mark if you see this option on their menu, you’ll have me to thank!
To end the night of gluttony, we had Tamagawa Time Machine 1712. This over 200-year-old recipe was the perfect digest if to end our dinner with.
For more info on Gaijin please visit their official website.