Tossed Salads and Scrambled Eggs

Posts Tagged ‘sunomono

I have fond memories of watching Japanese cartoons and animated films during my early formative years. Dr Slump, DoraemonCaptain Tsubasa and Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli activated my imagination as a child and it was in these creative worlds that I encountered my first bento. Some plain, others decorated, single layer or stacked, I was fascinated by the elaborate meal in a box.

Wasabi in Belltown has recently reopened after a refurbishment. The interior is modern with straight lines and a lime colour scheme. There is a bar area and a sushi counter, and mirrors and chrome chandeliers decorate the main dining room.

Only bentos are available for lunch, consisting of miso soup, green salad, sunomono, steamed rice, sushi roll, daily special, dessert and a choice of two items from the menu. I selected salmon teriyaki and agedashi tofu as my hot dishes.

The miso soup was served immediately after ordering. Steaming and nourishing, the bowl of soup was gently seasoned with miso and filled with shredded wakame and cubed silken tofu.

I was astonished by the size of my bento lunch. There were three rectangular boxes with eight compartments in total, each beautifully presented. The contents from top to bottom, and left to right were: agedashi tofu, salmon teriyaki, cream puff and grapes, sunomono, green salad, steamed rice, kaki furai and takoyaki, and spicy yellowtail sushi roll.

Three inside out pieces of sushi, the yellowtail was finely chopped and lightly spiced. I don’t know if there’s a sequence to how you eat bento but I felt that the delicate flavours of the sashimi was an appropriate first course.

I’m indifferent to raw vegetables and I only sampled the green salad. Surprisingly refreshing, the sunomono had thinly sliced cucumbers and rice noodles with peanut sauce.

This version of agedashi tofu was garnished with green onions and grated daikon mixed with chilli, but was without katsuobushi (or bonito flakes). The three generous chunks of silken tofu were encased in a golden crust and soaking in a shallow pool of broth.

Glazed with teriyaki sauce and seared, the salmon fillet was well cooked and flaked easily.

Moulded into the shape of a flower, the pretty mount of rice was plenty to mop up the sticky sweet teriyaki sauce.

This was a curious component of the bento. I expected it to be tonkatsu (similar to schnitzel) but it was kaki furai, fried oyster! Crumbed in panko, the crunchy coating was a contrast to the creamy oyster inside. Hidden behind the kaki furai was a takoyaki, grilled octopus ball. A small piece of tender octopus was concealed in the savoury custard like batter. Cooked in a special pan, like the ones used for poffertjes (Dutch mini pancakes), takoyaki would make a popular addition to food trucks here!

In the dessert section were three red grapes as a palate cleanser. Light and spongy, the cream puff had a chocolate dome with chocolate cream piped into the choux pastry.

A substantial meal but not heavy, the bento experience had the bonus of reminding me of Totoro and co.!

I grew up eating seafood – steamed whole fish, prawn dumplings, crab stir-fried with ginger and spring onions, lobster with egg noodles, squid balls in hot pots. But we rarely cook seafood at home, except for baked or barbecued salmon. I worry about how to prepare seafood for cooking, I’m concerned that I’ll overcook it and ruin the delicate flesh. When I read that Whole Foods Westlake was having a one day sale of scallops a couple of Fridays ago, I added the accompanying scallops three ways happy hour to my calendar. For five dollars, it was good value to ‘taste a trio of scallop preparations’.

I arrived early and there were only a handful of people in the dining area. The counter was brightened by a colourful posy of flowers. I sat and watched Chef Hayden cook the display dish, he expertly answered questions while chopping and plating.

I miss cooking with gas immensely. I was transfixed by the portable induction stove, with three plump scallops sizzling. Convenient and lightweight, this would be a welcome addition to my kitchen!

The dining area is in a front corner of the store. With floor to ceiling windows, it is a light and airy space. On a jade green plate were a generous serving of scallops, clockwise from top: scallop and Oregon Bay shrimp sunomono with cucumber and radish; seared scallops with ginger miso butter and sweet broiled eggplant; and spicy scallop pokē with seaweed, red chilli, shallots, sesame and macadamia nuts.

Sunomono, a Japanese style salad with vinaigrette, was a simple dish that highlighted the natural sweetness of the scallops. Chunks of poached scallops paired well with the crunchy vegetables and a slightly tangy dressing.

Next I tried the pokē, a Hawaiian tartare. This sample was punchy and nutty, overwhelming the flavours of the scallop. And the scallop appeared cooked.

My favourite was the seared scallop. Three charred and juicy molluscs were on a bed of velvety eggplant. Sweet and smoky, these were simple and fresh ingredients cooked exquisitely with love.

Check your local Whole Foods store calendar for upcoming events!


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