City Pulse

By Raine Marlowe Graves

flavorsofjapan.jpg

In true American fashion, we have embraced Pokemon and anime cartoons, but isn’t it time to raise our cultural sights and learn more about the art of Japanese food? The Japanese Food Culture Festival Committee is here to help educate and enlighten through Saturday March 10th with Japanese Restaurant Week and special events from the Food Culture Symposium and Flavors of Japan.

Personally, I was initiated into the club during college while working as an assistant at a Japanese firm. I learned how to count to ten, answering the phones (moshi moshi), international protocol and the pleasures of a shoeless meal. As a matter of course, Japanese managers would invite their underlings to dine for birthdays or special company occasions where they would enlighten us on Japanese tradition and cuisine. In time I was able to grill my beef tableside without burning myself and learned that just a tiny dab of wasabi was more than enough. Although I still have not managed to gauge how much Sake is too much, I thought it was time I upped the ante. Le drumroll please. Experiencing kaiseki. The pinnacle of Japanese fine dining.

Arigato, Domo
Kaiseki has yet to be understood and embraced by the foodie contingent and to help them out the JFCFC ran several exciting events this week in addition to the restaurant week special offerings.

Earlier this week. with the assistance of the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO), the committee presented Flavors of Japan, A Gastronomic Discovery at the Marriott Marquis Hotel hosted by noted journalist and playwright Jonathan Reynolds with special guests including Japanese food expert and author Elizabeth Andoh. The elegant culture and style of Japanese foods was showcased.

Lucky attendees had the opportunity to experience the revered technique of the ceremonial kaiseki cuisine prepared by 3 of the highest-ranking and respected master chefs of Japan’s culinary world (Masahiro Kurisu, Motoi Kurisu, and Kenichi Hashimoto) before chef-extraordinaire David Bouley took the stage to share his version of pacific cuisine. Afterwards guests were invited to sample prized products brought in from Japan for the International Restaurant and Foodservice show that was simultaneously going on at the Jacob Javits Center.

The Food Culture Symposium was held earlier that day at the Japan Society featuring the Chairman and CEO of Kikkoman (Yuzaburo Mogi) sharing his experiences as a Japanese pioneer in the American food world. Vogue’s Jeffrey Steingarten moderated a panel discussion with Japanese food experts and chefs.

Mushy Mushy Japanese Restaurant Week!
We have to thank the Japanese Food Culture Festival Committee, for bringing the first ever NYC Japanese Food Festival and Restaurant Week to our junk-food-stuffed mouths and allowing us to experience Japanese (and Japanese-inspired) cuisine at restaurants all over the city (offering special dishes and prix-fixe menus).

Some of the more unique items on offer are Premium Kobe Steak “Kagerou Yaki” at Megu; the somewhat scary “am I taking my life in my hands?” Tora-Fugu (Tiger Puffer Fish) Sashimi at Restaurant Nippon (both in Midtown); to-kill-for Wagyu Beef Shabu Shabu with Sake at the East Village’s Lan; the tongue twisting but incredibly appetizing sounding Hamaguri Sakura-Mushi Cherry Blossom-Steamed Cherrystone Clams at En Brasserie downtown; and the heartwarmingly familiar BBQ Kobe Beef at Takahachi Tribeca. The legendary Nobu and Nobu 57 are offering both tasting menus and a Omakase dinner menu featuring their signature dishes.

For further information on the week’s events and participating restaurants, visit www.jprw.net

The Japanese Food Culture Festival is a sponsored project of the New York Foundation for the Arts

www.flavorsofjapan.org

Originally published March 2007
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