Friday, August 17, 2007

GAMBATTE!!!

The City That Always Eats
Go Japanese Restaurant
30 St. Marks Place
New York, NY

4 out of 5 Grains of Rice

NY NY. Are there any more appetizing initials anywhere? The city is a constant food festival, open at all hours and offering every possible cuisine from around the world. But perhaps no cuisine is better represented in NY than Asian cuisine. Other than hopping a 13 hour flight – and even then many people will tell you the food is better in NY than, say, Seoul – NY is THE place go get your fill of the hot, sour, salty sweet that is Asian food.

Last night was Japanese – and we are not talking your kimono-wearing, memoirs-of-a Geisha Japan but real life, modern day Japan. Osaka style. A few blocks from my brother’s place on St. Marks’ Place (30 St. Marks to be exact) is a place called Go Japanese. And you should take their advice and GO. NOW!!

The place hit my heart strings right away because the first waiter we saw had on a Posada (#20) shirt and they had the Yankee game on over the small sushi bar. After just having watched the No Reservations on Osaka food, this could not have been better planned. While not officially a baseball bar, there are Hideki Matsui photos up all over the place and in his honor, today’s post is baseball themed.

The outside of the place looks like it was built by habitat for humanity rejects and serves as an extension of the kitchen. This is where they have the grill and fryers so that they don’t smoke the customers out of the joint. Inside, be warned. This place is no museum with paper screens or bare feet. Bustling, bare brick walls and beat up wood tables, with all Japanese staff and they are all business . . . . . just tell me what you want to eat and drink.

We were drawn there by my brother’s interest in the deep friend octopus balls, but we found more. Much, much more.

Deciding took some time. You get three menus including the main menu, the daily sushi specials and the daily chef specials. We just selected a bunch and away we went.

For a snack, we got the dried baby sardine crackers (Tatami Iwashi). Expecting a kind of canapĂ©, we got the lightest and crispest of crackers made from dried baby sardines. Literally like tatami mats made from little fried fish. Very crisp and salty, served with a side of spicy mayonnaise – this is like the most perfect beer snack ever. Too few per plate, but really got the taste buds primed, which after all is what an appetizer is for, right? A solid double from the lead off hitter.

Then came the heart of the line up – takoyaki or fried octopus balls. After enduring my brother’s obligatory jokes about how the male octopi have children without their balls, we got down to eating. About the size of those big jaw breakers you used to buy for 25 cents (and smaller than a golf ball), these little bite sized balls of heaven were made with very light breading, chopped octopus and seasonings. They were served six to a plate piping hot and covered with bonito flakes and ponzu sauce. Salty and sweet, very light and with a light chewiness from the octopus. Just fantastic. So good, we ordered a second plate. A two-run homer from the # 2 hitter. Score – 2-0.

Then we had the broiled salmon skin salad. This was a mixture of thinly sliced and broiled salmon skin with green onions and vinegar dressing. The skin was still warm and the richness of the salmon fat and the tart vinegar made this dish a winner. A triple.

A little less fabulous, but still delicious, was the broiled eel in vinegar. Served with a healthy helping of chopped seaweed and garlic sprouts, the ell was a little too soft from the vinegar dressing and the flavors a little muted for my taste. Eel should be a richer, luxurious taste and this one fell just a little off. A weak single, with an RBI. 3-0

Stepping back up to their A game, Go then delivered the broiled black cod with fresh miso. This dish was terrific. Just opaque, the cod was rich and tasty, and served with the fresh miso just melted in your mouth. Nobu is supposed to make the same dish, but hard to imagine it much better. A double up the gap, scoring the runner from first – 4-0

Our next dish came from the “yes, the Japanese will cook and eat just about anything” folder and, as usual, it tasted better than it sounded. Deep fried giant clam tendon fried in butter. This was a tasty dish, even if not to my liking. Very rich butter taste and the tendon was a mixture of soft and chewy. I have trouble with the very chewy foods, but this was very tasty. Sharp single to right field, another runs scores – 5-0.

Needing a few more items to top us off, we went for one of the okonomiyaki dishes. Wanting to avoid any more REALLY chewy items, we got the Dynamite-yaki with kim chi. As usual, this Osaka dish came covered in mayonnaise and sweet sauce, but was well cooked and with a really nice bite from the spicy kim chi. Another double, the flood gates are really open and the Yanks lead 6-0.

Last dish was a straight ahead ramen. The noodles were cooked very al dente, and the broth was a good mixture of rich and salty. The broth was more rich than salty, and very solid. A little thin on the toppings (bamboo, green onions and some fish cakes). Nothing to go gaga over, but then again, it is not really an Osaka specialty (stay tuned for our all-ramen post from later today). Another sharp single. Time for a pitching change and a word from our sponsor.

By now we were stuffed, and it was all we could do to head to Viniero’s for a mini cannoli in honor of the late great Phil Rizutto who passed earlier this week. We miss you, you big huckleberry.