Monday, May 7, 2012

Fun Playing With Jiro's Sushi Movie and A Ginko Dinner

About 2 weeks ago, our friend and fellow blogger Tom instigated a "Movie and A Dinner" evening. Jiro Dreams of Sushi would be playing at the Cleveland Cinematheque, and where better to go after the film for dinner than Dante Bocuzzi's Ginko, located down a flight of steps from Restaurant Dante in Tremont? Getting a reservation at the tiny Ginko that night proved almost as difficult as getting a seat at Sukiyabashi Jiro, Jiro's 10-seat, sushi-only restaurant, also located down a flight of stairs, in a Tokyo subway station. Our intrepid group waited for Ginko seats at the beautiful cocktail bar in Restaurant Dante, but Tom had to leave before we finally made it to the sushi counter. 

If you love food-centric movies, you will probably like this film (which is now playing in Cleveland at the Capitol Theater in Gordon Square). The movie chronicles the life and career of the 85-year-old sushi master and world's first 3-star Michelin Sushi Chef, and his two sons. Like it's Japanese cousin, Tampopo, Jiro Dreams of Sushi will leave you craving exquisite Japanese food - in this case, sushi. We were grateful that Ginko was worth the wait!

Boiled Squid  Appetizer Special   

Ginko is a small space, consisting mostly of sushi bar, with a few small tables around the perimeter and two larger tables, where Shabu Shabu is offered, in addition to the sushi menu. Interestingly, we began with appetizers, despite Jiro's explanation in the film that serving any course other than sushi detracts from the sushi, so he does not offer such diversions. Still, if we had any doubts that Ginko was serving authentic Japanese food, our tiptoe through the appetizers dispelled them immediately. I was expecting slices of larger squid rather than the small whole specimens served. I confess, it tasted strongly of the ocean, not in a bad way, but still feeling like an acquired (or more accurately, a "to-be acquired") taste to my palate, though the creamy dipping sauce definitely helped. Despite exquisite ingredients expertly prepared - this is probably a dish that I wouldn't order again. But I'm glad that I tried it. 

My reactions to the appetizers ordered by my dining companions were similar. Steve got octopus cups that had been tenderized and melted in the mouth (and which summoned up images of octopus served by Jiro, after a 45 minute vigorous massage), but still tasted a little too much of the ocean for me. Adventurous eater Edsel's giant clam slices had been alive mere moments before they became slices, and even he urged the application of soy sauce, which evened out the intense brininess with a different kind of salty flavor. Edsel's marvelous photos of these dishes, and the other items he and Steve enjoyed can be seen here. The freshness and quality of the ingredients and preparation were fabulous, but I can't say that I longed for a second bite of either. Again, though, I'm grateful for the opportunity to taste these things, and wouldn't hesitate to try different "specials" even if they sounded outside my comfort zone.  

Jumbo Shrimp Tempura Roll: Shrimp, Asparagus, Tobiko
Our next plate of two menu items both featured local asparagus. The shrimp in this roll was as good as or better than most of the shrimp we ate on our Gulf Coast trip this winter, and again benefited from expert preparation.

Asparagus Roll

This simple item reflected the beauty of a seasonable vegetable paired with quality sushi rice. Our palates were now completely primed for fish.

Seared Salmon Belly Nigiri and Tamago (Japanese Omelet) Nigiri

This plate contained our next two orders. The Tamago had played a featured role in the film, where an apprentice made over 200 trays of the delicacy before getting it "right" enough for his master. My mouth was watering to try Ginko's version, which was a few degrees too cold, but otherwise egg-and-rice perfection, with the vinegar in the rice playing off of a distinctive sweetness that had been added to the eggs. 

The seared salmon belly was recommended by our server, and tasted as rich as Copper River salmon we've eaten in the past. Every bite made me sigh with pleasure - this, we had learned earlier in the evening, is how great sushi should affect one.

Ginko Roll: Tuna, Salmon, Hamachi, Avocado, (hold the Cucumber), Kaiware, Romaine Lettuce, Daikon, Tobiko
My first thought on biting into the Ginko Roll was that the wrapper was a little stale. Then I realized - it wasn't soy paper or any other wrapper - it was thinly sliced daikon radish! Since radish is not my favorite flavor anyway, I enjoyed the next bite without the extra wrapper (nori had been placed below the daikon) and was rewarded with tastes and textures worthy of the masterwork I'd just seen at the cinema. It takes great skill to combine three types of fish in one sushi roll without muddling the flavors, and the sushi chefs at Ginko are indeed expert. Taishi Noma, who was born in Kyoto, Japan, is head sushi chef and he prepared the appetizers and nigiri. One of his assistants, also a sushi pro, made the rolls. 

This meal, together with a bottle of Pellegrino water, totaled out to just below $55 for two of us (including tax), and we were too stuffed to even consider dessert. Jiro Dreams of Sushi and Ginko made for a stimulating and delicious pair. If you fancy Japanese food, then even after the movie leaves town, you will have fun playing  with the sushi and Japanese delights at Ginko. 

1 comment:

  1. >or more accurately, a "to-be acquired"

    I know how you feel. I don't think I could have hotaru ika (firefly squid) if I hadn't been born Japanese.

    Anyway, hotaru ika is still in season. I previously posted a photo here:
    (Last photo)