Omakase with Hideki Yoshimoto

Patti, Hide, MikeI’m going to tell you about an adventure I had. At the Miami Beach Doraku Sushi we had a wonderful dinner prepared by their executive chef, Master Hideki Yoshimoto.

You might remember Hide from our earlier Sushi Masters interview. Hide lives in Hawaii and works for Doraku. But he comes to Miami Beach from time to time, as the executive chef must. This time while he was here he attended a sushi tweetup we had at Maido Japanese Restaurant in Doral. Hide extended an offer for some lucky few of us to come to Doraku on friday night and experience a special dinner he prepared himself.

To get us started he presented us with edamame. One version was slathered in a garlic teriyaki sauce that really just whet my appetite. The other had a tangy, spicy sauce that seemed to have just the right amount of kick. Very addictive, and a good way to start the night.

We all came well prepared hungry, so these snackables went quickly. And they prompted another couple of sake orders if memory serves.

Chicken Salad with Amazing DressingNext up was this gorgeous chicken salad with a spicy sauce. We got the ingredients list for the salad and sauce, and hopefully can reproduce the wonderful taste.

Chicken, button mushrooms and more tossed in sweet spicy dressing. Also had king oyster mushroom, boiled egg, and was topped with steamed bean sprouts and micro greens. Everything about it was good, but what really made this special was the tangy, sweet sauce that had a kick!

Pan fried salmon with asparagus and king oyster mushroomsNext came pan-fried salmon with asparagus and king oyster mushrooms served in a ponzu-based sauce with micro greens.

This one really blew me away. I was prepared for boring, but was so impressed with the complex taste that I wanted to stare at the plate and savor the taste for a minute or two. I’ll definitely be back to order this, as it’s on the new Doraku menu. But I actually completely forgot about it in a matter of a few minutes, as the next course came quickly and also had a considerable impact.

Seared Scallop with Yuzu Chili SauceThis dish is the Seared Citrus Plum Scallop. I thought it to be one of the best offerings, even though the tastes are subtle. The thinly sliced scallop, and the underlying lemon slices are quick torched.

There is a crucial citrus element that’s brought to life by arranging the scallop slices atop a bed of lemon slices and by the yuzu-based chili sauce and by the fresh shredded shiso. Yet the real key to this dish for me was the dab of plum paste applied to each piece. If you love scallops you’ll certainly want to order this on your next visit.

Miso-Cilantro SalmonThis dish is the salmon sashimi in tsu miso (sweet vinegar miso) sauce with cilantro. Why it works so well is a mystery to me. It’s similar to a tuna nuta dish, but using salmon, and cilantro. Surprisingly tasty!

I’ve always enjoyed tuna nuta, but doubted whether this dish would work. Salmon has a stronger taste than tuna, but doesn’t seem to conflict with the sweet miso flavor. And the cilantro worked somehow. Again I would have guessed a subtler herb would be required – but again I was wrong! A subtler herb taste would get lost.

Yoshimoto’s interpretation of the rainbow roll shows his true creative genius. This staid sushi standard has been around since it’s invention in California in the 1970’s.

pieces of rainbow roll, deconstructedA typical rainbow roll has several types of toppings, usually fish or the occasional avocado. They are always layered on top of an inside-out roll, with some sort of crab, crab salad, or at least kani stick inside. They’ve been done to death for years, even as the sushi industry continues to evolve, and as the American sushi restaurants continue to up their game.

Yoshimoto approaches this sushi staple the way Picasso looked at women’s faces. Deconstructing the main features without worrying about the actual arrangement of the elements.

He takes five typical toppings and removes the entire substrate. That’s right, there’s no roll here, not even rice! The “fillings” to these standalone units are comprised of various ingredients like micro-greens, avocado, spicy tuna, and such. He serves them in a fantastic Hide-style sauce. It’s incredibly tasty and innovative!

Live Lobster SashimiLobster sashimi was the star of the show since the lobsters were still alive. This is a famous Japanese technique called ikizukuri which is uncommon outside of Japan.

The basic premise if that freshness is key. The lobster meat does not get an opportunity to get tougher and blander, as it invariably does after the animal dies. Live lobster meat is soft and sweet. I’m going to leave it at that, in order to talk more about all the other fabulous fare – for more, read the earlier post about live lobster sashimi.

Lobster Miso SoupLobster miso soup was the obvious next course. It is unthinkable to discard all but the best part, and soup has always been the way to use whatever’s left.

But in this case we had large heads full of meat, and the result was luxurious. Otherwise this would have been a classic recipe, with a creamy miso flavor with plenty of seaweed and tofu.

Lobster claw over Japanese potato saladThe lobster claws were served over Japanese potato salad with a deep fried shiso leaf. No idea at all what went into the great tasting Japanese potato salad either. But I can tell you this – the sauce here was incredible. Again.

Some of the ingredients in this rich sauce were soy sauce, mirin, sesame oil, sweet chili sauce, chili powder, butter amd more. I think this sauce is a closely guarded secret.

White Dragon RollWe also got to try Doraku’s newest roll, the white dragon roll. It features shrimp tempura & avocado inside, topped with hamachi, garlic aioli, kabayaki sauce, ao nori and garlic chips. There’s one garlic chip per piece, representing the scales of the dragon.

I’m a sucker for hamachi, so any roll topped with this delectable fish has my attention already. But the thing that really took this one over the top was the garlic. So many other cuisines depend on garlic for so many of their dishes, but Japanese food rarely makes use of this great ingredient. In this roll it has a great balancing effect, cutting through the seafood and sweet tastes. Absurdly eatable!

We left Doraku still trying to put it all in perspective. Looking back, it all seems to have been about boldness. The common thread in our dishes was a bold approach to flavoring.

Happy DinersBoldness for lobster is the sweet soft treat awarded to those who can get it served in this style. Boldness for a traditional “comfort food” soup is to add lobster! Boldness in interpreting traditional classics like rainbow roll means deciding nothing’s sacred and really taking a fresh look. Boldness for a delicate, thinly sliced scallop dish is to torch ti, and use a racy combination of yuzu and plum paste to flavor it. And yes, bold is to make American style rolls that feature multiple dominant tastes in a way that actually works – no easy feat!

This was not a study in classic tastes, it was a look at bold flavor profiles in new combinations. And we were the lucky recipients who learned a thing or two. Thank you Hide-san (@hideyoshimoto) for that amazing dinner!

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