Saturday, October 24, 2009

If you don't like omakase, I don't like you

Or at least, I'll have a really hard time taking your opinions about "good food" seriously. Omakase, or chef's choice, is often the best way to branch out and try new things that you never knew you'd like (or possibly dislike). Last night, me and 9 other folks visited San Francisco's Jai Yun Restaurant for what was one of the greatest Chinese food feasts of my life. If you haven't been and you care about Chinese food and you're nearby, get a reservation ASAP. This morning I started thinking more about this style of dining/eating.

You don't have to go out to a sushi restaurant to experience omakase, though that is context where this word comes from. But the idea that you'd go out to eat, pay some amount of money, and have limited say in what you get is what's important. As I'm not allergic to any foods, it's certainly easier to be voiceless, but again, that's just a detail and has nothing to do with the spirit of omakase.

Do you loathe "prix fixe" meals? Don't take me out to eat. I'll admit that I'm not always in the mood for this, but more often than not, I'm game. It doesn't have to be fancy. It could be some authentic Americana chips and dip at your place, but the point is that it's exposure to something cherished.

When I was in Korea, probably one of the greatest meals I ate was this crazy package-o-ramen soup mixed with spam and hot dogs and spicy as hell. If you told me about the ingredients weeks in advance and tried to get me excited you'd have a hard time, but in the moment, my friend Kihyun knew I'd be up for it, and I'm so grateful he let me experience this meal. He could've taken me out, trying to impress me or something, to eat more crazy sea urchin sashimi, but variety is indeed the spice of life. And Koreans love spicy, oh brother. This soup dish came about as South Koreans were trading with American soldiers during the Korean war, and has become a national pasttime these days - everyone at the restaurant  was eating this spicy, hearty soup for lunch.

So if you haven't done it in awhile, tell the chef at one of your favorite places to surprise you - let him/her make something special for you that they love to cook. Don't think twice and don't waste a bite.

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