Hatchi Series – 7/29/10

Hatchi Series: Makoto Okuwa

10250 Santa Monica Blvd
Century City, CA 90067

Breadbar is probably more famous for LudoBites and its Hatchi series, than for its bread and rather unspectacular food. The Century City location hosts the Hatchi Series, in which chefs around the city will pop-in for one night and prepare a menu of 8 courses for $8 each. On this night, Makoto Okuwa was in the kitchen under the theme The Power of Miso. Okuwa is the chef of Manhattan Beach’s Sashi Restaurant, and recently appeared on Iron Chef America, challenging Michael Symon.

I would say my expectations going into this meal were “cautiously optimistic.” Many of the reviews I’ve heard of Sashi have been mixed, but this meal at Hatchi would be a different type of meal. Our party enjoying this meal consisted of Holly of The Michelin Project, Kevin of kevinEats, and Ila of I Nom Things. Given that the menu consists of only 8 courses, each of us decided to order one of each.

To start with, we had Breadbar’s Epi bread with a trio of miso butters.

This was a pretty good Epi bread, served warm. The butters were made of a white miso, red miso, and a mugi miso (barley-based). Each had its unique characteristics; I enjoyed the mildly sweet white miso most.

Miso Butter Poached Loch Duart Salmon, Feta Cheese, Micro Basil, Tomato Foam, Pesto Powder

The salmon was great – extremely moist, flaky and tender. Just perfectly cooked. The tomato foam added a nice touch, as well as the strong pesto powder.

Asian Donuts Peach “Taco”, Smoked Lobster, Miso Frozen Yogurt, Paddle Fish Caviar

This was a pretty unique dish. The miso added some sweetness to the frozen yogurt; combined with the smokiness of the lobster – I thought this pairing went well.

California Baby Squid and Tuna Sashimi “Nuta” Style, Pickled Scallion, Wakame Seaweed Chips

I enjoyed this dish, even though it had a lot of components. The squid was nicely cooked, with just a little bit of “chew.” It is filled with sweet blue crab – as its consistency is a little mushy, I was looking for something with a crunch. The wakame seaweed chip provided that great crunchy texture. The squid ink miso was not overpowering in any way, and added some depth of flavor.  The tuna, topped with wasabi, was delicious as well.

Sushi Rice Salad “Shikai Maki” Cucumber, Prosciutto, Tuna, Fontina, Miso Emulsion

The “Shikai Maki” is one of Okuwa’s signature dishes – a beautifully-rolled square-shaped roll; in this case filled with tuna, fontina and cucumber. I found the fontina to be a little overpowering, as I did not get a lot of tuna flavor. I loved the slices of prosciutto adding some richness to the dish.

Taiwan Miso Ramen Soup, Ground Steak, Bean Sprouts, Red Hot Chili, Crispy Egg Noodle

This was one of my favorite dishes of the night, and probably most surprising. Reading the description, one would not think this is essentially a “soup and sandwich (burger)” dish. The noodles, instead of being in the soup, were fried and became the “bun” of the burger. The burger, cooked to a medium, was quite good – and the noodle “bun” worked quite well.

The miso soup was delicious with a deep, clean flavor. It was fairly spicy..almost too spicy for me..but I tend to have a low heat tolerance.

Dengaku “Trio” Braised Wagyu with Summer Truffle, Crispy Tofu with Kinome, Polenta with Chorizo

The wagyu beef (I think this was a short rib) was incredibly tender, as expected. It was flavorful, but I was missing some of the truffle flavor. The polenta and tofu additions were nice.

Caramel Miso Cream, Almond Cinnamon Crumble, Apricot Sorbet, Butter Milk Foam

The first of the desserts was an interesting caramel miso cream. I quite enjoyed this – both the caramel and miso were evident in a light pudding-like dessert. I really enjoyed the almond cinnamon crumble in adding some texture, and the buttermilk foam lightened the dish out.

Pliable Yuzu Curd, Candied Raspberry, Chocolate Sponge, Dry Miso Powder, Sweet Miso Chips, Coconut Sorbet

The final dish of the night focused on a yuzu curd. Somewhat tofu-like in texture, it was definitely very tart, a characteristic of the yuzu fruit.  I enjoyed the coconut sorbet to go along with the yuzu, and the chocolate cake added some sweetness.

I was quite pleased with the meal. My expectations were largely based on what I have heard about Sashi, and Chef Okuwa explained that this meal was very different. His Manhattan Beach restaurant has to, in some respect, cater to its clientele; the Breadbar meal gave him free reign to craft a menu that was representative of himself as a chef. I’m glad he was able to show off what he has to offer, and look forward to trying more of his cuisine in the future.

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