Savoring a Grand Tasting of Sushi and SashimiJune 17, 2014
By Judith Mazza, Vice Chargée de Presse, Bailliage of Greater Washington, D.C.
A form of sushi is now ubiquitous, and can be found in grocery stores all over the country, but bearing little resemblance to “the real thing.” Sushi Oishii, located in Rockville, Maryland, is making sushi the way it is made in Japan. It is preparing the best and most authentic sashimi and sushi that the Bailliage of Greater Washington has ever been served. With few exceptions, all of the fish and seafood is certified as being flown in directly from Japan, and is only 36 hours out of the water. The results, the most stunning and delicious preparations, are not easily found elsewhere.
A tasting committee consisting of Mid-Atlantic Chambellan/Bailli Paul Haar, Dame de la Chaîne Xiangnan Su Haar, Vice Echanson Ellen Kirsh, Vice Chargée de Presse Judith Mazza, Vice Chargée de Missions Louise Harkavy, Tony Clifford and Alex Clifford gathered to work on selecting the saké which would be paired with the courses. Vice Echanson Ellen Kirsh brought 15 different sakés for us to taste. It was quite interesting to experience the wide range of flavors the saké had, and as we tasted, it became clear to us which sake would pair with which course.
General Manager Jay Wu and Chef Yi (Ricky) Wang and the rest of their staff were very excited that the Chaîne chose Sushi Oishii for a Chaîne on the Edge dinner. Chaîne on the Edge dinners are held at restaurant which do not have a fine dining ambiance but where the food, often ethnic, is authentic to that particular culture and fabulous. We began with a reception where we enjoyed Jean Claude Bougrier Blanc de Blancs Vouvray Brut NV (Loire Valley, France). Once seated, we were served a Geoduck soup, which opened our palates. What followed was a spectacular tour d’ force of sushi and sashimi preparations which we talked about long afterwards.
Our Vice Echanson, Ellen Kirsh had arranged for us to have as our guest, chef and sommelier Philip Prifold, an expert on saké and a culinary instructor at the Art Institute of Washington, provided a most interesting and insightful commentary to us throughout the meal about the various types of saké paired with the sushi and sashimi. He and his wife, Esmeralda so enjoyed the experience that we invited him to join the Chaîne, which he did on the spot! In addition, we were also delighted to have Ryan Thackaberry, General Manager of the Tabard Inn and his restaurant manager Cara Craig in attendance as well as Maître de Table Restauranteur and General Manager of the Willard Hotel, Patrick Birchall and his wife Katiuska.
We began with two hand rolls -- a spicy tuna roll and an eel and avocado roll, both of which paired nicely with the sparkling Vouvray we enjoyed during the reception. Following the hand rolls, we were served a scallop trio which consisted of a salad of scallop skirt, a scallop with its roe and a scallop sashimi. This was enjoyed with the Mura Mura Meadow Saké (Oregon, United States). We had never had a salad of scallop skirt or tasted scallop with its roe before this. The scallop sashimi had a wonderful natural sweetness, tasting only of the sea, its delicate texture attesting to its freshness.
The foie gras course presented us with two bites of the best seared foie gras that any of us had eaten in a long while. Who would have expected this very authentic Japanese sushi restaurant to cook seared foie gras as a perfect bite? The pairing with the Rihku Dreamy Clouds Saké NV (Japan) was impeccable. The unfiltered saké picked up beautifully on the sweet notes of the foie gras. The foie gras was placed atop two small rounds of rice held together with a pink soy wrap. It was beautiful to see.
The sashimi platter which followed was a stunning presentation. We had Geoduck sashimi atop a plateau of crushed ice. Spread out in a beautiful array was Madai (red sea bream), Shima-aji (striped Jack fish), Amaebi (sweet shrimp) and Hokkigai (Arctic surf clam). Sweet shrimp are the only shrimp which are best served raw as they have a natural sweetness and wonderful texture. The Geoduck sashimi was tender and sweet, having just been flown in from California. The surf clam was beautiful and tender. They were all so delicious, it would be difficult to determine which sashimi was our favorite! We enjoyed this course with the Gekkeikan Silver Saké NV (Japan).
What followed next was a beautiful platter of nigiri sushi consisting of salmon, Uni (sea urchin) and toro (fatty tuna). We received two pieces of each type, sliced generously. The underlying rice had the proper texture and was well seasoned. The Uni, like the Geoduck, had just been flown in from California since it is has become difficult to find in Japanese waters. The toro was pale in color due to its high fat content. I had not had toro like this outside of Japan. The nigiri just melted in our mouths. The nigiri was paired with the Ginga Shizuku Divine Droplets NV (Japan).
Each table next received a beautiful dragon roll paired with the Ginga Shizuku Divine Droplets NV (Japan). The presentation was artful and playful. The avocado was sliced beautifully and formed the outer shell of the dragon. The inside of the maki roll had the right proportion of rice and eel. Each bite was had the right balance of umami flavor and creamy texture. Despite how full we were becoming, there was not one piece left.
Our final savory course was the zaru udon course. Here, thick udon noodles are presented on a platter with a small plate of seasonings (sesame seeds, wasabi and slivers of nori) and a second small bowl with a light dipping sauce. Seasonings were added to the sauce and clung to the noodles when lifted out of the dipping sauce and eaten. This course was paired with the Sho Chiku Bai Organic Saké NV (Japan). The textures and pleasing tastes were the right end to the savory portion of the meal. A dessert consisting of three flavors of mochi ice cream ended the meal. We enjoyed the rounds of mango, red bean and green tea ice cream, each surrounded by a layer of pounded glutinous rice which added a chewy layer to the confection.
Chef Yi (Ricky) Wang came out to enthusiastic applause and answered questions about the meal. Mid-Atlantic Chambellan/Bailli Paul Haar presented Chef Ricky and General Manager Jay Wu with a ceramic Chaîne plate. We know that we had experienced an extraordinary meal, created with caring, generosity and warm hospitality. Many confrères who came to this heretofore unknown restaurant said that they can’t wait to return.