My family loves to eat.
We sometimes come up with the silliest excuses (our Shih-tzu’s birthday, end of Ramadan (we’re Catholic), the moon is orange, and so on) for eating out, just to rationalize our gluttonous exploits. Recently though, as a result of our expanding waist-lines and my parents’ growing assortment of maintenance drugs, we have decided to limit our binging (with the exception of birthdays and appropriate holidays) to Sunday dinners.
Earlier during the week, I received a text message from Caoboy offering his mouth-watering Australian Rib-eye steaks and Lamb Chops. I have ordered 2 kilos of the former a few months before so I know- at the remarkably reasonable price of P575/kilo- that I could not possibly go wrong with his steaks. So, I text him back to order two kilos once again, knowing that he will be delivering them promptly Saturday afternoon. I then warn everyone in the household, “We’re having steak on Sunday!”
The last time we had some Caoboy rib-eyes, we served them with grilled prawns and double-baked potatoes. This time, though, we opted for a Japanese dinner. Since I was oh so generous in providing the steaks, I delegated the task of cooking to my sisters, Queenbee and Foxychef. Queenbee offered to prepare Gyoza (Japanese dumplings, steamed then fried- both the original pork version and a few beef ones for Matt), while Foxychef cooked pretty much everything else.
We started with some fresh Tuna and Salmon Sashimi that I scored from Hatchin (the delightful Japanese grocery in Metropolitan Ave., Makati). They are sold in small slabs (approximately 200 grams each), then you can ask their butcher to slice them up for you if you want. I personally prefer having them slice the raw fish for me, since I do not have the proper tools and expertise needed to come up with sleek, clean-cut fillets. The sashimi was served with steaming bowls of Miso Soup.
Also purchased from Hatchin are some Kisu Furai (panko-crusted fish fillet) and Tuna Flakes Katsu that were simply deep-fried at home. To accompany the fried fish dishes, I prepared a simple remoulade made out of Japanese mayonnaise, white onions, green onions, chives and a little lemon juice. The Kisu was quite good with the citrus-y dressing, but I do not think we will be buying the Tuna Katsu again, which was pretty bland and dry.
The steaks were cooked Teppanyaki-style. Obviously, we do not have a Teppan griddle to cook on, so we had to make do with this table-top Yakiniku grill. The rib-eyes was seared whole, and then sliced again into small cubes before it is cooked a final time. The simply-seasoned chunks are then topped by a drizzle of the garlic-infused oil that Foxychef prepared beforehand. Everyone raved about how tender and flavourful the beef was. Even the smaller cubes of meat that were overcooked remained succulent and juicy.
For our side dish, we had Japanese fried rice cooked in the style of the old Takayama Restaurant in Wilson St., one of our family’s favourite restos back when it was still open. Countless times we sat in front of one of their Teppan tables with our Titas and cousins, salivating over the mountain of fried rice expertly prepared by their chefs. After watching their table-top theatrics for several years, we were able to commit to memory the right amount of butter, garlic, onions, soy sauce, etc. to replicate that dish we fell in love with as kids.
Wine and Japanese food is a tricky thing for me. With the sweetness of the sauces, strong garlic and onion flavours... it’s hard to come up with a traditional (stews/steaks= zinfandel or shiraz; or fresh oysters= champagne or sauvignon blanc) combination that is tried and tested. So I decided to just go with something I really enjoy drinking and would be great with the humid weather that evening.
Ever since I tried Torres’ Vina Esmeralda- a dry, slightly fruity white wine- at the CACS wine seminar a couple of years ago, I was smitten. I loved the floral and fruit-laden nose, and how- despite its obvious tropical flavours- it remains crisp and bright on the palate. Anyway, I love drinking that wine, so I went with it. And although it was not a pairing made in heaven, drinking a wine I love just made dinner more enjoyable nevertheless. Next time, though, I think I’ll just buy a few cans of Kirin or Asahi.
I have to note that Queenbee’s Gyoza did not exactly turn out the way she wanted, but it was still quite tasty. She got the wrong wrapper, so she just fried it, pinsek frito-style. Instead of the usual sweet-chili sauce that accompanies pinsek frito, we still used the traditional vinegar and soy dipping sauce for Gyoza. Don’t worry, Queenbee, everyone has their off-nights, but we still loved your Crispy Japanese Pockets.
We were so stuffed after that dinner that some of us took a stroll up and down our street to digest; Matt, the resident “garbage compactor”, just sat slumped on a chair in the front yard as he smoked his cigs- signs, of course, that it was another great Sunday dinner.
Cao Ocampo's Australian Rib-eyes and Lambchops
Hatchin Japanese Grocery
Tel. # (632) 8905038