Wednesday, November 3, 2010

HM:Chefs in the City

My throat is raw and I can barely talk. I was so wired Monday night, I didn't sleep until 2am. All good signs....another successful Chefs in the City!
This was the third year The Rotary Club has organized the event, held this year November 1st at The Columbo Hall. More than 15 restaurants, wineries and breweries took part in the event with the proceeds going to charity. Initiatives locally and around the world are funded by Rotary that aim to eradicate poverty and disease, provide education, job training and promote peace. Sounds serious...but they know how to throw a great party too!

This was the second year Sanbiki has taken part in the event. Masato and I had Kishino to help us set up, serve and socialize. Last year we really didn't know what to expect. Predictably, we ended up swamped when 300+ hungry guests converged on our tiny table. This year felt better. The chaos was semi-organized, and while we ran out of sushi early (again!) we had Kishino's homemade dessert to compensate. Fluffy cream cheese mousse with blueberry compote and shortbread cookie crumble. Yum. Almost enough to forgive and forget our sushi shortage...
California and dynamite rolls are best-sellers at the restaurant and proved to be popular with the crowd at Chefs in the City. A few guests were disappointed that there was none of the raw stuff. With limited refrigeration and space we didn't want to take a chance and serve something that was not up to "Sanbiki Standards". Veggie options were somewhat limited at the event, so vegetarian diners were pleased that we had vegan sushi rolls on hand.

Chicken "Karaage" sounds fancy but it's basically a Japanese chicken wing. Corn starch and seasoning in the batter make it extra crunchy and flavourful. Keeping Sanbiki's oil clean and hot ensures that deep fried items are crispy, never greasy. Karaage is a great finger food and a perfect dish for Chefs in the City. Seating and table space are virtually non-existant; people are there to sip wine, sample new foods and socialize. The karaage was a hit. More than 100 peices in under 2 hours. But you have to admit it is a little bit "safe"...
So we had decided earlier some experimentation was in order. We wanted to try a recipe that people would not have tried, but nothing too off the wall. We find that Sanbiki's guests are usually willing to try new dishes, but it makes it easier if they recognize some of the ingredients or cooking techniques. For example a smoked salmon sushi roll is a good place for a fledgling sushi- eater to start. You may have no idea what sushi is all about but it's pretty hard to screw up smoked salmon.
So Kishino worked out a recipe for a wonderful winter soup. I gave up trying to give guests a long-winded, flowery description and settled on calling it "Japanese style chicken noodle soup". As the evening went on and my voice went away, I managed a barely audible "soup...good". But that hardly does her dish justice.
She started out with happodashi, a homemade Japanese stock made from dried fish, konbu (kelp), light soy sauce and a pinch of sugar. It's full of "umami"; flavourful and delicious. To the happodashi she added mushroom and chicken broth. It was important that the broth be kept separated from the other ingredients so the flavours could be tasted separately and so certain ingredients did not lose their crispy texture. But we had to keep it easy to serve and more importantly easy for guests to eat!
We decided to serve the soup in small disposable cups. We prepped all the solid ingredients; chunks of cooked chicken, King Trumpet mushrooms, yam noodles, cooked burdock and carrot, and seaweed. Just before serving we placed these components into a cup.
As guests approached the table, Kishino would ladle the piping hot broth from a pot and top the cup off, finishing the soup with a drop of fragrant sesame oil and fresh green onion. The smell of the hot soup and the autumn colours (orange carrot; dark brown burdock) drew more diners to our table.
Now we continue to ponder new weird and wonderful ways to showcase seasonal ingredients in our dishes at the restaurant. The weather is growing cooler and we are seeing the sushi orders slide slightly. At the same time we are scrambling to find enough bowls to serve our customers tempura and chicken udon. What could make winter in BC better than a big bowl of steaming soup chock full of noodles, veggies and chicken or tempura. Does it get any better? You tell us! We are always open to suggestions.

Recently...customers ask for Ramen, Beef donburi, and more varied lunch specials...GYUDON (Big beef rice bowl coming soon....)

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