Mouthing Off

Pan-fried Asian: Getting a recipe from Isamu "Sam" Furuichi, who has taken over the kitchen at Samurai (see review above), turned out to be a tough task. Not only does Furuichi speak little English, but Samurai refused to share its recipes, and Furuichi's co-workers said they were too busy to translate a recipe for him. And so I offer up one of my favorite, easy Japanese-based recipes from Terrific Pacific, an Asian-cooking-novice-friendly collection of recipes mainly from Southeast Asia. Written by Anya von Bremzen, Terrific Pacific is noteworthy because it offers a lot of fusion items that have Asian influences but don't require as many exotic ingredients to prepare as authentic dishes would.

This pan-fried salmon is Chinese and Japanese in nature and is fairly foolproof. I usually side it with wild rice and steamed vegetables for a simple, quick weekday family dinner. Note that you have to marinate the salmon for at least two hours (von Bremzen says for up to four); I've set it to soak in the morning before work and cooked it in the evening with no noticeable difference in results.

Pan-Fried Salmon
(from Terrific Pacific; reprinted with permission)
4 salmon fillets, about 6 ounces each, skin on
1/4 cup sake or medium-dry sherry
1 1/2 tsp. grated fresh ginger
1 tsp. minced garlic
3 1/2 Tbsp. tamari soy sauce
3 tsp. Oriental sesame oil
2 scallions, smashed
2 1/2 tsp. hot Chinese mustard
1 1/2 tsp. (packed) light brown sugar, plus more to taste
2 Tbsp. peanut or canola oil
3 Tbsp. fish stock or water

1. Rinse the salmon fillets and pat dry with paper towels.
2. In a shallow dish, whisk together the sake, ginger, garlic, 2 1/2 tablespoons of the soy sauce, 1 teaspoon of the sesame oil, and scallions. Add the salmon fillets and turn to coat with the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for 2 to 4 hours, turning occasionally.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together remaining soy sauce, remaining sesame oil, the hot mustard and the brown sugar. Remove the salmon from the marinade and shake off the excess. Strain and reserve the marinade. Brush the skin of the salmon with the mustard glaze.

4. Heat peanut oil in large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat until almost smoking. Add the salmon, glazed side down, and cook until the skin is deep golden and crispy, about 4 minutes. Brush the skinless side of the salmon with mustard glaze and turn it over. Cook until salmon is opaque and just begins to flake, about 2 or 3 minutes more. Carefully remove salmon to heatproof platter and keep warm in a 200-degree oven while making the sauce. (If you simply cover the salmon with foil to keep it warm, the skin gets soggy.)

5. Add the reserved marinade and stock or water to skillet and reduce over high heat for about 3 minutes. Adjust brown sugar to taste. Divide salmon among four plates and spoon sauce around it. Serves 4.

Domo slo-mo: Last year at this time I was raving about Domo, the Japanese country-style restaurant at 1365 Osage ("It Had to Be Yuba," December 4, 1997). The place seemed completely authentic, from decor to food to the martial arts classes conducted next door, and I loved almost everything about it.

I hadn't been back to Domo for months, though, and Christine Lazarick, the hairdresser whom I depend on for good restaurant dish as well as good cuts, recently informed me that Domo had undergone a transformation. And not for the better, she warned, as she snapped evil-looking scissors near my head. "You know, we went there after reading how wonderful you thought it was, and we had the worst experience I think I've ever had at a restaurant," Lazarick said. "We waited and waited to get in there--it was close to two hours--and then, when they finally let us in, they were so rude to us. The food was fabulous, but I would never go back."

Lazarick is not the only one who's complaining about Domo. In fact, lately I've been hearing from other diners--four parties at last count--who had similarly miserable experiences there over the past few months. I figured it was time to try Domo again.

When I'd reviewed the unique eatery late last fall, the place had been full but not overflowing. This time around, I had to wait an hour to get in on a Friday night. Domo does not take reservations, and so we sat with several other groups chatting in the sparse but soothingly decorated foyer, waiting for tables to open up. Once we did get seated, a full twenty minutes passed before anyone came to take our drink order, and then the gentleman did so without the slightest hint of apology for our lengthy wait. After placing our food orders, we counted off another 45 minutes with no dinner in sight. We were about to tell our waiter to forget it, but we couldn't get his attention.

When the food finally did appear, though, it was every bit as good as I had remembered. The only other truly provincial Japanese fare I'd encountered in the Denver area was at Furuichi's Matoi, so there's not much out there to compare Domo's food with. But chef/owner Gaku Homma's cooking stands on its own. Once again, he was somehow able to make seaweed taste rich and fresh in the hijiki meshi teishoku ($7.50), a dish of long-stemmed hijiki seaweed cooked with brown rice and bean sprouts, spinach and tofu. And his teriyaki is absolutely authentic. The buta ($6.95), or sliced pork, in the version we ate had been prepared the traditional way: grilled, smoked and basted before being grilled again. The result was pure heaven.

But heavenly food still doesn't excuse the way the staff acts toward people who come into the restaurant and spend a lot of time waiting to hand over their money to support Domo. I know I don't have two extra hours to sit around in a foyer and then get treated as though I owed the staff a favor. (And kids definitely don't have two hours to waste at a place that not only makes them feel unwelcome but actually frowns on them--as I witnessed during my recent Domo visit.) Where's the graciousness that's so cherished in Japan?

"Hey, I think those people at Domo need a good kick in the butt for being so full of themselves," Lazarick said when she warned me about problems there. And she wasn't splitting hairs.

Consider this a whack from me.
I'd also like to put in my two cents regarding Sonoda's at 1620 Market Street. A girlfriend and I recently celebrated my birthday at the sushi bar there. The sushi we ordered was fine, up to Sonoda's usual standards. But we were very disappointed with the sauteed soft-shell crab ($3.95), which came out burned and bitter. In addition, the Krab-and-cucumber salad offered as a complimentary snack was old-tasting and dull, lacking the anticipated snappy vinegar bite, and the miso soup ($1.50) didn't have the slight saltiness and depth of flavor that I've found in the past.

Something's fishy.



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