One of my favorite Japanese restaurants in NYC is Bohemian. (You can read about it here: http://www.foodlovergirl.com/bohemian/ and here: http://www.foodlovergirl.com/bohemian-2/ ). After I first visited Bohemian several years ago, I got connected to Bohemian Nishiazabu in Japan. When we finally got to visit Bohemian Nishiazabu (You can read about it here: http://www.foodlovergirl.com/bohemian-nishiazabu/). We went back for the second time, and it was as fabulous as before…total food heaven!
Bohemian restaurants are the perfect hide away spots, offering super relaxing atmosphere and very high quality food. They keep their address a secret, you have to be referred by who has been there, or be invited from the restaurant in order to make a reservation. Why? They want this place to be a quiet, peaceful “hang-out” place for family and friends, and therefore, by only allowing family or friends of the customers who have been there, they can make that possible. (So, don’t ask me to refer you to this restaurant if I don’t personally know you!)
The inside is really small when it comes to seating, with just around 10 seats total. The space itself is not small, it is nice and comfy, have good amount of room around the restaurant.
And all these space is managed by one incredible person, Kazu-san. He is our host, chef, server and yes, he does the bill and payment as well. I don’t know how he does it, but he does it so well! There is a kitchen by the counter, and that is where all the hard work is hidden.
We started off with some excellent sake, Mikotsuru Junmai Ginjo Black Label. This is one of Kazu-san’s favorite, he says, made in Nagano. The sad thing is that they no longer manufacture this sake anymore, and therefore it is super rare nowadays. This was their LAST BOTTLE at Bohemian… And guess what, he wanted us to enjoy it!
It was very smooth with just the right amount of sharpness. Yes, the perfect beginning of the perfect dinner…
The first appetizer item was Dadacha Mame from Yamagata. They are a kind of edamame, some refer to it as “The king of edamame.” It is a local specialty during Autumn, and Bohemian who serves nothing but the best got the shipment of them from Yamagata. The taste is exceptional with sweetness to it. Almost nutty like peanut. Super awesome!
Next was Junsai From Akita. Junsai is a kind of perennial water plant that grows in shallow ponds and swamps. Since more than 90 percent of junsai is made up of water, the quality of water is very important. And that is where Akita comes in. Akita is often referred to as “the land of beautiful water” and with that, they make a perfect home for junsai. It has slimy texture, and best enjoyed fresh. Here at Bohemian, junsai was marinated in vinegar, giving it an extra kick of refreshing flavor. It is a super healthy food, and it went down smooth…
Bohemian does quality and freshness to the max. Next item is another proof of that. Chicken Sashimi Tataki from Kagoshima. You can have the chicken prepared this way only with a super fresh chicken. It came with a honey infused dipping sauce, and fresh ginger.
I felt like it didn’t need any sauce or ginger with the chicken, since it was very flavorful on its own. Super fresh, melt in your mouth good. However, after tasting the chicken with the dipping sauce, I realized the reason why it came with it. The dipping sauce and grated ginger enhance the flavor of the chicken to the next level. It was a perfect marriage of fresh chicken and the tangy sweet dipping sauce.
Then we moved onto real sashimi, the fish kind that is. We received five kinds of sashimi: Suzuki (Japanese sea bass), Ishidai (striped beakfish), Hamachi, Katsuo, and Otoro (fatty tuna). The fish are prepared with special Japanese technique that keeps the fish meat fresh much longer. It is done by removing the nerve of the fish after the fish is killed. From what I heard, by removing the nerve, the fish doesn’t realize that it is dead, and therefore, it stays fresh for much longer time. It also prevent the Umami to diminish from the fish, so sashimi prepared with this technique is extra delicious.
And these sashimi pieces are given at the peak of their process. Each sashimi had nice natural oil, fatty-ness, and yes, super fresh! It was as if we got these fish right off the water. Color of the meat is also beautiful, even more so than regular sashimi from other places. The meat is still nice and firm, really great texture. What a wonderful way to completely appreciate the fish!
And now, it is time for charcoal grill to be set up…Love their grilled, well, anything and everything. I also enjoy the anticipation of the precious ingredients being cooked slowly right in front of my eyes.
Kazu-san brought beautiful ingredients to be grilled, veggies and fish. Look at these glistening mountain of yummy, fresh, quality items… So excited! He placed a few items on the grill, in the order he wants us to taste them.
This is the fun part. Eating food while watching the next items being cooked on the small grill. He knows how much heat, fire, and time each ingredients require to reach their peak of consumption. I tell you, this is food heaven…
The first two off the grill was Anago (salt-water eels) and Picnic Corn. Cute name, I know. Doesn’t it just make you want to go out for a picnic with this corn?
We were recommended to eat the Anago with wasabi and a little bit of salt. It was super juicy and fluffy, with crunchy exterior. It had great natural oil to it, making it extra juicy.
The Picnic Corn is from Hokkaido, and we were lucky because they were in the peak of the season. We we told they can only get it this month only when they are at their peak. They are small and sweet, a bit smaller than some other corn, but the flavor is one of the best in the country. And yes, I agree. It was awesome! Sweet, plump and meaty, we enjoyed it a lot!
Next one was a bit worry some, since it was a pepper in bright red… I thought it was going to be super spicy. But in contrary, it was nice and sweet, kind of like paprika. It is Manganji Togarashi from Kyoto. It is usually green, and is referred to as “the king of togarashi” (they sure have lots of kings and queens in their refrigerator with all the high-end ingredients!). It is large and the meat is thick, yet soft and sweet. It doesn’t have much seeds, making it easier to eat. And you guessed it, red ones are even more precious than the regular green ones. It had great texture and loved the sweetness. Super delicious!
Then Nishin (Japanese herring) which is a Fall fish. Everything they offer here is all in season. The freshest, most delicious time to eat them. it was really juicy like all other fishes here, with great natural oil. Perfect with just a little bit of salt and soy sauce. Since it is grilled slowly for a while, everything including the bones can be eaten. The bones were crunchy, so was the skin. You can’t get this fish in this perfect condition anywhere else (in my opinion)…
Next, this shiny fish is Kinmendai (golden eye snapper). Kazu san acquired this particular fish from the fishermen in Izu, the best of the best. The kind of Kinmedai that the fishermen would love to eat. I don’t know how he gets all these awesome connections across the country, but it sure is amazing!
It had beautiful red-orange skin that was glistening, and was nice and crunchy. The fish meat was super juicy. Melt in your mouth. It had a little sweetness to it, my taste buds were all cheering with joy.
At this point, we moved onto a different sake. It is Shichiken Hiyaoroshi Junmai from Yamanashi. The interesting thing about this sake is that this is Autumn Only sake, yes, you can get this during limited season only.
It is really refreshing flavor, but with a hint of honeydew melon, making it more mild and smooth. Great second sake to be paired with these amazing meal. The sake does not fight for the spot light, but instead, plays a great side kick, enhancing the flavor of the food.
Then, we saw a large Shiitake Mushroom placed on the grill. I immediately remembered a fabulous shiitake mushroom filled with Ikura (salmon roe), thinking how amazing it would be to have that again…
Kazu san must have read my mind, he brought out a container filled with red jewels, and filled the shiitake mushroom with it! Oh my goodness I was above and beyond ecstatic!!!
Look at this mountain of ikura… I was already in food heaven, but this puts me on the throne of the food heaven. He gets his ikura directly from the source, who is a salmon fisherman (of course). That is how he can get so much super fresh, beautiful and amazing ikura. If my taste buds were happy before this, they were in total euphoric state now…
And let’s not forget the fish that was grilled with the mushroom. It is Pacific Saury. It was prepared in type of Japanese pickle style called nukazuke, made by fermenting the fish in rice bran. It made the fish to have kind of tangy flavor. It was great with just a little bit of salt. As all the other fish pieces, it had the crunchy skin with juicy meat.
When I saw tomatoes on the grill, I knew the end was near… We had the grilled tomato closed to the end of our meal at our last visit. Then we saw some unusual item placed on the grill. It looked almost like some kind of beef. But it was Maguro Cheeks!!! What!!! I have heard that the fish cheeks are the best part of the fish, but then I have never had tuna cheeks like this ever before.
The tuna cheeks were seasoned with special spice called Okinawa Island Pepper, and marinated in Japanese Tare Sauce. It gets the dark color from the marinade. And it was fabulous! It was firm yet tender, juicy, meaty and super delicious. The texture was more firm than regular fish, without being hard. It was very satisfying. So good!!!
The tomatoes are from Hokkaido, and they are grilled to the point of falling apart. At this point, nice, large cooked fillet of Unagi (eel) is placed on the grill as well.
And the tomatoes are done! They fall apart easily with a touch, letting out a hot steam. It is like a super rich, earthy tomato soup or paste. The natural flavor of tomato is fully present and alive here, and it warmed me up from inside and out. Such simple item can leave such huge impression!
One of the last items is the raw egg over steamed white rice. It is an easy, common household dish that I used to have when I was growing up in Japan. you can only do that with super fresh eggs. And super duper fresh eggs they have, from Fukuoka.
The rice is from Yamagata, and is so shiny and beautiful. We first had a small bowl of rice with cooked eel over it. Look at our last course. Isn’t it just grand? Oh how I wish if I was right back in Bohemian Nishiazabu right now…
So, the eel, it is also a special, high quality kind. It is from Kagoshima, and it was first cooked in kitchen with Kazu san special spice, and finish it up on grill. Add a little dab of wasabi, and dig in.
The eel was sooo good, flavorful, earthy, soft and fluffy. Not fishy in any way. Great seasoning and went perfectly with the white rice. The eel over rice is usually eaten with sweet and tangy sauce, but this one didn’t need anything extra. The flavor was so solid, you don’t want to cover it up.
The Miso Soup was great too. It had large Japanese Littleneck Clams, and fresh chives.
Japanese littleneck clams are much smaller than these. They are special kind called “ootsubu” or large littleneck clams. The soup had nice depth to it, very comforting to the stomach. A perfect ending to the perfect dinner.
We had the row egg over rice with the miso soup. Look how fresh the egg is. It has a nice, round yolk, structurally strong and almost standing up. The color is bright orange and defined.
The yolk is surrounded by structurally strong egg white, not flat nor runny. I broke the yolk, mixed it with the rice, added a little soy sauce and went at it. It was great, simple, comfy flavor of home. No matter how full we were (in which we were really full), we just can’t end the meals at Bohemian Nishiazabu without this dish!
We ended with a nice cup of hot tea. Love the handmade cups… Now, we took it all in, all the wonderful dishes and drinks, slowly sinking in with the tea. Ah, the food heaven, thank you for inviting us in and letting us stay for a while.
Another crazy amazing time here at Bohemian Nishiazabu. It is the best kept secret and will stay our favorite restaurant in Japan. Thank you Kazu san for all the amazing food, concentrated in seafood for us seafood lovers. I can’t wait to go back for more wonderful meal there!