Sunday, September 28, 2008

rock n roll

We spent Saturday driving around from South San Francisco (to take the twins to their first swim lesson), to Union City for a money group meeting, then back up to Vacaville to visit Tomo Hiteo at Rock N Roll Sushi.

While we had been bringing the twins swimming at our pool, this was the first time that they would be in a large pool with tons of other kids and people in it. The class was half an hour, the hubby and a friend of the sister-in-law sat in the bleachers while the sister-in-law and I took the kids in. The first class was more of an orientation to the water, with ages between 14 months and 3 years. We learned a few songs that the adults would lift the kids in and out of the water. I think the adults got more exercise than the kids, since we had to lift them in and out of the pool. The class was only 30 minutes, which I think was just right as one of the twins hit her breaking point in terms of information/sensation overload and started melting down. We managed to get them dressed and walk the block and a half back to the house.

At money group, had a discussion of the various bailouts, what do they mean, how we got into this mess, and kinds of things to prepare financially to weather the storm. Another member showed off their Warriors Season tickets that they thought they wouldn't be able to afford for another 10 years, but that through their personal money management were able to jump in now. We also gave some tips to one member whose husband works at a call center and who has to deal with a slew of irate callers day in and day out. It's a difficult job with little training on how to really deal with people. We gave him some tips that essentially create a game of it, where he can doodle what he thinks the people look like, since he's an artist or put in a dollar to a jar whenever he's answered the "crazy of the day". When you are faced with dealing with that many irate people on a constant basis, it's easy to start to think, maybe they're normal and I'm crazy. Hopefully, the change in mindset of how he views his work will help him with his stress levels.

We couldn't linger too long at money group, and headed back up to Oakland to pick up a couple of friends to head to Vacaville. We hadn't seen Tomo since he left a restaurant in Pleasanton. Fortunately, he often calls us when he lands at his next restaurant. But, we hadn't been able to get up to Vacaville til now. We had almost forgotten how dining with him is more a culinary stimulation than a dining experience.

The experience is rather very simple. Sit at the bar, ask what's fresh, point to other interesting things, tell him you're full, then stop. It's actually challenging keeping up with how rapidly he prepares the next dish. None of the items are on the actual restaurant menu. Often, his coworkers nor the regular patrons there have any idea the level at which he can prepare dishes, so he gets quite a crowd when he serves things. He understands that most people want what they know as sushi, the rolls, some sushi, so for the most part he prepares that. But if he gets a chance to test out his constantly developing menu on some one, he will. You can see the wheels of his mind turn when you simply ask for uni (sea urchin). In any case, the food is always always extremely fresh. We ask for some things, then he offers up others. For example, we had quite a few scallops since they were very very fresh that day.

We've been watching him develop his "menu" and watched him go through a phase where he was obsessed with southwest flavors: bbq, cactus syrup, hot sauce. When we saw him last, he commented how Americans love to taste the sauces and not the fish, which he commented with a bit of disdain. But I noticed how he actually started to use more and more sauces, layers of them, yet in every dish, none of the sauces overpowered each other nor masked the flavor of the fish.

Our menu included the following dishes that I can remember for now:
-Salmon (sashimi is basic sauces)
-monkfish liver - which he marinates in white wine for a week to get rid of the heaviness. this dish is topped with roe and gold flakes, on a leaf of sashimi leaf that has a minty-basillyness to it.
-marinated oyster wrapped in smoked salmon and topped with roasted rice
-a slightly spicy fish cocktail
-uni served on top of sweet-shrimp with the tail toasted crunchy so you could eat that too
-scallops in a milky green tea sauce
-super white tuna - topped with a thin slice of jalapeno
-bbq hamachi - on a mini flame pot fueled by vodka and rubbing alcohol. I had this in one of the first times we met him, when he used a different fuel. The alcohol left no extra bad flavors on the fish. We took it off with the fish half cooked which made for a lovely texture contrast.
-tako/octopus - a relatively simple serving, which is fine because his octopus is so tender, steamed for 17 minutes, no more, no less; he tells us octopus is good for women to eat, enhances mental capacities (we're not sure why it only works for women)
-aji/mackerel wrapped in sashimi leaf and seaweed, tempura fried with layers of green tea sauce and soy sauce - a great crunchy outside with the fish melting in the middle

ooh I think this is all of it. I had only remembered 9 dishes last night, but it looks like we made it through 10. whew! And while we were all full, none of us felt heavy. What I love about Tomo's food is that the freshness and marrying of flavors really makes you feel lighter. We also drank an ultra premium sake, I think it said Heikkenien or something like that on the bottle.

And again, the second the first dish was in our mouths, the 2nd dish was already plated to be served.

The drive back, the hubby drove, speeding back at 80 mph feeling energized from it.

Distance is not an obstacle when the experience you get at the end is really immeasurable.

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