Misadventures with Miso

Misadventures with Miso

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Nodoguro Does Yoshoku Fast Food the Slow Way

It may be in the past but there is good reason to relive the fun that was Nodoguro's take on Japanese Fast Food. Once again the talents of Team Nodoguro were very much in evidence. I say team because while Chef Ryan Roadhouse is the star, his wife Elena not only is expert hostess and server but also creates so much of the decor for Nodoguro each month along with her father. The other part of that team is Mark Wooten who besides growing much of the specialty produce at Phantom Rabbit Farm on the West Side also is there every night as sous chef.

Entering the restaurant one was greeted by clever plays on fast food restaurant images. Fast food in Japan is part of yoshoku, food that originated outside of Japan but got a Japanese spin in order to make it more palatable to Japanese tastes. What Nodoguro did for November was to take that food back to the US and give it another spin. Bringing it into being as slow food.

We were greeted with decor that included a "menu board" complete with pictures in case you weren't sure what the menu items were.

Each place setting came with a red tray, utensils and our own "happy meal" bag. All the diners were amused by this.

Inside was our toy and a bit of candy. Nice to get a tiny mikan since it's a popular fruit in Japan in the winter.

This night was special because Chef Ryan Roadhouse was being honored by Portland Monthly as their choice for Rising Star Chef of 2014. Portland Monthly's Karen Brooks spoke about Nodoguro and Ryan and then presented him a well deserved plaque. Nice to see talent and creativity recognized. Considering this is Portland, it takes a lot to stand out.

While Portland Monthly was presenting the dinner the menu was the same as the others for November. The difference was the inclusion of three paired drinks in the price.

Honors completed we set into to our first course of crab, bread and butter. I did not catch all of what was said in reference to this dish as part of Japanese fast food but I know that croquettes were probably one of the first real "fast foods" in Japan. Different ingredients like fish, potato and crab were breaded and then deep fried. Vendors and small shops sold them to people who did not have time to cook a lot of food so they became a popular staple starting around 1900. I'm not sure if this was the inspiration or if it was a take on bread and butter sandwiches which were also popular in Japan. However Ryan's wonderful dungeness crab coated with a butter sauce and lightly dusted with bread crumbs was a great way to start off the evening. It also reflected the theme of translating fast cooked food into slow cooked food.

Next up was soy cured ocean trout sashimi with dots of Oregon wasabi. The trout was cured in ponzu, soy sauce, mirin and sake. Elena spoke about how this dish was a representation of wartime food. Many fish normally part of the Japanese diet prior to the war were no longer available so fish like ocean trout were used more often. For me, this was excellent sashimi which was not just a replacement fish.

One of the most creative translations of fast food into slow food were the tofu nuggets with special sauce. No breading or frying for these nuggets. Topped with a bit of katsuobushi (bonito flakes), paired with fresh uni and flavored with dashi and aged shoyu (soy sauce) this wasn't something you would find at your local drive-through. I think Chef Roadhouse likes uni because it's made an appearance at all three of the dinners I have experienced.

Tonight we had a pairing of three drinks with our meal. First up was a 2012 Oregon Pinot Gris from Fossil and Fawn. Followed by a very nice jumai sake. I liked having less drinks since I do have to drive over a bridge or two to get home. I know not everyone drinks a lot and the three glasses worked really well for me.

While I was hoping for a recreation of a Mos Shrimp Sandwich, Chef Ryan's Fillet o Fish was just as good. They served up a yuan yaki Sablefish (black cod) with a special tartar sauce which was nicely seasoned with fresh dill and tiny fish roe. The ladies at the table loved this dish.

I don't remember any fast food restaurants serving sukiyaki when I visited Japan, but I know it's a really popular dish. I think in part because everyone can participate in making it round the dining table. Also chocolate seems to becoming more popular to use beyond sweets and actually was a limited item for dipping french fries in at fast food franchise Lotteria. While that didn't go over so well there, it definitely did at Nodoguro as part of his sukiyaki. This version combined thinly sliced wagyu beef, purple skinned potatoes raised by Mark Wooten at Phantom Rabbit Farm, a bit of miso, egg sauce since egg is used to dip sukiyaki meat into and of course dark chocolate. This dish was so delicious! I rarely eat beef but if it was served up like this I'd fail that.

Speaking of Mark Wooten, here he is with Chef Roadhouse plating up our food. I asked Mark about being a part of Nodoguro and he said he loves it. It definitely shows in everything they do.

Our third drink pairing for the night was this muscat. I think because the dishes were yoshoku inspired having wine with the food worked. I normally prefer sake or beer if eating Japanese food.

Now for what was probably the most insane dish of the night although most people didn't know what went into it. Ryan Roadhouse's tribute to Coco Ichiban. Just check my links if you want to know more about Coco Ichiban. It's one of many curry restaurants in Japan and is well known for it's very delicious curry. But wait, this isn't curry, it's a salad. Ryan used in-season persimmon, miyoga ginger bud, and if I remember correctly Phantom Rabbit gobo (burdock). What makes this insane is that Ryan cooked curry, reduced it down, clarified it and used that essence to make a vinaigrette. Even if you have cooked curry from roux you know this is no simple task. I know of a number of people that would love that vinaigrette if he ever decides to bottle it.

We weren't done yet. Seeing there was a Yoshinoya bowl on the menu I was a little worried. But no fear for this one was topped with delicious seared Bonito, onion, mizuna and spicy soy on top of very fine rice. I forgot to ask what kind of rice that was.

Glad to see the Chef Ryan Roadhouse signature dashimaki tamago. Always good.

 Finally at our dessert which was a remaking of the ever popular Kit Kat. If you are wondering about my Kit Kat experience just check my links. Which reminds me I have a few more (like several) I should post about. So in comparison to that how did this slow food version stack up? Nestle you need to do a coconut milk chocolate Kit Kat ASAP. This was that good. Vanilla waffer cookie topped with chocolate with toasted soybeans sprinkled over with mounds of whipped coconut milk and chocolate. It was amazingly good. I need to find out how to make that whipped coconut milk because I'd happily use it in place of whipped cream for everything.

At the end of the dinner. We were given coffee and a little white box. Inside was this cute little hamburger omonju. Omonju are Japanese sweets which originated as part of tea ceremonies to be eaten before drinking tea in order to balance the bitter taste from the tea. 

This darling version had a wonderful cinnamon flavor and looked just like a tiny cheese burger. I think the very talented Tomoe creates these and we are very lucky to enjoy them.

Sadly it's the end of November so there are no more dates for "MacDonalds" at Nodoguro. But you can bet there will be another inspirational theme for December and the months to come. Plus Ryan is starting to offer limited omakase sushi nights. If that interests you I suggest signing up for Nodoguro's emails because the ones for December sold out quickly. They also will email information for the theme each month and a link to make reservations (when they open up) if you want to experience something very unique and original.

Nodoguro's website is here
and Nodoguro is located at 3737 SE Hawthorne Blvd, Portland, OR 97214

「のどぐろ」レストランは伝統的な日本料理をベースとしたクリエィティブでユニークなスタイルの創作料理で皆様をおもてなしいたします。
日本のファントムラビット牧場から直輸入した和の食材や、地元の旬の肉や魚を使ったお料理を季節やテーマに合わせてご提供いたします。
夕食には数量限定のおまかせ寿司もご用意しております。

シェフのライアン・ロードハウスは福岡で修業後、地元ポートランドの日本食レストラン「やざくさ」、「ます」で修業を重ね、「のどぐろ」を開店いたしました。
「のどぐろ」は3735 SE Hawthorne ブルバードにあり、皆様のお越しをお待ちしております。座席数が限られております。ご予約はhttp://nodoguropdx.com/からどうぞ。皆様のお越しをお待ち申し上げます。

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