Misadventures with Miso

Misadventures with Miso

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Nodoguro Goes Zen

The theme for the most recent Nodoguro Japanese dinner is "Three Day Monk". In that light the decor took a Zen quality to highlight the dinner. The Three Day Monk is a Japanese proverb reflecting how one may get into something wholeheartedly but then give up after a few days.

The counter where diners sit had a path of stones along with a writing pad and rock gardens for guests to enjoy while Chef Ryan Roadhouse prepared the first course. It would be interesting to see how the concept played out in the dishes.

There too a bit of real wasabi rested on a stone waiting to be used in the dishes.

Also in front of diners were the drink pairings and by the glass selections for the dinner.

The pinot noir and riesling selected by beverage director Paul Willenberg.

And the pairings of wine and sake for the evening.

Our Three Day Monk. Now if he was a really dedicated monk he would eat shōjin ryōri, which is temple food or devotion food. It is vegetarian using seasonal ingredients and sea vegetables with a focus on being healthy and tasting good and also reflecting delicacy in the flavors.

While diners see Chef Roadhouse and others putting together the dishes, we don't see all the prep work that goes on beforehand, such as the dishes to the right of the chef.

So to start our first dish was Gomodofu which was ground sesame tofu made by Chef Roadhouse. It is made by grinding sesame seeds into a paste and adding water and kudzu flour. Served with a bit of dashi this was a simple but soft and delicious beginning to the meal. This was to reflect a dish more in line with shōjin ryōri as our monk attempts to be devoted to the Buddhist way  of eating.

We were then presented with this lovely tray decorated with Japanese maple leaves. Hassun which is the second serving of a kaiseki dinner. Hassun sets the seasonal tone of a kaiseki meal, which for us was summer with the green leaves. Our monk was getting a little fancy with his food since kaiseki is now considered fine Japanese dining.

The dish on the left was Kinpura which is braised burdock. Finely sliced this was a little spicy with what may have been ginger and very delicious.

The middle dish was fresh Tsukemono which was pickled cucumber.

On the right I believed that was shin shoga, which is new ginger, with burdock root. I think the Zen atmosphere of the dinner relaxed me so much I did not take as many notes as I usually do. I really need a tape recorder since there are so many details with these dishes that I miss.

Chef Roadhouse plating our next course. I did take advantage of the Zen rock garden. If I didn't have cats I would so have one of those at home.

Our monk was still trying to stick with the more Buddhist leanings to the food. Age-ni was up next which was deep fried then simmered or poached figs in a ginger dashi with mizuna (Japanese mustard). Another delicious dish with a lot of delicate flavor.

And then our monk gave up and went straight into eating fish. Tataki or seared Oregon Albacore sashimi with garlic and a little bit of fresh wasabi graced our plates.

A closer look at that Oregon Albacore. This year the Albacore has been amazing and this was no exception. Really wonderful fish and nicely prepared.

Well the monk fell off the wagon with his eating. Funoyaki which was a Dungeness Crab Pizza with dashi injected tomato and I think egg yolk on top of a miso corn crust. Interesting story is funoyaki was created by tea master Sen Rikyu as a cooked wheat bread originally served as a wagashi or Japanese sweet. This too was sweet in regard to the corn crust. Fun dish.

Also of note were the little glass decorations made by Chef Roadhouse at Portland glass artist Kurumi Conley's studio. I mentioned her work in my Monday post here.

While it looked like our monk was trying to get back to eating more vegetarian type food, daikons are a root vegetable and some Buddhists do not eat root vegetables. Ours was Furofuki which was poached daikon turnip with hatchi miso in a vinegar dashi and another lovely dish. I did not hear what the leafy greens were. It's amazing the flavor Chef Roadhouse gets in what looks like a simple dish.

I think our monk gave up when we got the Dengaku dish. This was duck with miso, flash fried Japanese eggplant and seaweed, topped with green onion. Dengaku usually has tofu or eggplant as the main ingredient. I have to say this was the most delicious eggplant I have eaten. I'd love to know the recipe for it but I bet it's a secret. If Chef Roadhouse ever writes a cookbook I hope he puts this in there.

Our monk reached the point where he was eating American influenced food. Chef Roadhouse did a spin on his Gohan course topping the rice with Washington Chinook salmon, corn, chantrelles, and  koji butter. This was a nice change to the rice course with the corn adding sweetness and the koji butter a hint of smoke.

The Tamago Jidori Omelet made an appearance and while some temple food may include eggs usually it's not. So our monk wasn't very devoted to sticking with shōjin ryōri. By the way Jidori refers to free range chickens so it appears eggs from free range chickens were used for the omelet.

While we were enjoying our Jidori Omelet, Chef Roadhouse and his Sous Chef for the night Colin Yoshimoto were breaking up our final dish.

Which was called Momo. Momo is peaches in Japanese and so this dish was Peaches and Cream. Chef Roadhouse made buttermilk ice cream dished up with peaches topped with a tiny shiso leaf and bits of almond. Understandable why the monk gave up trying to not eat all this good food.

My impressions after eating this dinner were that Chef Roadhouse has stepped up his game, bringing in more Japanese techniques and flavors to his cooking than he has previously. I've been to most of the dinners and this one while a little more traditional still had modern innovations while reflecting Japanese traditional cuisine. It really was an outstanding meal.

Next up for Nodoguro will be Harajuku. One of my favorite places to be so I'm looking forward to seeing how the alt-fashion center of Japan is interpreted. Will it be trendy with J-Pop and fun colors? At least I hope not Gwen Stefani's Harajuku.

Nodoguro is a small creative Japanese restaurant at 3735 SE Hawthorne Boulevard in Portland, Oregon. To attend just make a reservation at their ticket page here. This is also where they put up tickets for their Ultimate Sushi dinners. To find out when those and new dinner tickets are listed you can sign up for their news letter here.

「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。

Thank you for reading my blog. Pardon any typos or misspellings since it took me a bit of time writing this and now it is late.

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