Each week on the Food Chain, we ask a chef to describe a dish he or she recently enjoyed. The chef who prepared the dish responds and then picks his or her own memorable meal. On and on it goes. Last week, Michael Cimarusti was enraptured by the soft-boiled egg with caviar at Colicchio & Sons. What have you loved lately, Tom?
“At Oishii in Boston I had a dish of hamachi that was smoked to order under a glass. It was this combination of wood, maybe dried beans or something like that, and this smoked hamachi in a soy-mirin reduction, a sauce that was almost a ponzu sauce. The hamachi is kind of half-in, half-out of the sauce, they light the wood on fire, get it smoking, and put a glass over the whole thing so it all gets smoky. It’s very cool.”
Oishii chef-owner Ting Yen explains the dish:
“I’m a third-generation chef: My dad owned a few restaurants in the late 80s in Boston. One of his favorite dishes was a smoked fish and I used that for inspiration, but modified the look and style.
I use sakura, which is cherry blossom wood, to smoke everything. I originally used applewood, but it burnt people’s eyes. Sakura is nice, because the smoke has a very gentle flavor, and the smell is very relaxing. First, I separately smoke some fleur de sel and red beans, so the salt absorbs the flavor of the beans. Before serving, I brush the hamachi with a sauce of ginger syrup, soy sauce, and anise, and top it with the fleur de sel.
My father cooked the fish before he smoked it, but I serve mine raw. He smoked his fish in the kitchen, but I do mine on the table so you can see it. I use the glass to trap some of the smoke so you can smell the flavors. People like to see all the action on the table and it’s become one of the restaurant’s signature dishes.”