the grub street diet

Kazu Makino Seeks Out the Quality Fruit

“This grapefruit looked like a grandma, so wrinkly, and it tasted like gold.”

Kazu Makino. Illustration: Sarah Kilcoyne
Kazu Makino. Illustration: Sarah Kilcoyne

Last week, the band Blonde Redhead released Sit Down for Dinner, their tenth studio album. To celebrate, Kazu Makino and her bandmates Amedeo and Simone Pace hosted dinner parties in London, Paris, New York, and Los Angeles. Naturally, it left us wondering: Where does Makino sit down for dinner? That depends. Sometimes at home, where she makes dishes like inari zushi and fried chicken with shiso; other times at Raku, the only place in New York she eats udon; and, when in Paris, at Chez Georges for steak-frites.

Tuesday, September 26
We were in London. I was staying at this hotel, Mama Shelter, for the second time. The first time, I was in a tiny, tiny room. But when I went back, they gave me a normal hotel room. The first stay, I thought, okay, this will be fantastic only if I tell myself I’m on the airplane.

Normally, I don’t like London, but this time I did. Compared to New York, it’s like the countryside. It’s so green and pretty. The cabdrivers are really nice. It’s funny that it’s always raining, but then when the sun comes out a little bit, you appreciate it so much more.

For breakfast, I drank carrot juice and ate one poached egg, strawberries with a mix of coconut yogurt and Greek yogurt, cornflakes, and a drizzle of honey. Also, English Breakfast tea with milk.

I was heading back to Paris. At the Eurostar terminal in London, I got an almond croissant and a caffè macchiato made with oat milk. I can’t remember the names of places in these terminals, but from traveling so much, I know exactly where to go in each station and what to get.

When I’m traveling, I get crazy munchies. It’s like anxiety. I have to be eating all the time. I eat things I would never otherwise eat. I have such a typical, cliché Japanese stomach, so I need to stick to a Japanese diet.
Snacked on some dried mango. My lunch was a salad (I don’t even like salad!) with cheese, chicken, and pistachios. I forgot to get a fork and ate with my hands. There was nobody else around. Later, I snacked on a rice ball with spicy tuna. I got these the night before to have on the train. They’re so good. In Japan, that’s basically traveling food, so for me it’s home.

For dinner in Paris, we got fried chicken with shiso and rice, which we ate with a cabbage salad. I’m in Paris a lot, though I don’t live there, and there’s a market called Kioko that I normally go to. It’s really old-fashioned, very funky. Right by there, there are a few Japanese grocery stores. Those are all kind of boutique. They have very select items. And it’s almost like it’s fashionable. I think Kioko is really good; the ladies who work there look like they go back to Japan every day.

Normally, I would cook a chicken dish that I am always expected to make because people love my chicken. But I’ve been so busy, and I was traveling so much, that when my girlfriend and I went to the grocery store to get the ingredients, she was like, “You know what? You look exhausted. Let’s not do this.” So we bought already-made fried chicken, but it wasn’t popular at all. Nobody ate it.

Here’s how I would make it: You get thighs without bones. You then cut them into cubes. I normally remove the skin, but you don’t have to. Marinate the chicken, in sake, soy sauce, sesame oil, grated garlic, ginger, and a bit of chopped scallion. If you want it to be a little bit sweet, you can put mirin, but maybe I wouldn’t do that. Then you marinate it a few hours to overnight or even days. The important thing is that you mix it quite well. If it’s in a Ziploc bag, you massage the thighs. And then when they’re ready, you coat them with potato starch and deep-fry.

Wednesday, September 27
Matcha and Superfood protein bar. Right now, I’m getting my matcha from Kettl in New York City. I travel with it. I go everywhere with it.

Coffee and black tea don’t do it for me. I like coffee for one day, two days, but I have to go back to matcha, because it doesn’t do the same trick for me. It feels like it wakes you up, but not in a shaky way. You know how coffee makes you a little bit trembly? Matcha feels more like turning on the lightbulb in your head.

Went to lunch at Chez Georges. It’s a typical Paris bistro. The waiters are always the same, which gives the place a totally different vibe. It’s not a part-time thing.

My friends have been eating there forever and ever and ever. It’s near my friend Isabel Marant’s office, and when she wants to treat someone (or herself), it’s where we go. She’s a designer, and I did some music for her new shop in Tokyo, so we were in work mode and super-focused. We were there with these three guys — another band — who had just arrived from Japan. They were in Paris for the first time to attend the show. I suppose Isabelle really wanted to treat them to something super-French. If it weren’t for them, we probably would’ve gotten a bento box from nearby.

Instead, I got what I always get there: Radish and baguette, steak-frites, espresso, and mille-feuille and profiteroles for dessert. We also got pear Calvados, on the house. They said, “Okay, can we treat you to the digestif? This is what we drink after our meals. Would you like to try?” The guys were like, “Yeah, sure.”

Thursday, September 28
I was flying to New York, so at the airport I got a tea and croissant. Thankfully, I was on Air France, because the food is a lot better than on Delta. The food on American planes is, wow, really tough.

During the flight, I ate another rice ball, a chocolate muffin, and fromage blanc. The fromage blanc I really loved. The muffin I shouldn’t have had.

I had to be back in New York to attend a dinner for our album’s release. It was at Public Records in Brooklyn, where the chefs Tanea Cash and Gabriella Mancilla cooked an all-vegan dinner: kabocha squash cream soup, romaine and red endives, a mushroom enchilada taco, Uchepo tamal, tahini-hibiscus cheesecake. I was super-stoked because one of my close friends is a vegan and was in New York. Then she got COVID, so she couldn’t come. It was still really great. Really spicy as well.

Friday, September 29
For breakfast, I had soba with seaweed-sesame sauce, Japanese-style eggs (tamago), pickled plum, and hoji cha. I went back to things I grew up with, to reboot myself.

Ate a grapefruit. This grapefruit looked like a grandma, so wrinkly, and it tasted like gold. I don’t go to normal stores. I go to this co-op in the East Village, and they’re vegetable Nazis. They go out of their way to find local produce that is really, really the quality stuff. Things that look ugly but taste so good.

Later, I had black tea with oat milk and a leftover protein bar.

Saturday, September 30
Breakfast was ochazuke, tea poured over rice with seafood, and more Japanese-style eggs. It’s a stretch to say I made breakfast — ochazuke is not really cooking. In Japan, people eat it either when they’re sick or when they’re super-hungover.

It’s such a soothing food, just tea poured on leftover rice. When I eat it, I think about my grandma. She would do this at the very end of every meal. I think she didn’t want to waste any rice that was stuck on the bottom. She wanted to take it, all of it, so she would just pour a little bit of tea and then remove all the rice that got stuck and eat it with a little bit of pickles.

For lunch, I went to Raku. It’s the only place I go to for udon. My preferred thing is soba. But this place in particular makes really good udon. I got my noodles with thinly sliced beef, spinach, and scallion. They have quality food, and it’s not even that expensive.

I used to shop at Sunrise Mart. The biggest tragedy was that they closed the location on 9th Street. So now I just have to buy things online, or I have a new place called Mogmog in Long Island City. It’s a tiny place, but they have a really good selection.

Right before Sunrise Mart closed, I walked in and the girls who worked there for many years ran up to me like, “Oh my God, we don’t know what the hell you are going to do from now on. We’re closing. What are you going to eat? How are you going to manage?” They were so worried about me. They were almost in tears. It was like, “Thank you so much for your patronage for so many years, but now we have to close.” Japanese people can get emotional like that.

For dinner, I had inari zushi, vinegary rice stuffed in a pocket of deep-fried tofu, and soup with yuba. It’s a very delicate ingredient, but we eat it only for texture. I don’t even know if it has any calories. Not much. Anyway, it originates in Kyoto, where I was born, so I have it stocked up in my house. Or if I’m about to go on tour, then I order a bunch of them, so I would take that on tour and then it’s my emergency food. I don’t buy it from a particular producer. As long as it comes from Kyoto, I’m good.

Sunday, October 1
I flew from New York to Los Angeles for another album-release party at this place called Chainsaw. I ate Sun Chips on the plane — the ones in the blue bag, not Harvest Cheddar. Two bags of black tea.

Then, all day we didn’t eat. We were so hungry by the time we got to the place, and they made things for us before dinner started. The chef, Karla Subero Pittol, is Venezuelan. We had some arepas, which were amazing, yucca, and a guava margarita. Also, an arugula salad with corn, shishito, and cheese that was so yum. Dessert was a lime cake with cream.

It was outdoors, and we were just watching them cook while we ate. It was the ultimate feeling of being looked after. Even the ingredients were lying around, and they all looked so fresh. Things were growing on the trees. It was just like a little paradise that at first looked like just anybody’s backyard. That’s the true fancy, I think — getting the right ingredients.

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