Adventures in Eating & Cooking
After moving back to Center City Philadelphia (been away in Queen Lane for 2.5 years), I am pleasantly surprised by the explosion of sushi restaurants. Back in the day, I remember that the decent but limited sushi bars (Fat Salmon and Aki Sushi) dominated the sushi scene in Philly. Now the number of sushi options have tripled, which hopefully means that competition will drive down the price and raise the quality of Philly sushi!~
The first Friday, I had dinner with Steff at Kabukiza on 13th Street. Steff is adorable because she hates raw fish, so we opted for three of the mostly cooked chef specialty rolls. She picked the Black Dragon Roll, made with delicious cooked eel, unagi sauce, tempura, and cucumber. This is an excellent choice because if one does go with the cooked sushi, grilled unagi with its signature sauce is the way to go!
I picked the Kabuki Roll, which has a few bits of raw tuna and yellowtail along with eel. (I love yellowtail and eel!!) This was drenched in spicy sauce and unagi sauce, which was a bit too much for me. I can be a purist when it comes to sushi, so I prefer to taste the raw fish in its natural form. Perhaps I was a pelican in my past life… However, I think a small amount of spicy tuna sauce, unagi sauce, or even creative fruit sauces/salts/spices/dips can really complement raw fish. Kabukiza just overdid it a little for my taste.
I would say that the Crazy Friday Roll was one of my favorite of the night, because it was basically a spider roll wrapped in a sexy dress of pink rice paper. However, I was not a fan of her cheap makeup – the “chef special sauce” was merely hoisin sauce. Hoisin is a flavorful sauce commonly used in Canton-style stir-fry, which while delicious on Chinese vegetables, feels like a cheap knock-off of unagi sauce on sushi. Nonetheless, the sauce could not detract from the spider roll’s inherent deliciousness – soft shell crab tempura made with real crab meat, minced spicy tuna, cool cucumber slices, and rich avocado.
Overall, I’d say Kabukiza makes some solid fusion rolls (pretty similar to Fat Salmon’s) for a decent price ($10-13), though I’d have to try some of their classic raw rolls to be certain.
My second Friday night, I spent trying Weshima’s new favorite food spot of Philadelphia: Hai Street Kitchen. This is a relatively new spot by 18th Street. It looks like a trendy new food spot, with minimal seating and a layout like a froyo bar. What makes Hai Street so cool and trendy is that it specializes in “sushi burritos“, which to me seems more like a clever marketing strategy than an original idea (since hand rolls have long existed in Japan to support its busy workforce). Still, to package sushi in the form of a burrito is pretty creative, so I’ll give credit where its due.
I tried her highly recommended Slammin’ Salmon burrito with fresh tataki salmon, a variety pickled veggies that I don’t even recognize, and delicious spicy sauce (gochujang?) I asked for extra spicy sauce and wasabi guacamole, hehe. I really enjoyed this roll because it tasted crisp and fresh with all the raw veggies. (I think there might have been some pickled in ginger sauce.) My only wish is that they added more salmon to the roll, because the fish is really the star of the show, but the veggies took over the stage. And realistically for $10, I think they could have been a bit more generous with the salmon.
Although I have to say from a purist standpoint that the Spicy Miso Soup definitely not miso soup, it was pretty darn delicious!! I didn’t taste a bit of fermented soybean, classically used in miso. There was no seaweed, seafood, etc. The only classic ingredient present was tofu. However, however, however… it had wonderfully roasted eggplant, crisp cabbage, and a variety of other veggies, all mixed in a savory, spicy soup. I would definitely come back for this spicy non-miso vegetable soup!
It may be too cold for ice cream, but it’s never too cold for gelato!!! After dinner, Weshima and I went to Capogiro (our fave) for dessert. She swears by the pistachio, hazelnut, and macademia flavors because she’s a lu-nuttic. I always get my favorite – the dark and serious, scuro dark chocolate. I also tried Capogiro’s new flavor: burnt sugar, which was also really yummy. In fact, Weshima couldn’t stop stealing this flavor from my cup! (Hehe, silly Weshima.) I don’t blame her though, because the burnt sugar was essentially crème brûlée in gelato form. Capogiro really nailed the indescribable taste of crème brûlée’s difficult flame-caramelized cream shell.