Last night I went to Nobu Next Door with a couple of friends after a thing in the city. It was far from our first choice, but since it came on the heels of another event and I had 110 miles to drive afterwards, we settled for what was right there, around the corner. I haven’t been to a Nobu franchise since a lunch party several years ago at the decorative trainwreck that is Nobu 57–it looks like 5 different interior designers mudwrestled to see who would get to ornament which surface–but I still have respect for his Peruvian-influenced ability to actually change Japanese cuisine from outside Japan. I had a few epic meals at his joints in NY and Miami back in the day, and because of who I was with luckily didn’t pay a penny for any of them. One’s standards tend to be a tad higher when one foots the bill, I have noticed. Today it feels like a hilarious Clinton-era time capsule all the way down to the too-loud lite house music, but it was convenient. Had I known that they still have bluefin on the menu, I would have kept walking.
After surviving the late drive home by chewing on a quid of coca leaf and cranking some classic rawk, I fell asleep with Japanese food on the brain. Today I was all kinds of busy, and then hijacked my own evening by committing to yet another spontaneous culinary project that I’ll write about soon. So dinner was a punt, but a decent one. I defrosted some unagi, made rice, and whipped up some extra sauce in the form of a locavore’s dream: homemade vinegar and homemade maple syrup reduced with local organic soy sauce. There’s no boner like a righteous boner.
On a side note, I’d just like to say that I know that I’m officially old now because there are approximately fifteen classic rock stations clearly tunable on that one stretch of road and they’re all playing the stuff that comprised the soundtrack to my sullen, unlaid adolescence. “Classic” doesn’t mean 60s music any more; now it’s all bombastic, steroidal arena rock like Boston and Journey and Styx. Does anybody else notice that their vocal harmonies are all identical intervals? Seriously, the vocal breaks from “Renegade” by Styx and Pat Benatar’s “Heartbreaker” are basically interchangeable. Did VH1 make a “Behind the Blow” about this that I should know about? The only other genre with anywhere near the ubiquity of these alleged “classics” on the dial is “New Country” which was perfectly defined by Kinky Friedman a few years back when he referred to Garth Brooks as “The Anti-Hank.” The rest is religion, NPR, smooth jazz,
autotune pop, and “alternative” which is just cock rock with more acne, piercings, and tattoos. Smooth jazz will be one of the big three indicators that future historians will point to when they mark the beginning of the end of our empire. (The other two are fake tits and SUVs). I will never drive without the iPod again.
Aaaaaaaaaanyway, the eel and the rice and the extra sauce. I’m on a wild garlic kick right now, so I took some stems and sautéed them briefly and added them for a nice bright garnish. To make it extra pleasant, I popped a 2009 Chaâteau de Montfort Vouvray demi-sec. It’s barely sweet, really, and the acidity is such that it seems almost dry. But the rich, round sensuality of Vouvray was a good choice to go with the fat sweetness of the eel. I love Vouvray. For the money it often represents some of the best wine for your dollar, it can age well, and it’s very food-friendly. A slightly sweet version like this is genius with almost any Asian food. Good off-dry Northern European whites like this and Riesling and Gewürztraminer have a natural affinity for the spicy, sharply defined flavors of South and East Asian cuisines. They go together like Foreigner and wine coolers.