Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Oakland Chefs to Cook ‘Every Little Bit’ for Japanese Pop-Up in SF

By Luke Tsai
Tue, Feb 12, 2013 at 7:00 AM

A pop-up event in San Francisco’s Mission district next week will star a soba master from the Japanese countryside and two Japanese chefs from Oakland, all of whom share a penchant for cooking with offal — animal and vegetable parts that typically get thrown away.

On Thursday, February 21, from 6 p.m. until late, Oakland chefs Chikara Ono (of the Piedmont Avenue izakaya B-Dama) and Sylvan Mishima Brackett (proprietor of the Peko Peko catering company) will hold court at the Mission night club Bruno’s (2389 Mission St.) for an event they’ve dubbed “Mottainai-kai,” or “Eat Every Little Bit.”

They’ll be joined by Kanji Nakatani, who runs two small soba restaurants (Soba Ro and Soba Ra) in Japan in the Saitama prefecture to the north of Tokyo, as well as Nancy Singleton Hachisu, a writer and Slow Food educator who lives on a traditional organic farm in Japan.

One layer of Peko Pekos beautiful New Years bento box (via Facebook).
  • One layer of Peko Peko's beautiful New Year's bento box (via Facebook).
Mishima Brackett, who for many years was the creative director at Chez Panisse (and whose super-luxe New Year’s osechi bento What the Fork recently covered), said the seed of the idea grew from conversations with Ono, whom he’d met when Ono served sushi at a Chez Panisse holiday party that Peko Peko had catered. The two chefs found that they shared an abiding interest in the concept of mottainai (“don’t waste”), which in traditional Japanese cooking means that every edible part of a food gets used — not just the organ meats that Westerners typically identify as “offal,” but also the parts of vegetables that are often thrown out: the leaves, the peel, the tops.

“[The concept] was probably borne out of poverty, but it also makes for pretty interesting food,” Mishima Brackett said.

And so the two started making plans to collaborate on a dinner that would showcase “all of these weird bits,” as Mishima Brackett put it. For next week’s event, they’ll serve dishes like grilled fish heads, stewed beef tendon, simmered daikon leaves, and pickled wasabi root tops.

For noodle lovers, though, the event’s headliner is Nakatani — a master of the buckwheat noodles known as soba — with whom Mishima Brackett trained over the course of several visits to Japan starting in 2007. Nakatani’s cooking, too, is marked by the mottainai philosophy.

“We'd cut the outer skin off of daikon before making tsuma (garnish for sashimi) and would hang it in the sun to dry,” Mishima Brackett recalled. “After [Nakatani had] collected enough dry daikon skins (kiriboshidaikon), he would rehydrate it and serve it as an otoshi — a snack that comes with the first drink.”

Other “little bits” that Nakatani would use included persimmon skins and the guts of fresh samna (Pacific saury). The only thing Mishima Brackett ever saw him throw away? The bits of fried batter that are left over after making tempura: “I think he made so much of them, he had no desire to eat them.”

Via Facebook
  • Via Facebook
Diners who can’t make it across the Bay for the pop-up will have another opportunity to try Nakatani’s food on Sunday, February 24, as he’ll be cooking a special four-course soba lunch at Chez Panisse ($75, call 510-548-5049 for reservations).

For Thursday’s dinner, Mishima Brackett noted that the setup will be something along the lines of a cocktail party — there won’t be seated table service. There will, however, be good Japanese beer on tap and plenty of sake and shochu.

Tickets ($35$37.50, not including drinks) will be on sale via Good Eggs, though as of this posting that link has yet to be activated. (Update: The link should be working now. Note that "Kronner Burger" is the same location as Bruno's.)

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