Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Family Recipe 12-27-2011

Location: 231 Eldridge St.
Time: 8:30pm
People: RB and myself

Feelings: When I tell people that I cook Japanese food for CK almost every night, I hear questions like, "You make sushi and ramen everyday?" Sushi and ramen are indeed delicious Japanese staples, but they are far from Japanese homestyle meals. I am sure if Japanese people ate those dishes everyday, the famous longest life expectancy rate would drop dramatically.

After meeting up with JLam and friends in East Village for some drinks, RB and I headed over to a new Japanese gastropub, Family Recipe in Lower East Side. Here, you can taste Japanese homecooking with a twist of different culinary cultures created by a Tokyo-born Akiko Turnauer whose resume includes Nobu and Kitchen Club.

The space is cramped but sleek. I recommend getting here early. There were some counter seats available, but we were asked to wait for few minutes for a table that was opening shortly. The service was prompt and friendly with Japanese hospitality. The staff was not Japanese, but they had the mannerism and politeness that exuded Japanese politeness.

The menu was a bit confusing. We were unsure what was an appetizer, tapas or main dish, but it seemed all were meant to be shared. There were many vegan and vegetarian dishes available, for most Japanese homecooking involves much vegetarian food with dashi. Japanese home cooking staples like tsukemono ($6) and fish could be found as well as a more New York favorite, pork belly buns ($12.50 for two). We skipped what seemed to be the smaller plates and just ordered two multi grain rice bowls: Slow-cooked grass fed 36 hour short ribs ($17 with spring onion, hot sesame miso sauce) and sesame burdock root and carrot ($12 with pine nut, nori, carrot sauce).

The rice bowls were served in small cast iron pots. People who are used to Korean cuisine might be disappointed by the lack of crispy rice, but we don't have a tradition of scraping crispy rice at the bottom. (although I wish we did) The subtle, clean flavor was present--no frills, not traditional Japanese cuisine by any means. It was just your tasty, everyday home meal. RB thought his short ribs were delicious. The scrumptious contrast of texture in the bowl added delight with every bite.

We finished the meal with Goat Milk Panna Cotta ($8) with green tea gelee which was very good. The panna cotta was airy and smooth, and goat milk gave a strong nutty flavor. But we couldn't help but envy the next table enjoying an adorable sextuplet of tiny ice cream cones.

The food was not mind blowing by any means, but it is something that I would crave and want to eat everyday. Family Recipe seems to give an answer to David Chang and the trend of Asian street food: Asian street food and home cooked meals don't need to have powerful flavors. It can be subtle, well balanced and thoughtfully executed. It doesn't need to cater to the mainstream palate or portion standard. I could taste the soulful flavors in a creative manner, and the chef's life story and different cultural influences are integrated in each dish at this intimate space. In the end, the food is about telling a story--from one chef to the customers.

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