When it comes to making the most flavorful, satisfying food, Ichi Sushi + Ni Bar Chef Time Archuleta proves that some of the best dishes are often the simplest.
For this week’s blog, he chose to feature the restaurant’s uni masu iridashi, which is basically lightly battered and fried ocean trout in a homemade dashi broth. While it was recently highlighted in it’s restaurant week menu, it’s one of Ichi’s signature dishes. It’s the dish, Archuleta says, that most represents the message the restaurant wants to send with its food.
“This dish is a great example of what we do here: taking japanese traditions, techniques and flavor profiles and bringing them to the american palate,” Archuleta says. “We consider ourselves a teaching restaurant in that we try give customers as much exposure to Japanese food as we can.”
The chef claims that Japanese food has become a little too “california-ized,” with too many sauces covering the flavors of the fish, and argues that some things have gotten lost in translation. “We actually try to refrain from serving things like soy sauce and wasabi when not needed,” he says. “We focus on elevating the fish and the fish flavor — not hiding the fish, ever. The fish and the rice are the stars.”
Chef came up with this dish after a research trip to Japan 2 years ago, when he first had the idea of making the back of the sushi restaurant into an izakaya. “This dish we had in pretty much every izakaya restaurant I went to in Tokyo,” he says. “It’s a very typical Japanese dish and that’s why I put it on the menu.”
Here’s how it’s done, in a few simple steps:
First, make the dashi, which is simply water, kelp and bonito flakes. To make, bring a handful of kelp to a boil in a pot of 4 quarts water. Once boiling, take it off the heat and add in about 1 1/2 quarts of bonito flakes. Let the bonito flakes sit in the water until it extracts all the flavor from the flakes, about 20 minutes. You’ll know it’s done when all the bonito flakes fall to the bottom of the pot and no longer float. Strain it really well to get a clear, beautiful broth.
For prep, all you need to do is grate 2 tablespoons of daikon radish and 1 teaspoon ginger. The grated daikon and ginger will help cut the fat of the fish and help you digest the fish oil. It also serves to balance out the dish’s flavor. Then, thinly slice 1 scallion, soak the slices in water for about 10 minutes and drain. This cuts a little of the scallion’s astringency.
Lightly batter the whole fish filet, skin and all, in potato starch. The reason for using potato starch is that doesn’t have much flavor to overpower the fish. It also contains less moisture than other flours, so that it crisps up better, making it perfect for frying. Ichi uses salmon when it’s local. Otherwise, it uses farm-raised ocean trout from New Zealand. (You basically need a fish with a high fat content.) The fish is then deep-fried in rice bran oil at 350°F for about 3 to 5 minutes, or until it stops bubbling. The fish should be slightly rare inside.
Lastly, simply layer the components. Place the fish inside the broth and top with the grated radish, ginger and scallion. Serve and enjoy your perfectly balanced Japanese specialty.