10 Years, 50th Birthday, 100 guests
Here is my fish order.
25 lbs. Yellowfin Tuna, 3 lbs. Sea Bream Fillet, 4lbs. Albacore Loin, 5 lbs. Ocean Trout, 5 lbs. Kanpachi Fillet, 3lbs. Dungeness Crab Meat, 7lbs. Black Cod, 4 lbs. King Ora Salmon, 2lbs. of White Shrimp, 3 lbs. of Scallops. Salmon Roe, and White SturgeonCaviar.
In our prep kitchen, I am cooking three batches of rice – total 100 cups of cooked rice, ready to be mixed with our house made sushi vinegar. It's 9 am. The party starts at 6 pm, but I need to prep fish, cut vegetables, pack the van, and drive down to Palo Alto, where the party is.
I soak Ocean Trout and Salmon in sugar. After 30 minutes, rinse in water, and soak the fillet in salt for 20 minutes. This is called shime, a Japanese curing technique similar to the one done for smoked Salmon. It's normally done with salt alone, but when done with sugar, it adds a nice sweet taste to the Salmon. After curing, I place the fillet into a plastic bag, injecting hickory smoke into the bag using a portable battery operated smoke gun. Then, I store the fillet in the fridge overnight. When I open the bag, nice hickory aroma emirates from the Salmon fillet; this smoking is an extra step, and makes a world of difference.
For Spicy Tuna, I scrape so-called Tuna Pieces – small pieces that arise from filleting the whole fish – with a spoon. Tuna tastes good when chunky. You may be tempted to use a knife to chop the tuna pieces (it may be faster), but the chopped tuna is mushy and loses a nice tuna flavor. Yes, it is timid and time consuming to scrape. But to make tasty spicy tuna, it is a step I would never skip. Mix freshly scraped tuna with Sriracha, Mayo and Sesame oil. After a couple of hours, spicy tuna starts to taste better.
There is nothing special about our Baked Black Cod. At least, that's what I think. Many clients said it is "the best" and "better than that famous sushi restaurant." (sorry, I cannot mention that here, because if I do, I may sound too arrogant.) To make the marinate – miso, orange juice, some Shio Koji - a miracle sauce that makes everything tastes better, Agave and Mirin. Marinate the sliced cod overnight and put in the oven for twenty minutes. The key is to bake at a low temperature – 275 °F/135 °C.
Dungeness carb needs nothing else except squeeze of lemon. 1 lemon per 2 lbs. should do the trick. It is certainly the best tasting crabmeat around, full of savory taste.
For Sea Bream, Konbu curing is the best. Soak the dry Konbu in water to hydrate, then wrap the skinned Sea Bream fillet with it. After overnight, umami from Konbu is transferred into Sea Bream. To serve, make a small thin slice, fresh lemon juice, sprinkle of Himalayan Salt, pin peppercorn, and White Truffle oil. Yum!
Not normally done, but, did you know wrapping Tuna with Konbu also produces umami rice Tuna? In fact, I say wrap (almost) all the fish with Konbu and see what happens. You'll never know what you are going to get until you try it.
How about shrimp? This one is special. It's one of the most sustainable shrimp I know. The best part? It's pathogen-free, meaning we can eat it raw. Yes, raw white shrimp. It's sweet like Spot Prawn (aka Amaebi). The difference is this white shrimp tastes so clean because it is grown in a controlled tank with pure filtered water. Amazing. Just so you know, normally, white shrimp for sushi is cooked. First, pierce the back with a bamboo stick, and put into boiling water for 2-3 minutes. Remove it from the water, and soak in ice water to cool. Remove the bamboo stick and peel the shell. Using the knife, cut from the stomach side, remove veins, and butterfly the shrimp. It may sound simple, but boy, prepping sushi shrimp is a lot of work. When you eat it, it's hard to imagine how much prep is involved in making shrimp Nigiri.
I know many high end omakase sushi bars in San Francisco use Scallops from Hokkaido, the northern island of Japan. I agree. Fish, and shellfish, especially Uni from Hokkaido are amazing. But freshness does play a key part sometimes. These Scallops from Monterey Fish Market is the my absolute favorite. It's the sweetest and creamiest scallops I've ever tasted. Like Dungeness crabmeat, it needs nothing else. Almost nothing else. Squeeze lemon, and sprinkle sea salt, or my other favorite, Himalayan salt. Put that in your mouth, and it's the seventh wonder of the savory sea flavor swirling in your mouth. Forget soy sauce. It's too overwhelming. It will kill the delicate flavor of the scallop. Again, it needs almost nothing else. Salt and lemon juice bring out the natural flavor that's in the scallops.
This is just a prep. Not pack everything in the cooler with lots of ice; drive one hour to Palo Alto.
The original guest count is 25.
"Oh, now we are at 60. Is that OK?"
"Yup. We've done a catering event for 200 before," I reply.
Then, it was 80 and now, the final guest count is 100.
"I hired a Pizza guy just in case people want different food," my client emails me.
When running a business, I've been (pleasantly) surprised by something new. I never thought this 50th birthday party would grow to be such a big event. I never thought it would be Sushi and Pizza party.
There is always something new and exciting.
Thinking of planning your next special party?
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We are cut above the rest. We serve more than fish. It's the memory we create.