Monday, September 15, 2008
Sunday was another day that did not go as planned, and had its pleasures anyway. I got up with a strange burning sensation in my lungs, and was low energy. I didn't feel 'sick' at that point, so kept going. Especially since I needed to do some cleaning and straightening before a small dinner party in the afternoon. An hour before a "Farewell to Summer" dinner was to start, my friend Jonathon called to let me know cute little Aurelia had a 100F fever. His wife and my friend Jo-Ann was on the way to Costco so he conferenced her in. She was turning around because the traffic was SO hideous that it wasn't going to be worth the trip. We decided to postpone given all the situation from several angles. Besides, it seems we have some summer left. And the other good news is that my house is much improved in appearance since I got the cleaning accomplished. Dad and I were a little hungry, so I thought I had more energy to drive and order than start cooking something else.
We hopped over the Golden Gate Bridge as Jo-Ann had already cued me in about the traffic in North Marin. It was a bit late, so there were mostly 'closed' signs at this mid-afternoon time. Ah! Shabu House looked lively and had an 'open' sign! And we had about an hour since the sign read closes at 3 p.m. NOT. The minute we got in we were informed that they were closing at 2:30 today so if we wished to have lunch we would have to order immediately. Whoah. He was very nice about it, however it really put a crimp in thoughtful ordering. We considered shabu shabu briefly, the dishes at the other tables looked very good. However, shabu shabu isn't a meal to be rushed. So we each ordered a lunch bowl.
Dad ordered a Chicken Teriyaki bowl. He enjoyed it with some cold oolong tea. When I asked for iced tea, the server looked doubtful and said all he had was cold oolong tea. I smiled at him and said that is GREAT! Cold oolong tea almost always properly brewed and tasty.
I ordered the Unagi bowl. I took a bite, and found myself in one of those 'jaw-dropping it's so good' moments. The sauce was so authentic tasting. The last time I recall unagi so artfully made was in Japan a couple years ago. I complimented the waiter on the sauce, and he said it was house made. Since it was so authentic and good, I asked him if he had any sansyo (which I misprounounced 'sanso'). He thought I must mean, shiso or shichimi. I replied no, it is a kind of green Japanese herb like pepper that is used on unagi, and this unagi dish was worthy of the real thing. (And I was certain he must have some since this was SO good). I really puzzled him, and he said he would ask the owner.
Another unexpected thing happened. I took a few glances at the blond man sitting next to me because he so resembled someone I work with in the RFID community. I couldn't determine since I could only see his profile, and I thought that it wouldn't make sense. Boris is in the San Jose area. What would he be doing on a late hour on a Sunday afternoon in this particular part of San Francisco? Especially seated right next to me? Well, guess what, it WAS Boris, and we were both pleasantly surprised. He was enjoying a shabu meal with a huge table of friends.
Our waiter reminded us that a choice of green tea or red bean ice cream came with the meal, so Dad and I both chose green tea ice cream. It was a nice finish.
Now I was so wrapped up in remembering sansyo (personally, I would romanize it sansho), and thought it would be nice to pick up some supplies in Japantown anyway, so Dad and I visited Nijiya Market. We were already on Geary, so it was a very short jag. Not only did Nijya have it, there were three different brand choices. I ended up coming home with one. It has a rather hot yet citrusy taste, and is green. It is made from the dried ground leaves of the sansho tree, which I've also seen translated as 'prickly ash tree'. This is the same tree that produces Szechwan peppercorns. Thus ended my adventure, and back to home for some warm tea, and checking on the apple butter I started making earlier in the day. The apple butter effort will be a future blog post :-).