black cod with miso

11:43 PM sians 2 Comments

so this is how the whole story began.

it started off with my cravings for malaysian food which evolved into a food trip to arlington heights for grocery shopping and malaysian take out. this food trip involved going to mitsuwa, a japanese supermarket in the suburbs an hour away from downtown chicago which meant i needed a car to get there. a shopping trip to mitsuwa meant buying fresh sashimi and getting all the japanese ingredients that one may not find at a regular grocery store.

my friend, christina was ever so nice to agree to drive us there. i asked her what she usually gets from mitsuwa and her answer was black cod among other things because her bf made her some really delicious black cod dinner once.

and i thought to myself, "this i gotta try for myself". i bought two black cod fillets and asked her bf for the recipe. he told me how i could get the same recipe online and gave me some pointers on how to cook it.

hence, off i went searching for it and stumbled upon the black cod miso recipes that use the same ingredients but are executed differently. some called for the ingredients to be mixed in a bowl and have the fish marinated for a few hours, some called for the marinade to be heated up in the sauce pan, cooled and then have the fish marinated for a few days.

black cod with miso is made famous by nobu matsuhisa, an outstanding japanese chef who has opened NOBU all around the world including here in the US. he has received several nominations for outstanding chef by the james beard foundation and was named as america's ten best new chefs by food & wine in 1989.

this recipe is quite simple to make it yourself at home. the few ingredients needed are white miso paste, sake, mirin and sugar. i decide to heat up the marinade because the miso and sugar can dissolve better in the warm mixture of sake and mirin to create a more consistent marinade for the fish. after patting the fillets dry with paper towels, the fish is coated in the marinade, sealed and then left in the refridgerator.

then the waiting game begins - two days that is.

two days gave me plenty of time to think of a side that would pair well with these ingredients. oven roasted asparagus seasoned with olive oil, salt and pepper was the answer for a simple flavor that i think would stand on its own yet does not compete with the delicate flavors of the fish.

typically, it is recommended to sear the fish on a grill pan but since i didn't have one, i used a regular  skillet pan where i drizzled some vegetable oil and cranked up the heat to high.

as i placed the fish into the very hot pan, the oil  started splattering which made quite a mess in the kitchen but it was well worth it. that could only mean one thing - good searing! after searing the black cod for about two minutes on one side, i flipped them over on a baking sheet to finish cooking the fillets in a preheated 400F oven for about ten minutes.

the sweet aroma of miso and mirin wafted throughout my apartment and it made me hungry as i waited for it to be done.

oh boy... it was soo yummy.. i especially love the seared/blackened part because of the crispiness and the concentrated flavors of the marinade that paired so well with the sweetness of the fish. so, don't panic when you see the blackened part as you sear the cod - it's not burnt, it's the caramelizing of the sugar in the marinade.  

it has that savoriness and earthiness of the miso paste which is complemented by the sweetness of the mirin and sake which enhanced the natural sweetness of the fish. the fish flakes off when i cut into it...mmm so yummylicious. it had a punch of flavor from the marinade and yet the richness and silkiness of the fish shone through. sweet, savory, succulent and cripsy all in a single dish.

a definite favorite of mine. i know what i'll be adding to my must buy grocery list my next visit to mitsuwa :)

if you are interested in trying out the recipe, you can get the recipe from here:

nobu's black cod with miso
found on food&

  • 3 tablespoons mirin
  • 3 tablespoons sake
  • half cup white miso paste
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • six 6- to 7-ounce skinless black cod fillets, about 1 1/2 inches thick
  • vegetable oil, for grilling
  • in a small saucepan, bring the mirin and sake to a boil. whisk in the miso until dissolved. add the sugar and cook over moderate heat, whisking, just until dissolved.
  • transfer the marinade to a large baking dish and let cool. add the fish and turn to coat. cover and refrigerate for two days. 
  • preheat the oven to 400°.
  • heat a grill pan and oil it. scrape the marinade off the fish. add the fish and cook over high heat until browned, about two minutes.
  • flip the fish onto a heavy rimmed baking sheet and roast for ten minutes, until flaky.
  • transfer the fish to a dish and it's ready to serve.


spring restaurant

2:50 PM sians 0 Comments

this entry is quite long overdue since it has been almost a month when i had dinner at spring restaurant with ryan.  we managed to get a groupon for a three course prix-fixe meal at spring restaurant a few months ago ($30 instead of the usual $59) and the groupons were about to expire so we thought it was a good time to try it out since he was in town.

located in wicker park, we had some trouble finding a parking spot at 9 pm on a saturday night. as we entered the restaurant, i was a little confused with the bar/waiting area for a moment because i didn't quite know what to think of it. (p.s. the photos are a lil blurry since the lighting was mostly dim around the restaurant)

the receptionist offered to take our coats (which was nice) and we were seated at our table. the restaurant wasn't full but it was busy. the dining area was more of how i imagined spring restaurant to be. a lil more cozy than their waiting area but i thought the lighting was still too dim. their decor is leaning towards asian simplicity which is quite nice and i liked the atmosphere of the room.

the waiter came by our table and he presented us with their favorites menu (or rather the prix-fixe menu) after we handed our groupons to him.

since i've read about the reviews on yelp, i've pretty much decided on the dishes that i wanted before we even got here which is quite rare for me since i've always have a hard time deciding on what to eat. we placed our orders and ryan ordered a glass of red wine to go with his meal. he ordered a pinot noir since we were both getting seafood for our entree and he prefers red over white wine. he wasn't too thrilled with the first pinot noir he ordered (which was recommended by the waiter) because of the amount of tannins or the body of the wine (i don't really get the wine stuff). basically, it tasted more like a cabernet sauvingnon. so after the first glass, he got a different type of pinot noir from the menu and was much happier with his second selection.

they start us off with a small sip of soup: saffron infused potato soup with chives.

it tasted quite like cream of potato with chives. nothing too special nor did i taste the saffron. but it still had good flavor to it and was a good way to start our meal. 

they also served us some crackers with a white bean puree dip with sesame oil. 

i personally didn't really like the combination. blame it on the fact that i don't like beans but the flavor that came through was mostly saltiness. i actually preferred the crackers without the white bean dip but even that the crackers were just okay.

appetizer | farm-egg ravioli, with smoked potato, white truffle oil, and hazelnuts

what swayed me to order this dish was maybe because i once watched an iron chef america episode where mario batali made something similar and it looked so decadently delicious and tried my luck with this appetizer.

when i cut into the ravioli, the yolk oozes out coating the other ingredients with its richness. first bite was a tad disappointing. it didn't have the flavors it promised in the description. i thought the whole dish was underseasoned and i could not taste any truffle flavor from the oil. i did like the crunch of the hazelnuts and i could get a small taste of the smokiness of the potato but i wasn't quite happy with my appetizer.

appetizer | braised short-rib dumplings with pickled orange rind and a coriander reduction

ryan had better luck with his appetizer. the flavors of this dish were on point and i loved the pickled orange rind that gave it a lil surprise of light tartness and sweetness to the savoriness of the dish with each bite. good amount of filling and the dumpling skin were at the right thickness. but i had to admit  the braised short rib in one of the dumplings i tried (i had two since we exchanged appetizers) was overdone and a tad dry. i think ryan had one of those too.

entree | maine sea scallops, with roasted mushrooms, braised oxtail, and sweet soy

after my lackluster appetizer, i was hoping for an entree that would make up for the first dish. and i was glad this dish did. the scallops were really fresh and cooked beautifully - succulent with its natural sweetness which is echoed in the braised oxtail in sweet soy and roasted mushroom. all my favorite ingredients on a single plate. the braised oxtail is fork tender and everything pairs so well on this dish..

only thing that they could have done better is the sear of the scallops. while the sear looks good but i think only one had a really good crust on the scallop. another thing that i was missing was something that was texturally different. nonetheless, the overall dish was very tasty.

entree | australian barramundi, with potato gnocchi, cilantro pesto, and citrus

this entree was fantastic. the barramundi was seared, seasoned and cooked perfectly. it had a really good crust that was crispy and the fish itself was succulent. the yummy fish was on a bed of fluffy potato gnocchi tossed in cilantro pesto and string beans. the string beans were cooked all the way through while still retaining that crunch and the potato gnocchi were like little clouds of awesomeness.

i had to stop myself from finishing ryan's dish. it was light, fresh and very satisfying. wished there were more on his plate so there would be more for me! :p

dessert | white-chocolate dome, with strawberries, rhubarb, and rosewater

a very pretty plate with different textures and flavors. i expected something too sweet but it actually turned out not bad. the white chocolate dome had the texture of a marshmallow and an ice cream and it had a filling inside. it was creamy and pretty good. and the brittle was slightly salty which is to counter the sweetness of the other elements on the plate which i thought was clever.

the overall dessert was okay - i liked the pairing of the plum and the strawberries. one of the better white chocolate desserts i've had since a lot of white chocolate desserts tend to be oversweetened.

dessert | five spice panna cotta, brioche doughnut

i wasn't a fan of this dessert. five spice panna cotta? umm... no thanks. when i tried a bite, the first thing that came to my head was chinese roast duck that i would get from argyle.. i don't know if it is a good thing when it reminds me of a savory dish when i am eating dessert. ryan said that he grew to like the dessert as he had more spoonfuls of the panna cotta but he did particularly enjoy the doughnut which melted in his mouth with the chocolate/caramel sauce at the bottom.

our dinner eventually ended up being pretty expensive. with the groupon, we still spent over $100 (including the cost of groupon) for the whole dinner. both of us are usually willing to spend a little more for a good dinner but i think i was quite unhappy with the food in general (minus the entrees which were great) so i thought it wasn't quite worth it. i would rather much spend the same amount of money at maybe girl & the goat.

will i return to spring restaurant anytime soon? probably not.

disclaimer this is written based on my personal experience and opinion. experiences and taste buds may vary for others

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grilled cheese with a twist

5:07 PM sians 0 Comments

i was so inspired and tempted to make a grilled cheese sandwich since my visit to sprout two weekends ago. i was so excited about it that i even bought ingredients on the monday after and had it all planned out what i was going to do.

the first step was to get my caramelized onions going. it is simple to make but slightly time consuming and tedious since you need to constantly keep an eye on it. since i am on a semi-diet, instead of putting butter, i halved the butter and substituted with olive oil to make myself feel a lil better. sliced vidalia onions were added next which is seasoned with salt, pepper and sugar to taste and sauteed at a medium-low heat, constantly stirring until it turns golden brown.

while that was going, i trimmed some bread off the ciabatta - didn't want to have too much bread since the cheese was supposed to be the star here.  

at sprout, they added some honey crisp apple slices in their grilled cheese but instead of using honey crisp i decided to go for granny smith apple to give that tart flavor. my selection was also swayed by the fact that granny smith is usually the apple paired with cheese fondue.

next step was to assemble to sandwich. the cheese is a crucial ingredient and i didn't quite know what to get but i finally decided on a wisconsin white cheddar. it had a bitter undertone but wasn't as sharp as i wished for the sandwich. 

so the layering goes bread, cheese, tons of yummy, sweet caramelized onions, slices of granny smith apple, top with more cheese and finally complete it with the other slice of bread. (doesn't that sound yummy?)


it doesn't end there.  i slathered both slices of bread with butter and toast it on the pan for a several minutes to crisp the bread and to melt the cheese. c'mon, you need the butter to make a good grilled cheese sandwich... no exceptions! i prefer spreading the butter on the bread itself instead of melting it on the pan to ensure both sides get enough amount of butter to toast it right.

i paired the sandwich with a bowl of cream of tomato - the classic pairing (i made it from a can.. too lazy to make from scratch..) and to make it a lil special, i added a small dollop of creme fraiche since i had some in the fridge. i know it would be better with fresh basil leaf too but i didn't have any of that.

finally, a finished product of yummy grilled cheese sandwich that i've been dying to try.

my verdict?

the grilled cheese sandwich was pretty good. i've always liked adding caramelized onions in my sandwiches. i am not so sure about my choice of granny smith apple slices because it was slightly too tart but i did like the fact that it cuts through the richness of the cheese. the cheese, on the other hand, i would have liked a sharper type that could mellow the tartness of the apples and counter the other flavors that stood out slightly more. also i could have used a cheese that melts better. a combination of cheddar and gruyere/provolone may be the answer since gruyere and provolone has a light flavor but melts beautifully.

i was supposed to do the whole letting the cheese ooze out on the sides and crisp them up but i think i might have not added enough cheese for it to ooze. and another thing i would like try is adding a layer of cheese between the caramelized onions and the apple slices to bind them better together. i loved the added creme fraiche to the cream of tomato that added a smoothless and creaminess that is comforting. even with this room for improvements, i think it was still a pretty successful experiment and this sandwich was yummy in my tummy.

this grilled cheese sandwich with a twist is definitely a keeper and when i crave for something crispy and cheesy, i know what i would be making. :)


sprout restaurant

2:54 PM sians 3 Comments

i've been searching for new restaurants to try around chicago and one that came into my radar was sprout restaurant. a few of my friends from work joined me in this food adventure - i was a tad nervous because i suggested this place and i didn't want them to be disappointed with the food.

i think unknowingly, i've been going on a top chef restaurant hunt because the executive chef of sprout, dale levitski who is the runner up in top chef seasoned three teamed up with sarah nguyen, also a contender in the same season to open this lincoln park hotspot. serving three course prix fixe menu for $65, they offer quite a bit of interesting selections for all three courses.

i could immediately spot the restaurant since there are several banners with their recognizable logo at the front of the restaurant.

taken from their website

the decor was modern contemporary lit by warm lighting and adorned with brown and gold accents around the room. it felt cozy. there was also a room separated by french doors from the rest of the dining area, perfect for a private party.

the restaurant was semi empty when we were shown to our table which didn't quite surprise me since our dinner reservation was for 5:45pm. on thing for sure, sprout NEEDS to start working on a coat room or a coat rack or someplace where their diners can hang their coats and not on their friend's chairs. what started this whole rant was half of my party were seated on the cushioned bench so one of my friends offered to collect the coats and place it on the bench between the our table and the table next to ours. the waitress came by and told us that they needed more space for the other table and needed to hang the coats on our chairs (the other half of my party sitting on chairs) -.-"

what i also found odd was they only gave us four menus instead of six, granted two of our friends were late but that doesn't excuse them from giving us the right number of menu. apparently they were printing the new menu out (since the menu changes periodically) but still it doesn't mean they shouldn't be prepared for the dinner crowd. we ended up sharing our menu. another small thing that annoyed me was that the waitress serving the next table was laughing so loud at the diner's remarks that i wanted to tell her to hush...

regardless, our waitress was friendly and kindly explained to us what the seasonal menu  is all about. it's a three course prix fixe menu where we can choose an appetizer, entree and dessert and there are two in between mini-courses so essentially it comes up to a five course meal.

appetizer | frog . mushroom . escargot . garlic . greens

that was my choice of appetizer. the lightly fried frog legs topped the mushroom and escargot which laid on top of a pureed sauce. the frog legs were fried well and not overly greasy. i've never had escargot before and it felt weird when i bit into it. i think it's more of the idea of it being escargot rather than the taste. i've yet to decide if i like escargot but the combination of flavors were alright. nothing really stood out and i thought it could have used a lil more salt.

my friend who loves foie gras was absolutely in love with the foie gras pate with lingonberry sauce. she was especially happy with it and i got a taste of it which was smooth and rich. i didn't try the other appetizers my friends got but they seem pretty happy with their selections.

mini course one | carrot & ginger puree

they came in these cutesy lil cups and tiny lil spoons. the first whiff i inhaled was carrot. it was a smooth puree with huge flavors of carrot with the subtle hint of ginger. and they also added a singlea airy mini profiterole. it was a good light soup in between the appetizer and entree course to cleanse the pallete.

entree | short ribs . truffle . brussel sprout . mushroom . parsnip

entree was one that took me a while to decide what i wanted. i was torn between the venison, the ono and the short ribs. but short ribs had a slight edge when i saw truffle, brussel sprout and mushroom on the list. it was a fantastic combination of flavors and textures that every bite was divine. the short ribs were cooked perfectly and i loved the thick sweet and savory sauce which combines perfectly with the mushrooms. the heavenly wedges of potatoes infused with truffles paired so well with the rest of the dish. all these were served on top of parsnip puree and caramelized brussel sprouts. there are so many things going on but yet the flavors were not overpowering each other and in fact melded together to make a fantastic dish.

mini course two | hard apple cider & grilled cheese

a lot of people on yelp highlighted this mini course as their favorite of the night and i had quite an expectation for it. they first served us the apple cider which was slightly chilled and i loved how refreshing it tasted. then the ever popular grilled cheese was served. what is so different about this grilled cheese? sharp wisconsin white cheddar with sliced honey crisp apples and caramelized onions in between oven crisped bread served with raisin whole grain mustard sauce. and what makes it more different is that they let the cheese ooze out of the sides and crisped them up so it's all salty and crispy at the edges of the bread. was very, very delish with the pairing of sharp saltiness & sweetness and all my friends especially loved this mini course. i begin to understand why so much love was shown to this mini sandwich. in fact i am gonna try to duplicate this at home :)

dessert | beets . ginger . pistachio . chocolate

i've mentioned several times in my past entries about my love for beets. although there was one other dessert that caught my attention - the bacon with apple, root beer and walnut, beets won this round. i am a lil skeptical and wary about desserts at restaurants cos i've been disappointed several times just like i was at david burke's primehouse and spring restaurant (an entry about spring restaurant coming soon).

the dessert looked really beautiful when it arrived to our table. hmm..looks promising. on one side, there was a profiterole (aka as cream puff) filled with vanilla ice cream topped with chocolate ganache and chopped pistachio. the cream puff was light and soft. on the other side, there is a quenelle of rich and creamy dark chocolate mousse and all these are tied together with diced beets. the beets tasted like they were soaked in ginger syrup which gave it a slight bite at the back of the throat. i loved it. :) who knew dark chocolate would go well with beets...(well i guess they did!)  one of my friends who ordered beets as well said that she prefered the corn dessert which her bf ordered (i didn't try any) which had quite a whimsical presentation with some popcorn topping the dessert.

by the time we finished our meal, the place was bustling with people. i caught a glimpse of dale walking in the dining room heading back towards the kitchen.

overall, i enjoyed my dining experience at sprout restaurant despite some of its shortcomings. the entree and dessert were really excellent and the grilled cheese has given me a new idea of grilled cheese sandwiches. a lot of yelpers think that $65 for a prix fixe dinner was a steal but imo it was a lil pricey for me and if i do ever come back here it would be on a special occasion.

disclaimer this is written based on my personal experience and opinion. experiences and taste buds may vary for others

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