Champagne + Sushi + Sommeliers: Oh, Matsuhisa!

What’s better than throwing one party at the Food + Wine Classic in Aspen? Throwing two parties, of course! On Saturday night, OpenTable joined with master sommelier Dustin Wilson (wine director at Eleven Madison Park and star of the documentary Somm), Eric Railsback (sommelier and co-owner of Les Marchands Wine Bar in Santa Barbara), and Carlos Solorzano-Smith (beverage director of Matsuhisa) at Nobu’s Matsuhisa Aspen for a Champagne and sushi soiree.

There was dancing (although, sadly, not a dance-off), a Champagne waterfall, and culinary luminaries including chefs Matt Acarino (SPQR), Maria Sinskey (Robert Sinskey Vineyards), Bobby Stuckey (Frasca Food and Wine), Alex Stupak (Empellon Taqueria), and Ming Tsai (Blue Ginger), Dana Cowin, Ray Isle, and Kate Krader from Food + Wine, actress Ali Larter, and restaurateur Danny Meyer and wine director John Ragan of the Union Square Hospitality Group, among others.

Eyeball all the action in the slideshow below, with photos by Katrina Smith of The Smith Design.

Trending on OpenTable Restaurant Reviews: Uni

uni-slanted-door
The wild-caught uni at The Slanted Door in San Francisco.

Uni, or sea urchin, has typically been a staple on fine sushi menus, but it is fast becoming ubiquitous at restaurants serving all types of cuisines. Its rise in popularity, however, doesn’t mean it is beloved by all. In fact, uni can be downright divisive. Go ahead and ask your friends if they like uni. You’ll likely hear one of the following responses: “Love it!” or “Ugh!” or “Only if it’s fresh.” or “What *is* it?” That sums up much of what we heard when we asked the OpenTable Facebook community their opinions on uni. There are different grades of uni and a sole experience with a lesser grade could make you swear off the stuff forever; however, fresh (as in just-harvested from the sea urchin) uni is highly regarded by chefs and foodies alike and could make even the most cautious of diners into converts. Find out what your fellow OpenTable diners are saying about this rumored aphrodisiac in recent restaurant reviews.

* 15 East Restaurant, New York, New York: “The second course was the grilled gindara (koji sake-marinated black cod in uni sauce),  which was amazing!”

Arami, Chicago, Illinois: ” Don’t miss the uni shooters.”

Bestia, Los Angeles, California: “Outstanding meal. Diver scallops, veal tartare, calamari salad, and uni pasta were all unbelievably delicious. Making another reservation right now.”

* Chef Mavro, Honolulu, Hawaii: “Unbelievably food and wine pairings; appetizer was one of the best ever (basmati rice, raw ahi topped with uni sauce, and uni).”

JoLe, Calistoga, California: “Each dish had the right amount of flare and sauces to offset, complement, and highlight the flavor of the main ingredient. We chose the Kampachi with uni and olive tapenade, snapper with chilled mussels, the sweetbreads, and some veggies to share. All terrific.”

Kata Robata, Houston, Texas: “I would definitely come back for the live uni, ramen, and pork belly bun.”

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10 Things You Need to Know About Top Chef Seattle Episode 12

Despite growing up in a non-fried chicken household, Lizzie manages to make one of the better dishes in the Elimination Challenge.

The world has been righted — at least in one way. But, outside of that, we all observed how hard it is to make good fried chicken. That’s not entirely true, actually. Maybe if more of the cheftestants had actually attempted to make traditional fried chicken instead of, say, chicken cordon bleu? Anyway, here are some pertinent points. Spoilers ahead.

1. Josie’s response to Kristen’s leaving: “I feel heavy this morning.”

2. Mr. Katsuya Uechi (Katsuya) says, “Always think, ‘How do you make people who eat happy?'” I’m guessing by feeding them, but what do I know?

3. Just because Sheldon cooks Asian food does not mean he makes sushi. Jeez!

4. Josie says she throws sushi parties in which sushi is served on naked women. This does not sound at all sanitary.Continue Reading

Chef Watch: Bauer and Co.’s Rising Star Chefs 2010; How Wolfgang Became a Brand; Nobu’s Rise to the Top; Ed Brown’s Loves; Susur Lee’s Chicken Feet; David Myers on Sona’s Shuttering, and More

Chef-Watch

Chefs making food and news…

* San Francisco Chronicle executive food and wine editor Michael Bauer and his colleagues select the Bay Area’s Rising Star Chefs for 2010. Included are John Paul Carmona (Manresa), Perry Hoffman (étoile), Timothy Hollingsworth (The French Laundry), and Charlie Kleinman (Wexler’s). [San Francisco Chronicle]

* Wolfgang Puck, whose restaurants include 20.21, Chinois, CUT Las Vegas, Spago Beverly Hills, and many others, details of his ascension up the culinary ladder — and reveals he almost ended it all when he was fired from his first kitchen job as a young man. [Los Angeles Times]

* Nobu Matsuhisa (Nobu London, Nobu New York, and others) shares his similar success story, which also includes suicidal thoughts after his first restaurant in Anchorage, Alaska, burned down, leaving him in serious debt. [ABC News]

* Ed Brown of eighty one in New York reveals a few of his favorite food-related things. [The Daily Beast]

* Susur Lee thinks that New Yorkers, like parents,”just don’t understand,” and we’re not ready to embrace chicken feet at Shang. Oh no, he didn’t! (Totally kidding, Chef Lee. You’re probably right!) [Grub Street New York]

* Laurent Tourondel (BLT Fish, BLT Market, BLT Steak) is ending his partnership with Jimmy Haber. They will, essentially, split the BLT empire. All I care about is who gets the bacon. 😉 [The New York Times]

* David Myers discusses shuttering Los Angeles restaurant Sona (temporarily) in May while he scouts for and sets up shop in a new space. [Los Angeles Times]