Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Hamamori - 03/27/08

South Coast Plaza
3333 Bear Street Ste 320
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
(714) 850-0880

Be honest what do you think of when you hear the term mall food? A food court, bins of pre-cooked food sitting out waiting for an order? Hamamori spits on that stereotype and offers innovative, upscale Japanese-French cuisine.

The restaurant is located in Crystal Court, adjacent to the main South Coast Plaza store. Take the bridge near the Nordstrom area and the restaurant is just off to the left. The restaurant has a small "outdoor" seating area that is open to the rest of the mall and an "inside" that boasts a sushi bar and a few tables. The setting is mostly white with some blue lighting.

My decision to dine at Hamamori was a spur of the moment thing. I just finished shopping at Bloomingdales and since I was in the area it made sense to stop by. I was served by a very friendly waitress who took time after each course to ask my opinions on the course. I get the feeling she may have felt sorry for me as I was dining alone.

Halibut with Truffle Oil, Ikura, & Karasumi
This was my first experience with Karasumi, which the waitress explained as mullet roe that is salted and dried. She told me it was packed in snow for a year but everything I have read suggests that it is sun dried. As with many dishes, I think there are too many competing flavors on one plate. The savoriness of the truffle oil was greatly diminished by the intensity of the karasumi with its distinctive slightly salty smoky flavor and a moist gritty texture. I enjoyed the Karasumi, but I think it needed to be used more sparingly in order for the dish to balance.

Seared Scallop with Truffle Infused Saikyo Miso
Another truffle flavored dish. Each lightly seared scallop came topped with a slice of truffle and with a light layer of sweet Saikyo Miso. The scallops had a lovely texture to them smooth soft and meaty indicative of very fresh scallops. However the use of the saikyo miso totally overpowered the natural sweetness of the scallop. Personally, I didn't think the truffle added much to the flavor of the dish and seemed to be there as a form of ostentation, as if it made the dish more luxurious with its mere presence.

Seared Toro with Foie Gras Pátê, Osetra Caviar, & Gold Flakes
I don't really know what I was expecting with this dish. Chunks of seared toro (tartare style) hide a core of foie gras. At the bottom of the dish is a pool of ponzu sauce and the top is garnished with oscetra caviar and gold flakes. The toro was decent, but I wasn't expecting much. I couldn't even tell I was eating foie gras, the rest of the flavors totally masked it. Even more than the previous course, this is a combination of luxury items without much consideration for the flavor.

King Crab Risotto with Uni Bisque
The best course of the night, chunks of sweet crab meat along with "risotto" aka sushi rice and a velvety sauce of uni. I really liked how the crab and uni went together especially with the toasted seaweed. I was however actually expecting risotto and the fact that I got sushi rice was a slight let down. Still this was a very good course definitely worthy of being a signature dish.

Foie Gras "Ankimo" Style with Osetra Caviar
I asked what "Ankimo" Style entailed and the waitress told me they boiled it. That was fine with me shabu shabu is basically boiling and the one time I had foie shabu shabu style totally changed my perception of the stuff. The foie gras was basically the same as in the earlier course. Not a problem the texture of the previous foie was excellent and maybe without the other ingredients, I'd finally get to taste it. Alas this was not to be, again the foie gras was soft but served in ponzu with it's sharp tart flavor totally overpowered the subtle richness of the foie. I don't know what it was but the ponzu sauce they used that evening was intense, overpowering everything else. What is the the point of serving something as luxurious as foie gras if you are going to hide its flavor.

Kurobuta Pork Belly Kakuni
This totally didn't match my expectation for how to serve Kurobuta pork. The meat can be so fatty and tender that a cooking process to really highlight those attributes would have been more appropriate. Instead the pieces came thoroughly broiled, looking more like thick chunks of bacon. The texture was hard to the point of being painful to chew. I find it hard to believe that this is the same meat used in my beloved Daikokuya ramen.

In closing, if anything Hamamori is a bit too unconventional, sometimes adhering to convention works. I really wanted to be impressed by Hamamori, and part of me wants to give it another chance. Maybe after a few months, if the restaurant tweaks it's menu, I may be back for the omakase with sake pairings.


suzn924 said...

Hamamori Omakase is a different experience similar to San Shi Go in HB where you get your Fois gras or truffles with Sushi.

Epicuryan said...

Haha wow this post bring me back. I've been meaning to try San Shi Go. How does the one in Huntington compare to the one in Newport?

suzn924 said...

I've only recently tried San Shi Go in HB so not sure how it compared. But one lady used to go to the Laguna location for years converted to HB. My fav at San Shi Go, definitely TOro, Chu TOro both Negeri and Seared. The uni in martini glass over poached egg dish is unique. Soft shell crab hand roll very good also. I also had Uni hand roll oozing of Uni very good...the rest I dont remember much. As you can tell, I love Uni Chef Shogosan says I would eat it with a spoon if I could haha. I told him my friend refer me and the chocolate moosse over ice cream was on the house. For OC Toro though, Murakasi Otoro really beats it both negeri and seared.

Epicuryan said...

I m something of an uni fiend and the uni over poached egg sounds heavenly. Looks like its time for a trip to San Shi Go.

I went to Murasaki a long time ago and wasn't impressed but I keep hearing good things about it, maybe I should give it another try.