Bushi-Tei for my birthday
It was a difficult choice.
Bushi-Tei is French-Japanese, and the interior is pleasingly minimalist. Sometimes minimalist strays into bad 80's territory, but here the walls are made of 150-year-old Japanese wood and lend the space a warmth that keeps things feeling very contemporary (I realize how contradictory this sounds, but trust me, it works). There is a giant glass table in the middle of the room lined with smooth, black pebbles where you may be given the chance to dine family-style. Thankfully we were not afforded that opportunity.
Somebody in the kitchen clearly also appreciates that quality of velvety richness that makes me go bonkers for foie gras. Their version involved a modest slice (slightly too modest for my piggish tastes) - seared - atop a kabocha squash pot de creme and adorned with red onion marmalade and pistachios. I could eat one of those suckers every day. It was smooth and silky - but not too sweet. Unctuous, if you will.
Randy's appetizer was more esoteric - a slice of Kobe beef that had been marinated in miso for three days was hiding under some languid and melty Camembert and served atop a crispy thing, drizzled with lemon oil. It was interesting, but not as sexy as mine.
Our main dishes were not quite on the level of my foie gras. I had seared bigeye tuna with a coconut curry and a neat, thin slice of dried pineapple. Randy opted for a duck breast; I remember nothing else about it. Couldn't stop revelling in my pumpkin pot de creme loveliness, I guess.
Reviewers of Bushi-Tei always insist that a visit to the bathroom is mandatory, so after we finished our entrees, I decided it was time for the toilet course.
Let me say that despite unhealthy levels of fascination with the country, I have thus far gotten no closer to visiting Japan than a brief, gut-churning stopover at the Narita airport. (My plane had a slight problem landing due to wind shear. I'm sure it's not uncommon, but it pretty much felt like we were going to go splat on the tarmac. After disembarking, I steadied my quaking hands, blubberingly called my mom from a payphone at great expense, and then drowned my terror in a large bowl of tempura udon before boarding my connecting flight. That was My Only Japan Experience.) For this reason, I was forced to wait until my twenty-ninth birthday to experience a high-tech Japanese toilet.
Bushi-Tei's toilet is a Toto (the BEST!), and is accompanied by a panel on the wall that offers a multitude of cleansing options that you never knew you needed. Push a button and a jet of warm water caresses your nether regions. Push another and a gentle breeze dries you off. A heated seat and an automated lid cap off the experience. I was gone so long, Randy thought I fell in. I felt slightly ashamed upon exiting, as if the waitstaff knew I'd been hanging out in there playing with their toilet. Actually, they probably just assume everybody does, right?
For dessert, my black sesame blancmange, topped with a thick layer of coconut cream and some perfectly diced tropical fruits, had a very similar texture to the foie gras. To me it was divine, but Randy thought its grey pasty texture was unappealing and preferred his apple dumplings. I guess grey food does kind of present a certain aesthetic challenge.
Afterwards we checked out the plastic tempura udon displays at the Japan Center mall and took some extremely flattering photos to commemorate the start of my final twentysomething year. Here's the best part: the photo booth, with instructions written entirely in Japanese, actually had a disturbing setting for "Whitening" (helpfully translated and available on a flipchart that helped us navigate through the complicated photo creation and Sanrio-fication process). Naturally we chose it; who better to benefit from flesh whitening than two of the pastiest people on Earth?
We are, in fact, so white that we have become virtually invisible, except for nostrils and beady little eyes. And lo, now I am twenty-nine.
Labels: Restaurants: Bay Area