Best.Restaurant.Ever! (The Return)

If I’m ever on death row and it’s time for me to choose my last meal, I can’t say that I know what I want to eat.  But I do know where I want that meal to come from and who I want to prepare it.

In New Jersey, there’s a Japanese restaurant called Tomo’s Cuisine, chef-ed by a food magician named Tomo.  Back when I was in college, Tomo’s was located in South Orange and the Fat Triathlete and I frequented (and that’s putting it mildly) Tomo’s.  These days, it’s a tad more difficult, what with me living in Ohio and all.

Tomo’s has relocated to Little Falls, and on our trip to New Jersey this past weekend, the Civee, King Classic and myself (sorry, FT) stopped there for dinner on Sunday night.  The location may be different, but Tomo’s hasn’t changed a bit.

The place has six tables.  The other five tables were filled with people I assumed to be Tomo’s Sunday night regulars. Because it’s just Tomo and his server Fin, Tomo gets quite busy multitasking.  Because of this, Tomo has always had a set of rules in place, an older version of which appear below.  The rules are very important, and even though I knew these going in, I was pleasantly surprised to have rule #10 broken for me, as both Tomo and Fin remembered me even though I haven’t been there in eight years.

Anyway, about the food, it was spectacular.  Most people think of Japanese food as sushi.  Tomo can do sushi.  Tomo excels at sushi. But he does so much more than sushi.  In addition to a boatload of sushi, we also had a few appetizers, including a black seaweed salad, an asparagus/corn tempura, broiled conch in a soy/butter sauce and braised (for six hours) ox tail with potatoes and carrots.

As for the sushi, we got an assortment of rolls and nigiri.  Ordered a special surf clam (one of my favorites that I haven’t had anywhere else (or, rather, haven’t had as good anywhere else)), some salmon belly and two types of toro.

Altogether, if I ever get to pick a last meal, I’d want it to be something like that. It was great to go back (even if I had never been to the new place before).  On our way out, I thanked Tomo.  I could have thanked him a lot more, but remembering the rule about Tomo being very busy, I wanted to keep it short.

The unfortunate part about leaving was realizing that I wouldn’t have another meal like this until the next time the Civee and I were in New Jersey.

Now that I think about it, all I have to do is take 71 North, head east on Interstate 80, and it’s a straight shot to Little Falls.

Sure, it’s an eight-hour straight shot, but it’s worth it.

If you’re ever in the area:

Tomo’s Cuisine
113 Rt. 23 in Little Falls.
(Near the Willowbrook Mall.)

It Was a Beautiful Fish

Many years ago, my family and I went to Easter dinner at a somewhat-fancy restaurant.  While telling us the specials, in a non-specific European accent, the waiter remarked that the fish special, a red snapper was “a beautiful fish.”

My brother and I laughed at his comment and after placing our orders, spent some time imitating his declaration that the snapper was a “beeeeautiful feeesh.”  Partially because of his sales job, I ordered the snapper, and when it arrived at our table, I could see exactly why the fish deserved that description.  The fish was really good, and thanks to his description, it was one of the first times I ever thought of food as more than just something to eat.

Earlier this week, when grocery shopping, The Civee and I decided to get some red snapper, a fish that I have very little experience preparing, but one that I was eager to get on the grill.

While looking for recipies, nothing stood out–either we didn’t have all the ingredients, or involved more than grilling the fish.  However, we were also having corn, and I remembered was one recipe that called for grilling the fish inside some corn husks.  So I jotted down the procedure for using the husks and developed my own recipe using ingredients we had on hand at home.

There was one major deviation from the in-husk procedure that would probably be frowned upon by any serious culinary types.  We didn’t have any rope with which to tie the husks, so I used the next best thing: a Swingline.  I stapled together the husks (with enough room away from the fish), and it actually worked pretty well.  And while I’m kicking myself for not taking a picture or two, the fish came out, as the waiter would say, “beautiful.”  And just as important, it tasted good too.

For the salsa:

  • Juice of  two limes
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 2 roasted red peppers (jarred is okay), cubed
  • -1/4 cup honey
  • 1 bunch parsley, chopped

Combine ingredients, mix and refrigerate.

For the fish:

  • Red snapper filets
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon pepper
  • 1/2 tablespoon salt
  • 1 shallot, finely sliced
  • Husks from ears of corn (1 ear per piece of fish)

Soak husks in cold water for at least 30 minutes.

Brush fish with oil (olive, canola, whatever you like).

Mix chili powder, pepper and salt and sprinkle over fish.  place sliced shallots on top of the fish.

Strain the husks.  Try to lay flat and place each piece of fish inside one (should be able to fit).  place another corn husk on top.  Tie (or staple) closed so each husk packet will hold the fish.

Grill over high heat, skin side down for 6 minutes.  Turn over and grill for another two.

Remove fish from husks (being careful of staples if you used this method), serve topped with the salsa.