Turning Japanese, part 2: The meal

(Photos by Justin Belleme, except chirashi photo)

Blind Pig patrons clearly aren’t the bitching type. I can’t help but wonder how many other diners would happily scarf down cold food (sashimi, tartare, sorbet) in a sparsely-heated dairy barn in the middle of January without at least a little whining. The general dining public can sometimes tend to be a complaining bunch, especially when it comes to drafts. But I digress.

The Blind Pig supper club tends to attract the adventurous sort, the type willing to rough it through inclement weather and even walk through the mud to use poorly lit Porta-Johns. OK, maybe I heard a little complaining on that end. 

Well in advance, the Blind Pig organizers had prepped diners to dress warmly to the Rising Sun dinner, a 13-course meal of Japanese food prepared by the Admiral’s Drew Maykuth and Alex Bryanton and Cucina 24’s Brian Canipelli. (Here’s a link to the story of the trio’s planning of the meal in Turning Japanese, part 1)

But the guests hadn’t been prepared for the incredible transformation the rustic, 100-year old dairy barn in Leicester would go through. The rafters were hung with dried flowers and draped with red fabric; lanterns were lit at every turn; and artist Andy Herod’s whimsical work of horned, fanged and clawed beasts seemed a perfect fit for the space. DJ Rob Castillo picked a perfect set that fueled (along with sake and wine, presumably) an impromptu dance party later in the evening.

Canipelli, Maykuth and crew turned out a whirlwind of food nearly flawlessly.

The courses:
Kumamoto oysters kicked off the evening — tiny and gorgeous, crowned with a single borage bud and drizzled with yuzu — perfectly.

A pickle platter of golden beets, radishes, cucumbers, ginger (among other things) remained on the table for the duration of the meal as a palate cleanser.

A tartare of tuna and walu, served on a square of kombu, was elegantly simple and perfectly seasoned with miso and lemon.

Beef tataki with trumpet mushroom was served with a swipe of a sweet, soy-based sauce that had people — literally — licking their plates.

Toriniku katsu — made with local chicken, fried and served with a dollop of Kewpie mayo, a smear of Sriracha and a lemon wedge — seemed almost a guilty pleasure.

A gorgeous plate of sashimi followed: Ukupalu blue snapper with seaweed salad; Tasmanian salmon with shiso and cucumber relish; Hawaiian a’u with fresh wasabi (reportedly — I didn’t detect it on mine, though in the picture below, there’s wasabi sprinkling going on. Evidence!), soy and lemon.

Miso soup with amazing smoked and silken tofu, scallion and bonito was nourishing, refreshing, deep in flavor from the smoky duo the bonito and tofu formed.

Unagi — incredibly fresh, two days out of Japan at most — was served with eel sauce, cabbage relish and peppadew peppers.

Chirashi — my god. Chirashi is a rice dish, a sort of “scattered” sushi to (weirdly, I admit) borrow a term from Waffle House. I’m not sure I’ve tasted uni this fresh, ever. It, also was two days out of Japan and shared a stage (dominated it, really) with ahi, walu, hamachi, Sunburst trout roe, lotus root and a raw local quail egg.

A duck-egg custard followed the chirashi, topped with duck confit and skin. It was almost shockingly rich after all of the raw foods and rice.

The chefs borrowed a page from the Momofuku repertoire, with handmade ramen in a dashi broth made with bacon rather than the traditional bonito, making for a rather unctuous soup with local pork belly and a perfect 64-degree egg.

Kobe strip with edamame, hedgehog mushrooms and ginger-teryaki wrapped up the savory plates.

A satsuma sorbet with matcha shortbread and black sesame finished the evening on a refreshing note.

All of that food — all 1,200 plates of it — was made in only three hours, without ovens or stoves. “Just a turkey fryer, a lot of bravado and teamwork and a very, very big wok,” says Blind Pig organizer Michael Moore.

We continue to be fascinated by the Blind Pig dinners and look forward to covering next month’s event: Women on Top, featuring Suzy Phillips, Terri Roberts and Marin Mitchell. 

For more information about the Blind Pig, visit the event website. All announced events are currently sold out, but keep your eyes open for future events and be advised that tickets generally sell out within days.


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