Normally, I don’t like to write after the fact about wine dinners I’ve attended. You know, it’s sort of like, “Nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah, this is what you missed.” However, at a recent wine dinner featuring Adami Prosecco wines at Naked Fish Japanese Bistro, they hit the ball so far out of the park that I thought it worth recounting. Also, almost everything served at the wine dinner is available on the regular Naked Fish menu, albeit sometimes in different proportions (usually bigger).
The idea behind the dinner was that since Italians love to drink Prosecco while noshing on seafood, why not pair up some of the best seafood around—at Naked Fish—with Italy’s Adami Prosecco. It was a great idea, since Prosecco is relatively light both on the palate and on the budget.
Guests were greeted at the door with glasses of Adami Bosco di Gica, the driest, most Champagne-like Prosecco of the evening. Francis Fecteau of Libation, Inc., who represents Adami in Utah, calls the Bosco di Gica “a walk on the wild side for Prosecco,” one that flies in the face of standard expressions of Prosecco—that is, fizzy and fruity.
After a bit of mingling, we were ushered into tatami rooms for dinner, where we removed our shoes (be sure to wear socks without holes if you eat tatami-style) and settled onto our mats. First up were a couple of interesting palate teasers: kurage, which is Japanese princess jellyfish in a shooter glass, with Japanese cucumbers and sesame vinaigrette. Alongside was kaki (Japanese for “oysters”): a single Kumamoto oyster with yuzu gel, citrus soy, chili paste and spring onion. Attention to detail separates Naked Fish from many other eateries. To wit, they actually remove the oyster from the shell, boil the shell to remove grit, sand and shell shrapnel, then ice the shell to get it cold and reassemble the shucked oyster before serving. Brilliant.
Kushiyaki—skewered and grilled foods, also known as yakitori—is a Naked Fish specialty. At the Adami dinner, we enjoyed tebasaki, which was deliciously tender, organic jidori (free-range, cage-free) chicken wings with amazing spice- and citrus-flavored yuzu kosho for dipping. Also on the kushiyaki plate was gyutan, skewered and grilled Snake River Farms domestic Wagyu beef tongue. At about this time, glasses of Adami Garbčl also appeared. It’s another dry Prosecco—considered “Brut” by French standards—but fruity and richly aromatic, a great kushiyaki partner.
Next, we enjoyed Naked Fish’s outstanding tempura. The tempura batter is made from scratch throughout the night, so it’s very fresh. According to Naked Fish owner Johnny Kwon, they eschew deep fryers in favor of a traditional Japanese tempura pot, and the use of rice-bran oil with sesame oil versus the typical canola oil used in most Japanese restaurant kitchens. The Japanese eggplant and Japanese pumpkin were scrumptious, encased in light, airy, crispy tempura batter.
Nigiri is my favorite Naked Fish option, and with Adami Prosecco flowing freely, we savored a nigiri trio of sake, kampachi and maguro—king salmon, amberjack and big-eye tuna, respectively. Again, detail matters. Naked Fish uses expensive, premium short-grain Koshihikari rice from Japan, something Johnny Kwon is quite proud of. “Nigiri is my favorite food on Earth,” Kwon said.
Naked Fish also boils their soy sauce, and when the salt begins to separate, they skim out the salt then add real, housemade dashi. “It is costly and a pain in the butt,” Kwon said, “but the result is amazing.” Indeed, it was.
Between courses, Adami’s Enrico Valleferro hopped from table to table, fielding queries about Prosecco and sharing his enthusiasm for the wine. Adami winery is sustainable in the best way, leaving a minimal footprint in the vineyard and producing Prosecco by hand, with very little machinery. It’s a small-scale operation and, as with the food at Naked Fish, attention to detail in making Adami Prosecco is critical. The third Prosecco of the evening—Adami Dei Casel—is an extra-dry, crisp wine with gorgeous peach and honeysuckle aromatics. Says Libation’s Fecteau, “The most frequent phrase I hear used to describe this wine is ‘panty dropper.’ ”
The kitchen team at Naked Fish is headed up by longtime Executive Chef Toshio (Tosh) Sekikawa, ably assisted by Chef Sunny Tsogbadrakh, who Johnny Kwon calls “the heart of our restaurant.” Also generously helping to tweak the Naked Fish menu of late is Viet Pham, the remarkable chef and co-owner of Forage.
Other highlights of the night included skewered and grilled live scallop—it’s alive when it hits the 1,600-degree-Fahrenheit Japanese Higo yakitori griller, which quickly (in seconds) scorches the scallop, encasing its delectable juices. The grilled octopus with cherry tomato was terrific, too. At Naked Fish, the octopus is brought in uncooked (many restaurants use precooked) and beaten with daikon, which helps tenderize the meat. The rectangle-shaped battera presentations at Naked Fish are gorgeous. We enjoyed hirame (fluke), which tasted as fresh as can be. Naked Fish uses ike jime hirame, a method used to kill fish by cutting the main blood line, instantly killing the fish and resulting in more tender meat (no rigor mortis). Japanese yellowtail tataki was also incredible—luscious chunks of yellowtail with negi, cucumber and jalapeño tossed in miso-ai.
The night’s showstopper, however, was shabu shabu of authentic Japanese Wagyu beef. I even got to see the signed and numbered certificate that came with it. The cost for Wagyu beef for Naked Fish, I was told, is $65 to $75 per pound, plus shipping. “We essentially lose money with every order we sell,” Kwon said. Well, I say splurge and treat yourself to Naked Fish’s Wagyu—perhaps with a glass of Adami’s first-ever cru wine, Vigneto Giardino, which is clean, bright and dazzling, just like the cuisine at Naked Fish.
NAKED FISH JAPANESE BISTRO
67 W. 100 South