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The Gossiping Gourmet: Enjoy Eurasion-fusion at Bistro Anju

November 02, 2011|By Elle Harrow and Terry Markowitz
  • A glass of seafood ceviche with herb sauce at Bistro Anju.
A glass of seafood ceviche with herb sauce at Bistro Anju. (DON LEACH, HB Independent )

Some of the best food we've eaten lately has not been at high-end, highly-hyped, haute cuisine establishments but at small, neighborhood, chef-driven restaurants. Most of the time, tip-offs from readers have led us to delicious meals.

This week it's Bistro Anju in Laguna Niguel. The name doesn't conjure up sushi but that's all the sign says. When you get inside, a big sign on the wall lets you know you are in the right place.

Actually, the best food here is not the sushi but Chef Saito's fusion Japanese dishes. We were blown away by the inventive, exuberant flavors of the mouth-watering omakase (chef's choice) dinner. With a background in both French and Japanese cuisine, Eurasian-fusion would best describe his cooking.

First out was an appetizer plate that exemplifies his style: three amuse bouches, one tastier than the next, really awakening our palates.

A chunk of excellent pate de foie gras was served on a big cracker. Even more intriguing was the scallop, cut and reassembled in four pieces for easy eating with chopsticks, topped with a sliver of earthy truffle and nestled in an outstanding sweet miso sauce.

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Best of all was the alchemy of flavors in the rolled salmon slice, enveloping tiny cubes of avocado, onions, tomatoes, chopped salmon and pine nuts, accompanied by a lively sweet and sour soy-based sauce.

We were still oohing and aahing over our first course when the second arrived. It too left us punch drunk with pleasure. A portly lobe of fresh foie gras (that politically incorrect French gift to gourmets) came barely seared, resting on a ruby-colored compote of strawberries, blueberries and finely diced apples.

The fruit made an exquisite counterpoint to the luscious fattiness of the liver and its juices. We were particularly pleased that the fruit sauce was not overly sweet, as is frequently the case when fruit and foie gras are paired.

Tuna carpaccio in a pool of soy flavored oil consisted of some slices of un-extraordinary bigeye tuna with an extraordinary yuzu (Japanese citrus) pepper "salsa" that we stirred into the sauce. Floating in the liquid as well, were small cubes of earthy, steamed monkfish liver, sweet Tokyo white onion slivers and a few slices of crispy fried shallot. The imaginative combination of ingredients was perfectly felicitous. We just wished the tuna itself had been more flavorful.

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