OK, so how many of you with newly acquired Japanese skills think my title from yesterday referred to strawberries (ichigo)?! I bet yesterday's post will be getting some google hits from people looking for Japanese strawberry recipes!
Anyway... this past Saturday, I spent a lovely evening with my friends, Chris and Anne. I had a VERY long week with various things stressing me out in all aspects of my life, so I needed a drink bad! ..except I don't drink anymore. So I scouted around for a place that might be adventurous enough to have some tasty virgin cocktails - any place boasting a strong wine focus was totally out of the question. I was looking for a place with a playful spirit and relaxing ambiance all at the same time...
Grasshopper, a small plates place with an Asian-inspired fusion-ish menu, sounded like the perfect choice for the evening. The food seemed like what I like and make at home - Asian fair with a touch of the West - and the description sounded like a hipster-place with various swanky cocktails.
Although we had no reservations, we managed to score the best seats in the house - bar seats right by the grill!! As you know by now, I'm a counter-seat kind of girl, so this was absolutely perfect for me. Conveniently, the bar also had a nice curve right around where we sat, allowing the three of us to sit comfortably with all of us facing each other.
The first thing I said to our friendly waitress was, "I've had a really, reALLY, REALLY bad week, and I need a drink very badly. But I don't drink. Can you recommend me a tasty virgin drink?" She paused for a second, but flashed me a beaming smile, saying, "I've got the perfect thing for you! How about a Virgin Mojito?" Mojitos conjured up images of refreshing mints and tangy sourness with just the right tingling sparkle - it sounded PERFECT.
And it was. I don't think I've been so happy with a drink in my life! My friends will vouch for me - I've had a lot of drinks in my life! And this was one of the most satisfying drinks! Heightened by my non-drinking status, the choice of a drink became more difficult and the exciting drink more elusive. But the Virgin Mojito had enough sassiness to take my stress away and remind me that, after all, I'm still just a twenty-something gal, out looking for fun!
So, the three of us dove into our food and feasted on a bunch of grilled treats. The skewers and meats were grilled right infront of us at the grill station, and the aroma from the grill was irresistible. We ordered practically everything on the grill menu and ate every last bite of it. Interestingly, most of the items on the grill menu were Japanese with a few Chinese options.
The beef in this misoyaki (grilled steak with miso sauce) was so juicy and wonderful, I don't remember the miso part at all. I'd definitely get it again for that primordial pleasure of ripping into a juicy, dripping piece of flesh.
I'm not a chicken fan, but the chicken satay was good, even for me. Tender and yet flavorful, this was one tasty skewer. I'm not so sure what part of it was the 'satay', since the sauce it came with was a sweet soy-based sauce, more like condensed teriyaki than what I think of as 'satay' sauce. Chris seemed to also wonder the same thing, but who cares what it's called? It was good!
The salmon misoyaki was also a winner with the salmon grilled to perfection. It had the right amount of scorched browning to give it a toasty aroma while being moist enough inside to be juicy. The seasoning was a sweet-salty miso paste, which went well with the jasmine rice.
We had a whole slew of dishes in addition to these, sat around for a few hours with me pounding my mojitos. I loved every last sip of it! It was a very, very lovely evening. Nothing like a weekend night out with my friends to pick my mood up - and thanks to Anne and Chris, I now know I can still go to swanky places and enjoy my drinks!
Turns out Chris happens to know my partner-in-cooking, Melissa! What a small, small world...