Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Gochiso-sama, Gochi!

Japanese meals start with "Itadakimasu" (literal translation: "I am graciously accepting this") and end with "Gochisousamadeshita" ("It was a wonderful feast"). Goshisou alone is also the word for epicurean delights in general, and the word originally contained meanings of thanking the host for running around to collect the best ingredients to prepare the finest meal. In general, "Gochisousamadeshita" should only be shortened to "Gochisousama", and I remember being scolded as a child when I tried to get away with "Gochi". So when I heard of a new Japanese 'fusion tapas' restaurant opening in Cupertino named Gochi, I was a little bit skeptical as to what to expect. But when I found out that Gochi was headed by the ex-head chef of Tanto, I knew it would be a worthwhile izakaya.

Last Saturday, a bunch of us made the trek down to Cupertino. Gochi is conveniently located next to a karaoke place we like to frequent, so we spent some time at Gamba Karaoke for a pre-dinner vocal workout. Karaoke before dinner - how reminiscent of my teenage days in Japan!

With hungry appetites, we walked into Gochi to find a very pleasant dining room with a tatami seats with hori-gotatsu (where you can put your feet under the table, even though it looks like tatami seating). They'd obviously put quite a bit of effort and thought into the design of the dining room. It was welcoming with warm tones and bright with light wood paneling. I noticed some not-so-nice regular table seating by the bathroom for two-person seating - I'll be calling ahead to specify that I don't want those tables!

The drink menu at Gochi is far more extensive than many other Japanese restaurants. There's soju (shochu), distilled alcohol made from potatoes, in addition to the usual sake and beer offerings. Three of us polished off two of these $70 soju bottles, or I should say the two bottles finished us off! The dinner menu offered a dizzying array of dishes that all sounded very good. Some of the old favorites from Tanto were there along with totally new creations.

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I never thought I'd find namako-su in the Bay Area, but this sea cucumber (namako) slices in ponzu sauce was delicious. My grandfather used to love this, and boy, does it go dangerously well with my soju! Gochi's ponzu was very good without being too tangy or edgy. It was a calm, nourishing sourness that highlighted the flavors of the ocean from the seaweed and the namako.

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This anago-meshi was a very good deal with a huge claypot of rice for ~$12. The anago wasn't quite the quality of anago one would find at a sushi restaurant, but nonetheless, the seasoning on the anago and the rice made this dish definitely worth trying. I noticed they had several other kinds of claypot rice dishes, so I'll likely get something else.

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This fried eggplant was stuffed with shrimp and dressed in a sweet, soy-sauce caramel. It reminded me of Daigaku Imo (College Potato), the Japanified Chinese treat of sweet potatoes fried and coated with hardened sugar syrup (which we call 'ame' or candy). Since everything else was savory, the combination of the sweet and savory flavors in my mouth was pleasurably exciting.

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And since I am becoming more and more like my grandfather these days, I had to get this satoimo (taro-like potato) dish. These sticky, gooey potatoes are naturally bite-size and they absorb the soup they get cooked in so very well. Each bite sends umami-powered savory dashi into my mouth followed by the stickiness of the potato bringing with it a delicate sweetness of the potato flesh. The bonito flakes (the wood-shaving like strips) was a little over-powering, so I ate around the bonito flakes.

Overall, Gochi was a solid performer. I'd ranked in the Top Five izakayas in the Bay Area. It reminded me very much of Tanto when it was still at the old Santa Clara location. The decor might be too fancy for the Japanese (oyaji) businessmen crowd that use to fill the tables at the Santa Clara location, but in exchange, I'm sure they'll pick up some more non-Japanese clientele. Prices were good as an izakaya with each dish ranging between $5 and $15. They are a very welcome addition to the family of izakayas... speaking of which, I am thinking about organizing a Battle of the Izakaya in the Dim Sum battle format. Contenders will be Tanto (Saratoga), Saizo, Yumeya, Gochi. Let me know if you're interested!

www.gochifusiontapas.com
19980 Homestead Rd
Cupertino, CA 95014
(408) 725-0542

10 comments:

umetaro said...

I would like to participate, but I would need to find a designated driver...

Robyn said...

I'm interested!...oh wait, this is one of those times when living in NYC isn't that great. Damn!

Even though I know they exist here, I've never been to an izakaya. Your food looks so yummy! Ahh!

Alice said...

Umetaro,

You can always come home with us and just crash at our place! I'm sure Hazel will LOOOOVE some company!

Robyn,

It's too bad you're on the opposite coast... But when I get around to visiting my sister in NYC, we should totally go scouting some NYC izakayas!

chris said...

Hi!
Anago meshi looks very delicious! I would like to try to eat it(^-,^).

Saizo is on El Camino real near Albertsons, isn't it?
My friend said Indian cuisine restaurant nent to Saizo is Very NICE! (But insid the restaurant is too small and little bit duty. She usually buy indian curry to go.)

やほー。アナゴご飯すっごく美味しそう♪試した~い(^ー,^)<よだれ出そう。

彩蔵ってエルカミノリアルのアルバートソンズの側にあるところの?
(もしそうなら)友達がその隣のインドカレーが美味しいって言ってたよ。(友達曰く、店は小さくてちょっと汚いから、何時もto goにしてるって)

……と書いたつもりなんだけど合ってるかなあ??

Alice said...

Chris,

Your English is excellent!! You say everything you meant to say very, very well!

I've heard such great things about Spice Hut, we should all go there soon!!!!!

crawmommy said...

With my hectic schedule lately, I am finally catching up with the blog reading! Anyway, I'd like to participate in the izakaya tasting. Sounds like a lot of fun!!

sherrie said...

hi alice,

we were at the Karaoke place this past weekend and saw the "japanese tapas" sign next door.. I was just thinking about you and wondering if "tapas" translates to izakaya.. :) Would love to try it out next time you are in the mood to go there again!

sherrie

Anonymous said...

Do you have a list of places you have been to/recommend?

Here are some that I didn't see on your site yet (not necessarily better than Gochi, as that might be our fav in the Bay Area)

Have you ever tried Izakaya in San Jose on 1st street near J-town? Definitely what I would say is a more traditional type versus Tokyo type (meaning less creative/fusion dishes). It was our first Bay Area experience, but was good enough to get us hooked. Also if you want a mom and pop more traditional place (you can smoke), try Akachochin near Mitsuwa in San Jose.

I love how you listed a few more that we have never tried. I am excited! My friends (from socal and norcal) and I travel to LA or they come up here almost every month to try new restaurants, primarily Japanese.

How about ramen? Got a list for that too?

Jeff

Alice said...

Crawmommy,

I will make sure to post a notice about Battle Izakaya, but in the mean time, pls email me and I will make sure to let you know when we have an organized date!

Sherrie,

I LOVED Gochi. We should totally do a karaoke and izakaya trip very soon!

Jeff,

Being in the twenty-something age group, I tend to like the fusion fancy izakayas better. I've been to Izakaya once and drove by Akacho-chin, but they seemed a bit too... oyaji for me.

I've been meaning to do a ramen listing, in addition to Battle:izakaya, so I promise to get to it as soon as I can get my life in order! Come back and I'll promise to get it posted soon!

KK said...

What are your favorite places to get authentic Japanese style anago or anago sushi?

Sushi Sam's in San Mateo does a nice version, but too small for too much. I love Sakae's version when they get it fresh from Tsukiji and then prepare their own.

Sushi Kuni in Cupertino I have found that the chef makes it from scratch, as good as Sushi Sam's version if not better, and much cheaper.