April 26, 2010

Ozumo Brings the Art of Tofu Making to the Table

The chefs who order our soy products continue to inspire us with their innovation in not only recipe development, but cuisine experiences. While visiting San Francisco's Ozumo last Friday, we observed the magic of tofu formation brought to our table!

Upon request, servers entertain guests with a tofu-making demonstration. "I've always wanted to do table-side tofu," Chef Alex Morgan says. After touring our beanery last month, he asked for a lesson in silken tofu making. He brought his knowledge back to Ozumo and taught all his servers his newfound skill. The freshly made tofu is served with pickled watermelon radish, pickled ginger, wasabi, and dashi.

Located in San Francisco's SOMA neighborhood at 161 Steuart Street, Ozumo is a stylish restaurant know for its innovative contemporary Japanese cuisine. The beautifully presented small plates, sushi rolls, robata grill and North America's most extensive sake menu bring in a crowd every night for happy hour and dinner. While Ozumo's signature dishes are hanabi, dohyo, futago, and gindara, the chefs are the most proud of serving tontoro. Tontoro is a pork jowel slowly braised in sweet tentsuyu for four hours. So tender, tontoro falls to pieces on your tongue.

We were delighted to discover Hodo's silken tofu, yuba and nama yuba incorporated into equally delicate dishes. Yuba is a subtle, protein-packed delicacy made by skimming off the elegant layer of skin that forms on the surface of heated soy milk. Nama yuba is the youngest yuba, a creamier soft-cheese-textured soy milk skin, with a sweet and nutty flavor. We recommend pairing nama yuba dishes with nama sake, which is raw and unpasteurized and exhibits more rice flavor.

Our first course was the Yuba Maki, an upscale shinjo version of the Philly Roll. Salmon, spinach and gindara were wrapped in yuba, fried, and served on top of a lobster aka miso sauce. "I don't think cheese and seafood should be served together," Alex remarked, pointing out the nama yuba taking the place of cream cheese. It did the trick, providing the creaminess and richness that compliments salmon so well.

We next enjoyed blanched artichoke hearts from the Yasai menu. They were served on top of a rich nama yuba sauce, mixed with sour cream and garlic. The white sauce swirled into a soy sauce, making a beautiful ying and yang design below the criss-crossed hearts, and complimenting each other's flavors beautifully.

Alex's most stand-out dish was the Chowan Dofu soup. Chowan Dofu is a vegan take on chowan muchi, an egg custard soup made with dashi and eggs. This housemade black trumpet mushroom broth with heart of palm and rice flour was adorned with a beautiful tower of fresh vegetables, floating on an island of silken tofu. Minh smiled approvingly at the first bite: "This is a vegan delight. The meaty mushrooms are a perfect smokey balance to the creamy silk." Its heartiness was the perfect remedy after a week of unexpected late-spring rain. The richness rivaled a French Onion soup, and we felt warmed and full before finishing our bowls.

For those Hodo fans who haven't had the chance to tour our beanery and taste our tofu seconds after its born, Ozumo now provides another location for this experience! Just order table-side tofu as a course from Omakase, the chef tasting menu. And, unlike at our beanery, at Ozumo, you can pair your tofu with sakes and wines!