In my job, I eat around and out so many times–enchiladas, foie gras, sopressata, brussels sprouts, whatever–that I hardly ever get to experience the shock of a new flavor. Unless you travel the world eating everything that crawls out from under a rock, like Mr. Bourdain does, novelty necessarily gets rarer.
That's even more true, if things can be more true, for those of us who write about eating in a particular area. And truest for those of us who write about eating in Utah.
So it was a delight to be shocked–and delighted–by the taste of a simple raw oyster at Naked Fish last night.
Owner Johnny Kwon had invited me to taste some new menu items, specifically some 5A Wagyu beef. The second item on the kaiseki menu–following the sakizuke of tiny karasume (which I knew as Sardinian bottarga) sandwiches–was a single Kumamoto oyster, garnished with a tiny dab of yuzu gel and a spot of hot sauce. The combination of its head-enveloping, deep marine flavor and the clean, sharp aroma of the cold Illumination Sauvignon Blanc served with it was so sublime I didn't want to taste anything else for several minutes. I just wanted to roll around in the ocean of my senses.
This is why kaiseki is considered an art form.
I mean, it's not like I've never eaten an oyster before. But this one was revelatory.
That's what food can be like at Naked Fish, according to our dinner last night. Admittedly, this was a meal prepared for me specifically; I can't promise anyone the same experience. But it's useful as an indicator of the heights to which Chef Tosh can go:
Even following Spanish octopus, massaged by hand to keep it tender; fish killed by the ikejime method to preserve freshness;
tempura shrimp, kubocha squash and roe fried in sesame oil in an iron pot;
delicate egg custard steamed in a tea cup;
kushiyaki of duck, pork belly and tongue,
the Wagyu was amazing: Just take a look at the raw piece of beef chef Tosh brought out for us to see.
It comes with a certificate of authenticity specifying the name of the animal, its parentage and even a tongue print, analogous to a baby's footprint. And it's the fattest piece of meat I've ever seen, finally making sense of the term "marbling." (Like, here's a photo of some marble sold by a memorial company. )
It cooks into ridiculously rich morsels of protein, more like chewable foie gras than any beef you've ever met.
Go exploring at Naked Fish. Johnny Kwon is bullheadedly making it into one of the edgiest restaurants in town, basing his menu on a near-fanatical commitment to ideals like sustainable sushi (!!!), from-scratch everything (that's why the popular gyoza are no longer on the menu) and authenticity to the utmost. That includes bringing in sparkling sake and an expanding wine list chosen specifically for the dishes on Naked Fish's menu.