It's not often one experiences a culinary event that stops you in your tracks. This type of thing is typically seen in New York or Chicago, but not as often in Milwaukee. My recent meal at Wasabi Sushi Lounge in Brookfield was exactly that, a jaw dropper.
Master Chef Ken "Taki" Kawahara has only been in Milwaukee for three weeks, but he has already made his mark.
Born in Guam and raised in Tokyo, he's been perfecting his technique since the age of three when he helped his uncle select fresh fish at the local markets. More recently, he's created his delicacies in New York, Santa Barbara and Portland. While in Santa Barbara, he cooked for the "Hollywood Crowd" and was affectionately known as "Sushi God Taki."
Sushi Chef Taki prides himself by making his sushi healthier than the norm. He jokingly bills it as "Vitamin Sushi." He makes every effort to utilize healthy ingredients like shitake mushrooms, mangos and fat-free sauces. His claim to fame however, is the use of "kuro shary," a Japanese black rice (available upon request). I know true sushi aficionados consider it blasphemy to use anything but white rice, but the whole point of my column is to promote healthy dining alternatives, and this definitely fits the bill.
The black rice is higher in fiber, vitamins and minerals, but most importantly the antioxidant anthocyanin. Anthocyanins are the same pigments that give many dark red and purple berries, such as blackberries, dark cherries and raspberries their rich color and health benefits. Though I was initially somewhat skeptical using it for sushi, I actually found it delicious and would take it over white or brown rice any day, both for taste and health benefits.
Taki prefers to prepare his sushi "Omakase ," or chef's choice. The rolls he prepared were out of this world. The first course was a dish, set in a circular presentation, with eight small cakes of black rice, topped with a tartar of tuna, salmon and hamachi, covered with thin slices of nori. This surrounded a mound of fresh shitake mushrooms topped with caviar and doused with a miso sauce. Absolutely delicious!
The second course arrived in an equally impressive fashion. Exceptionally fresh Ahi tuna, quickly seared and placed over a fresh salad of greens, topped with a ponzu sauce with sesame oil. This was then topped with a seared scallop with Ikura (raw salmon eggs). The entire dish is then surrounded with a bonito based sauce with sweet sake which had been marinating for two weeks.
The biggest surprise for my wife and I was the third course. Interestingly, this would be a great choice for those diners who don't eat raw fish -- since there was none in this dish. Ironically, it was my favorite course.
He starts the roll with Tamago (sweet Japanese egg), which is then surrounded by a super sweet, melt in your mouth mango. This was then wrapped in fresh Japanese mint leaves and encased in that delicious black rice. It was topped with Tobiko (flying fish eggs) and covered in Yuzu sauce (a Japanese fruit sauce). Was this delicious! The sweet mango, combined with the fresh mint leaves and egg practically exploded in our mouths. We couldn't get enough.
Taki had a few other courses which were equally delicious and healthy. By the time I finished eating, however, I was stuffed to the gills and questioning whether this was such a healthy meal, based on the volume I had consumed. My recommendation on a healthy approach is to start with the miso soup and a side of edamame (Japanese soy beans). Then sit back order an Omakasi style roll and let "Sushi God Taki" work his magic.
"Itataki Masae" (or Bon Appetit)!
Dr. Kevin Derus is a Board Certified Emergency Physician staffing the new Aurora Urgent Care Center at 946 N Van Buren St. in downtown Milwaukee. He is also an attending physician in the Emergency Department at Aurora Sinai Medical Center. He completed his undergraduate training at UW Eau Claire, and then attended Medical School at the Medical College of WI in Milwaukee. He completed his specialty training in Emergency Medicine in Akron OH.
Born and raised in Madison, he now resides in Hartland with his wife, Vicki and two sons, Nate and Nick. His interests include dining, exercise, snow skiing, water-skiing, fishing, Packers and Badgers Football, scuba diving, golf, travel and music. He is a singer/songwriter and does the lead singing in Madison's classic rock band Axle Grease.
Dr. Derus has been a confirmed foodie since 1985, always looking for new and interesting cuisines. As a partner in the Aurora Health and Wellness Initiative, he now works out five days a week and seeks great food that is delicious, as well as nutritious. What could be better than eating scrumptious food, while keeping an eye on one's cholesterol and waistline?