When Chef Jake Klein visited Japan for the first time, he sat down to enjoy a kaiseki meal, a traditional multi-course diner. The first plate set before him was “a slice of tomato and a plop of mayonnaise,” says the Executive Chef of Morrell Wine Bar, “and I thought, ‘This is brilliant!’”
Chef Klein, who has cooked extensively throughout Asia and apprenticed under Chef Masaharu Morimoto, selected fresh vegetables and other ingredients purchased at local markets such as Union Square Greenmarket for Taste of the Market, which was a benefit for The Gohan Society’s educational initiatives.
In addition to the local heirloom tomatoes with lobster aioli, Chef Klein prepared walnut raisin crostini with goat’s milk butter and Welsh oak smoked sea salt, smoked duck salad with wild rocket and Japanese yellow mustard, and sake-grilled short ribs with smoky oyster sauce. Through these dishes, Chef Klein explored Japanese approaches to local market ingredients and how well those ingredients pair with Japanese sake, two multiple award-winning sakes from Tenryo Sake Brewery of Gifu, Japan, courtesy of Wine of Japan Import, Inc.
Although the dishes aren’t typically thought of as Japanese, there was no denying that they paired beautifully with Tenryo’s Koshu Junmai Dai-Ginjo and Hidahomare Junmai Ginjo. Like with The Gohan Society’s March fundraiser, Sake Comes to Harlem, Taste of the Market reinforced the idea that you don’t have to consume Japanese beverages with strictly Japanese cuisine.
“If we were in Japan, this would be considered Japanese,” says Chef Klein, referring to the heirloom tomatoes, “But we’re here in New York, and we call it ‘farm-to-table.’”
Although Chef Klein’s offerings may have seemed and looked simple, each dish was a complex blend of ingredients that worked together to create a burst of flavor with each bite. That is the Japanese approach that Chef Klein takes in his cooking, using each element in a clean and simple manner that allows the taste to shine.