Happy New Year! As we welcome 2024, we are excited by a new year at Shiro’s. We peek into the kitchen with Chef Masaki, see what fun surprises are typically found in a Japanese pantry, and welcome the season for hot sake!
We hope your 2024 is off to a great start. We look forward to seeing you at Shiro’s.
Interview Head Chef Masaki
Head Chef Masaki started his career as a Japanese cuisine chef in Japan in 2001. After seven years he moved to London where he continued working in Japanese cuisine for one year and then transitioned to sushi for three years. After returning to Japan, he moved to Italian cuisine for four years before joining our team at Shiro’s in 2019 where he continues to lead the culinary side of Shiro’s with his expertise in fish dishes, specialty platters, sushi, and non-sushi dishes as well!
Q: What made you start your career as a chef?
A. I started my career after I met a chef in 2001. He inspired me and I was heavily influenced by him and his dishes.
Q: What prompted you to want to be a sushi chef in London?
A.I had the opportunity to work at a new sushi restaurant and I wanted to learn sushi directly from the owner-chef. He had awesome experiences, and shared so much of his knowledge, and skills with me. It truly altered my career trajectory.
Q: After returning to Japan from London, why did you try Italian cuisine and not continue with Japanese?
A. The Japanese restaurant I worked at in London also served a la carte, so I became very interested in non-sushi dishes and the combination of Japanese cuisine and European cuisine. I was also inspired by European foods during my time in London. Once I returned to Japan, I started to apply more of the basics of the culinary arts rooted in Europe and combined them with new ideas that are not in Japanese cuisine.
Q: How have your experiences in Japan, London, and Italian cuisine benefitted you?
A. I looked at my experiences in those countries and with the various types of cuisines and cooking. While there are important fixed ideas or “rules” to cooking, which are important parts to protect, I also learned that there are some points that I can break down to express myself and further push culinary boundaries and my creativity. I found how to express cultural differences by experiencing different cultures by myself, like using local ingredients and the familiar foods of local people without breaking the basic concept of Japanese cuisine.
Q: What’s your specialty?
A. Fish dishes! I enjoy thinking about how to present food as well, like color expression and combinations of food, height balance of food, and composition. I’m interested in expressing joy before even taking a bite, because when dishes are served, visible information always comes first. When serving sushi at the Sushi Bar, I’m always aware of how I present each piece of Nigiri when I put it in front of our guests, to showcase the beauty and encourage guests to experience its beauty. Attention to the details is so important.
Q: What do you do in your free time?
A. I enjoy spending time with my family!
Q: What’s your favorite sushi?
A. Longtooth grouper and Lean Tuna
Q: What do you think is the attraction of Shiro’s?
A. Shiro’s Sushi has a history and legacy as the longest established sushi restaurant in Seattle. That history is something that other sushi places in Seattle just don’t have. Thankfully, it means we’ve been loved for a long time by our guests, both out-of-towners and locals. While we have traditions, our chefs have a variety of experiences and have unique characteristics that they each bring to influence Shiro’s. While that is important in its own, right, every chef is on the same page; we make a very good team! All these elements complement each other, which I believe continues to maintain our attraction to the dining public.
Q: What do you enjoy about being a chef?
A. I strive to provide unforgettable food to our guests. I always care about the smallest of details in every dish, even each and every piece of Nigiri rice!
Q: What do you want to tell each guest that comes into Shiro’s?
A. We hope you enjoy our dishes and the dining experience we provide! We work hard to present the best food, service and experience possible. Please talk to us – every staff member is very friendly!
What’s found in a Japanese pantry
Pantries vary a lot across the world, and even within the United States as a “typical pantry” lacks meaning as we are graced with many cultures, preferences, and influences. While it’s impossible to capture a typical pantry, we decided to pull open the door of a Japanese pantry and explore what one might find.
We will often find a wide array of pantry ingredients that include rice, sugar, salt, vinegar, soy sauce, miso, mirin, sake, mayo, ginger, tubed wasabi, garlic, and Japanese bouillon (Dashi, Bonito fish soup stock). As you know, rice is the main staple and is essential in a Japanese pantry. Miso and dashi are necessary ingredients for miso soup, another highly prized go-to.
Sugar, salt, vinegar, soy sauce, miso, and mirin are basic sauce ingredients for making any Japanese cuisine at home. There is a phrase “Sa(Sugar) Shi(Salt) Su(Vinegar;酢) Se(Soy sauce) So(Miso) of Japanese cuisine,” which is an acronym for each of those ingredients. It is a combination of words worth remembering and specifically to remember to put condiments in that order, “Sa Shi Su Se So,” as they create several different and essential sauces. Some examples:
- Teriyaki: sugar, soy sauce, mirin, sake
- Karaage: soy sauce, sake, ground ginger, garlic
- Nikujaga (Japanese meat and potato stew): sugar, soy sauce, sake, mirin
- Shogayaki (Ginger Pork): sugar, soy sauce, ginger, sake, mirin
- Nitsuke (Braised fish): soy sauce, sake, mirin, ginger
Sake in January
It’s the season for good Atsu-kan (Hot sake). We already introduced Atsu-kan and the name of sake temperatures in the February 2021 newsletter. Today we feature the characteristics and tastes of hot sake at different temperatures. Sake’s sweetness and umami are enhanced when it is warmed. Temperatures close to human body temperature (95℉) bring out the sweetness the most, while temperatures above Atsu-kan (110℉) bring out the dryness.
Different types of sake go well with different temperatures. For example, Atsu-kan is best suited for rich, full-bodied sake, while junmai-shu with its low rice polishing rate is best suited for temperatures above 110℉ (Tobikiri-kan, Atsu-kan, Jou-kan). Junmai sake and Honjozo sake are recommended for heating up to 110℉, such as Nuru-kan, Hitohada-kan*, and Hinata-kan**. Each brand of sake has its own “recommended temperature range,” as a guide.
|The taste is drier and the aroma more intense.
|The taste of rice is enhanced, and umami, acidity, and sweetness can be felt.
|Standard temperature of hot sake. Presents good taste and aroma
|Temperature at which the flavor of sake begins to expand
|The aroma is enhanced slightly
*Hitohada: human body temperature 95℉
**Hinata: Sunshine, Hinata-kan: temperature 85℉