At the Noodle Bar with Mr. Bob Harris

When I first saw Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation, it took me somewhere I’d never been.  Those beautiful shots, that dreamy music, the insomnia, discovery and wistful alienation not only transported me to Tokyo, but somehow soothed me as well.

I think Bob and Charlotte might’ve shared a dish like this one night between pachinko and karaoke.  It’s simple, but the Japanese flavors, as always, are sneaky in their complexity.  Take your time making it, and take your time eating it.

Sofia’s masterpiece shows us that the unfamiliar can be scary, but that’s always outweighed by new experiences, new acquaintances, and maybe some lessons learned.  Best of all, it gives us some time to think, daydream, or escape.  Again, this may seem complicated, but it’s really only 4 relatively easy steps.  So just organize your mise en place and relax.  These are calming flavors.  You’ll make a beautiful dish.  Most importantly, if only in your mind, you’ll take a wonderful trip.

Charlotte’s Maguro with Somen, Leek Broth, and Crispy Squid

Serves 2

2/3 – ¾ lbs. of Sashimi-grade Tuna steaks

2 “bands” of somen noodles

For the marinade:

2 generous tablespoons of sake

2 generous tablespoons of soy sauce

1 clove of garlic, finely diced

1 teaspoon of mirin

1 squeeze of lime juice, but yuzu is ideal

Combine the marinade ingredients in a shallow bowl, give it a stir, and set it aside for now.

For the broth:

1 heaped tablespoon of miso

3 tablespoons of soy sauce

1 tablespoon of mirin

1 tablespoon of rice vinegar

a small drizzle of sesame oil

1 leek, white and light green part only, thinly sliced

3-4 shitake mushrooms, stems removed, thinly sliced

1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, grated finely

In a saucepan over low heat, add the liquid ingredients.  Then whisk in the miso.  Make sure to whisk until thoroughly incorporated, so as not to leave any clumps.  Then add three cups of water, and bring it to just below a simmer.  Finally, add the ginger, mushrooms, and leeks, and set it on the back burner on low heat until you’re ready to serve.

For the Squid:

2-3 small squid, (cleaned, bodies only)

¼ cup of Panko

1 cup of vegetable oil

Pinch of salt

Cut the squid crossways to make rings.  Place the rings in paper lunch bag or small Ziploc bag with the panko and a pinch of salt and shake.  Heat the vegetable oil to 350˚ in a very small sauce pan and carefully drop in the rings.  They will turn golden brown in about a minute or ninety seconds.  Remove the rings onto a paper towel to drain and sprinkle with a little salt immediately.  Be careful not to eat them all before dinner.

Then get the noodles started.  Somen noodles only take about three minutes in vigorously boiling, unsalted water to cook. 

Sear the tuna.  You can make the tuna on your grill, but since its only cooking for about a minute on each side, this is probably overkill.  Instead, just get your grill pan super hot, lay the tuna in (unseasoned), and sear, for about a minute on each side.  Please do not overcook this fish or it will become mealy and horrible.  A note to the novice:  the fish will be a beautiful red/pink on the inside – and that’s how we want it.  (Red if you’re using yellowfin, pink if you’re using albacore.)

Let it rest for a few minutes and slice into ¼ inch pieces.  Then place these pieces in the waiting marinade for about a minute or two on each side.  This has the advantage of giving you time to plate.

To serve:  Place two ladlefuls of broth in the bottom of a shallow bowl.  Heap the noodles atop the broth.  Then arrange the tuna slices atop the noodles.  Finally, sprinkle the bowl nonchalantly with the crispy squid rings.

Serve with at least one Asahi Super Dry.  Please, seriously, do this.

Playlist included Shugo Tokumaru’s whimsical Parachute, and of course the LiT Soundtrack (nerds, I mean serious fans like me, have the bound, deluxe edition).

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