Japan Week successfully kicked off last week with an Opening Gala event at Grand Central Terminal exclusively for members of the trade and the media. More than 200 guests enjoyed an evening of Japanese food, drinks and culture. The theme of the evening was Japan’s healthful green tea in its many forms and its surprising culinary uses in dishes like Bond’s Street’s Green Tea Soba Sushi and in various marinades and flavor accents. Green tea was also highlighted in inventive cocktails like the Green Kimono by Esteban Ordonez (International Restaurant Group) that used Sugimoto matcha tea powder, as well as the Yamazaki 12 Years Old and Pomelo cocktail by Gen Yamamoto (Brushstroke) that was infused with Sugimoto sen-cha green tea. Even desserts showcased green tea, like Madam Geneva’s Foie and Green Tea “Bon Bon” that incorporated green tea short bread and matcha. Various tea purveyors were also on hand to sample their wares, including ITO-EN.
Koto Player and Composer Yumi Kurosawa opened the gala with beautiful and traditional Japanese koto music. To celebrate the evening, Ambassador Shigeyuki Hiroki, Consul General of Japan in New York and government officials from JRO and JNTO performed the Kagamiwari ceremony by opening a festive wooden cask of sake, which was ladled out to the attendees. The event took place in the stately Vanderbilt Hall, which was decorated with towers bedecked with Japanese red lanterns, a Buddha sculpture, and cherry blossoms encased in blocks of ice to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Japanese government giving this symbol of friendship and cooperation to the American people.
Presenters included culinary legend David Bouley, who spoke about his passion for Japanese cuisine. Chef Roger Ma, famed Restaurant Daniel sous chef and a winner of the JRO Umami recipe Challenge, discussed umami and presented a dish inspired by his visit to Japan. Chef Billy Strynkowski, executive chef at Cooking Light Magazine, showed how green tea can be used to make healthy meals with his dish of Green Tea Citrus Rubbed Halibut with Mango Ginger Relish. Some of the evening’s distinguished guests included Top Chef contestant Angelo Sosa, Cooking Channel’s “Drink Up” host Darryl Robinson and Chef Michael Lomonaco of Porter House New York.
Japan tourism booths greeted attendees while restaurants treated attendees to their delectable food. Participating restaurants also included Restaurant Daniel, Hakata Tonton, Hibino, Kibo, Kyoya, Ronin, and Sakagura. Restaurant Daniel served Wasabi Cured Fluke with shiso barvaroise while Hakata Tonton offered Crab and Glass Noodle Rice with sansho pepper. Hibino offered Grilled Sake Lees Marinated Scallops wrapped with daikon, beets and sake kasu sauce and Kibo served Yaki Soba with braise korubuta pork, ginger and micro cilantro as well as their cocktail, Kibo-San made with Pearl Cucumber vodka, raspberry sake and rose water. Kyoya served Kombu Cured Fluke Sushi wrapped with cherry blossom flavored sasa and “Imo-Mochi” with Sea Urchin, butter and soy sauce and Ronin offered Simmered Tuna Toro Cheeks.
The installation at Vanderbilt Hall was open to the public until March 3rd. Other related activities included the Japan National Tourism Organization’s participation in the New York Times Travel Show on March 2-4, the Japan Pavilion at the International Restaurant & Foodservice Show on March 4-6. Dine Out for Japan 2012 (Restaurant Week) is March 7-11. Dine out at a participating Japanese restaurant this weekend and eat out for a cause. A portion of the profits from Restaurant Week will go to support the Japan Tohoko earthquake and tsunami relief efforts. For more information, please visit www.japanweek.us.