Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Return to NAOE

I had the pleasure of returning to NAOE last night, joined by the venerable Mr. Frodnesor and the always awesome "OMG" Jackie for another round of "Beer, Bento, Sake, Sushi" with Chef Kevin Cory and the most hospitable Wendy Maharlika.  It had been a short while since I'd dined at NAOE and I was eager to return.  It really is a great feeling - knowing that you're returning to a spot where you get a unique experience each and every time and that experience has you energized from the time you sit down to the time you stride through the exit door.

After a draft Sapporo and some chatter at the sushi bar, the bento box arrived before us and "Storytime with Chef Cory" began.  It went like this...
  • Quadrant 1
    • Steamed cobia, mountain yam, gingko biloba nuts and mitsuba
  • Quadrant 2 
    • Sake simmered cod milt with sansho pepper sauce
    • Marinated whelk
    • Chilled eggplant, lotus root and sweet potato on baby organic spinach
    • Salt broiled saury pike and mullet roe chestnuts
  • Quadrant 3 
    • Sardine rice with daikon pickled in koji
  • Quadrant 4
    • Cobia on shiso with fresh blanched wakame, kazunoko (herring roe), and fresh grated wasabi
  • Soup
    • Shiitake kumamoto oyster clear soup

I always find amusement in the way I systematically take down the bento box, quadrant by quadrant.  It's almost always the same routine where I begin with the "warm" (in this case the cobia) quadrant and move on to the one to it's right (which is usually tempura or something shellfish related and contains the most variety), taking bites of the rice quadrant dipped in shoyu every so often.  I finish the sashimi quadrant and then wash it all down with the soup.  That's a winning game plan right there.  When all was said and done, this was one of the best bento boxes I've had at NAOE.

Next up - Sushi Time!
  • Scottish salmon belly nigirizushi with fresh grated wasabi (Japan)
  • Poached Maine lobster (I passed on this round)
  • Golden ring octopus (Portugal)
  • Kumamoto oyster (Humbolt, CA)
  • Live scallop (Boston)
  • Live aoyagi
  • Cuttlefish
  • Aji (Japan) with fresh grated ginger
  • Iwashi topped with white seaweed
  • Uni (Hokkaido)
  • Unagi with sea salt
  • Shrimp omelet
  • Unagi kabayaki with narazuke (Japanese melon pickled in sake lees for 2 years)
This was some of the best octopus I've ever had (took pic after I dominated most of it)

Kumamoto oysters

Live scallop

Live aoyagi clam

Hokkaido sea urchin - shamelessly creamy, fantastic fresh flavor of the sea

Oh, and of course there's dessert too...
  • Watermellon, honeydew, longan, pluot, blueberry, blackberry, dragon fruit and persimmon
  • Organic honey sponge cake and NAOE ice cream
It's no wonder how NAOE has garnered quite the list of accolades.  They've earned every one of them.  Chef Cory is always trying to improve.  Timing was always his biggest adversary but since switching to 6:30pm and 9:30pm seatings it's gotten much better.  Two years ago, I related dining at NAOE as an experience rather than just dining at a restaurant.  I'm happy it's still the same.  And it gets better...  At the end of the year, NAOE will be moving from Sunny Isles down to Brickell Key.  That means instead of having to drive 30-45 minutes to get there, I'll now only have to go about ten minutes.  Dangerously close...

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