(End of) Summer Dish Review – Tofu at YUZU JAPANESE KITCHEN

With Summer on the wane, and  triple digit temperatures about to go the way of truth in political advertising (at least until next June), we will end our tour of our favorite summer dishes with a flourish over the next 2 days — and highlight plates of food (and restaurants) that astonished our picky palate over the past three months.

Case in point: the house-made tofu at Yuzu Japanese Kitchen. So warm and nutty and fresh, it took me straight back to Tokyo.

Yuzu is one of those places I had heard about, wasn’t in any hurry to try.

Why? Because it’s on Silverado Ranch Road in southeast Las Vegas. A neighborhood which is to tasty food what Mitchell Wilburn is to sobriety.

Everyone in town knows that getting me east of the Strip and south of Russell Road is harder than getting Donald Trump to read a teleprompter, but go there we did, and most impressed we were.

It was a quick meal on a week night, so we didn’t get to take the full measure of the place, but the sashimi platter was first rate, and this eel stew:

 …provided just the right respite from the summer heat, despite its authentic eel-i-ness.

(The Japanese believe the vitamin-rich unagi (fresh water eel) is just the thing to alleviate summer suffering. It is what you are supposed to eat on the Day of the Ox – usually around July 30 – to aid in your strength and vitality in the hot weather months.)

We missed the Day of the Ox by a couple of weeks, but the dish was so enticing in its simmered eel-rich broth, that we can’t wait to see what chef Azeuchi-san will whip up for his kaiseki menu.

As good as those were, though, what really knocked us out was his tofu. This is as far from the bland blob you’re used to as Tokyo is from Tonopah. When done right, fresh tofu achieves a subtle, malt-like nuttiness (and elusive richness) that compels bite after bite. This tofu was done right.

As I’ve written before, one of the most admirable things about the Japanese chef mindset is the dedication to getting it right. Not getting it close to right, or right enough to get by, or close enough for government work, but really, really right.

Perfection is, of course, elusive and impossible, but the Japanese think striving for it is an art (and religion) of its own.

You get the feeling when you sit down here, and take a bite of that tofu,  that Azeuchi-san is striving for it.