Oko Kitchen

6 Wilton RdWestport, CT 06880 • (203) 557-8404 • okokitchen.com

If you love The Cottage than you will, um, really struggle to like this place as much. As The Whelk is to Kawa Ni, they are sister restaurants, linked by the same chef, who, definitely upped the sushi game in Westport without a doubt. But if you’re going in with expectations that it is The Cottage in Japanese form, you will be disappointed.

Appropriately starting with the starters, I found the attempt at inventive edamame to be noble, yet messy and nowhere near as good as the ones at Koku in Armonk. Jazzed up with garlic, soy butter, gomashio (sesame salt) and shio kombu (a form of dashi). But net, net it’s a lot of pomp and circumstance without a lot of flavor.

Same goes for the shishito peppers, although the slightly better of the two, made novel with chickpea miso, guanciale and shoyu-koji (soy sauce).

For small plates, Oko didn’t wow much either. The deviled eggs with pork belly being the least wowiest and a far cry from two other versions in Westport alone- both Rothbard and The Whelk making far superior versions.

The sticky ribs fared much better, sauced with smoked maple, gochujang and sesame crunch. But the real winner of the smalls is the miso black cod, or as they call it “Torched Black Cod.” It’s cedar grilled and done in a madieira shoyu glaze with shitake and scallion and it…is…killer! As good as the one at Matsuisha in LA, the place that invented the dish.

But what about the friggin’ sushi? Okay, I get it. After all, it is a sushi joint, right? So, long story longer, it’s very good. The fish is fresh and the preparations are inventive without being gimmicky, for the most part- the one exception being the foie gras, which shockingly I would forego and just follow the omakase. Oh, and great news, this is more like it is in fine sushi restaurants in Japan, where you don’t even use or need soy sauce or wasabi, because the preparation is so wonderful on its own.

Speaking of wonderful, come dessert, you have to try the- okay, bare with me on this one… The soft serve. I know! What am I, like five years old?! But I’m not joking here. They take Dairy Queen’s invention to another level. Especially with the friggin’ Oko crunch!!! I mean, other than the miso cod it might’ve been the best thing we had. And that’s not just the killer gin cocktail talking (yes, they also have a killer gin cocktail).

It’s no Cottage, but Oko is definitely a strong three knives and the best Japanese in town. Give it a few more weeks to iron out the kinks and I’d imagine it will be a four or five.

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Bonfire

Minneapolis/St. Paul Airport • 4300 Glumack Dr. Saint Paul, MN 55111 • (612) 726-5360 • http://bonfirewoodfirecooking.com/blog/location/msp-airport/

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I have eaten here a ton over the years due to a plethora of business trips that invariably had me loitering about the Minneapolis airport in search of something to stave off any hunger pangs that might occur mid-flight, causing me to have to buy one of those boxed “meals” that taste only marginally better than some of the luggage on board.

Now it might surprise you to know that the Minneapolis airport actually has a few good dining options amidst the food court riffraff, and right at the top of those options I would put Axel’s Bonfire. Well, I would’ve put them at the top until I just went back recently and they seem to have lost a step… not to mention a knife. But even having lost a knife, for airport nutrients Bonfire is on fire with their excellent chicken tortilla soup and their blackened walleye salad (pictured). The salad used to be served with a wonderful, fresh baked roll, which they seem to have replaced with boring old sliced baguette.

As for dessert, I’ve never actually had it there. I always head over to the DQ in the C terminal and grab a Blizzard. After all, I am human.

3 teeth

Zero Zero

826 Folsom St. San Francisco, CA 94107(415) 348-8800 zerozerosf.com

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This may be the only place on earth that serves both a great fried chicken AND a solid pizza. Sure, I know what you’re going to say, what about places that have great chicken parm? To which I would retort, “chicken parm is not great fried chicken.”

But apart from the great fried chicken app, the others, arancini and the charcuterie, were just “eh.”

The pizza, however, was quite the surprise being that I’m from The Land of Za (aka NYC). And we tried several, most of which were very good. The best being the Castro pizza. After that a tie between the Broadway and the Geary, which is a clam pizza of all things. Yes, as in the mollusk. It was pretty damn good. The Fillmore was the only let down, comparatively speaking. Not bad mind you, just the weakest of the lot. Oh, and in case you haven’t guessed yet, they name their pies after the streets in San Francisco so if you want to know what’s exactly on each pie, check the link above for the menu.

And as for dessert, this was mostly a miss for me. The bread pudding simply isn’t worth the calories and if you know me by now, you’d also know that it takes a LOT for me to say that about bread pudding, which typically gets a free ride from me as a confectionary species. The soft serve is also a big whatevs, nothing you can’t get at a bagillion other places all across the country including Dairy Queen (gratuitous plug of a former client), and the best of the sweets, the ricotta beignets, while a passable solid good, still weren’t good enough that I would order them again if I went back. After all, I have my girlish figure to look out for… and by girlish I mean Travolta in Hairspray.

3 teeth