Sunday, May 13, 2012

Pabu Izakaya, Baltimore

   One thing lacking in the Baltimore restaurant scene is a true Japanese restaurant. Most of the sushi restaurants in the area are Chinese or Korean run. I was very excited when they announced that Pabu, an izakaya run by chefs Ken Tominaga and Michael Mina, would open in the Four Seasons at Harbor East. I'm already a fan of Wit & Wisdom, Mina's first restaurant in Baltimore. I was also excited to hear that desserts would be made by pastry chef Chris Ford.
   Pabu is also promoting itself as having a master sake sommelier, Tiffany Dawn Soto, so when I first arrived for an early Mother's day meal with my parents and aunt & uncle, I ordered a sake cocktail, the Super X, made with Lillet Blanc, junmai ginjo, yuzu, and housemade falernum, a kind of simple syrup. It had a good tartness and sweetness to it.

   Since Pabu is an izakaya, we ordered a lot of small plates, starting with a couple tempura dishes. First was a dish with maitake mushroom and some seasonal vegetables.
   They also inadvertantly served us a plate of the meso anago (young eel) tempura.
Both dishes were beautifully fried, and in particular the eel was great.
   We ordered Jako, a small dish of minnows seasoned with ginger, shiso and goma. It's like the Japanese equivalent of beer nuts, a salty snack to pair with drinks.
   My father and I wanted to try their Rappahannock oysters served with a tasty ponzu sauce.

   Next was soy braised lotus root with sesame seeds and thin chili threads.
   I always order the shishito peppers if they are on the menu. They served a bowl with at least 20 or so peppers, nicely charred, topped with shredded bonito and seasoned with shoyu.

   Pabu's edamame dish had a nice flair to it as it was seasoned with chili oil and smoked salt giving it a good kick in flavor.
   Our next course was hirame wrapped uni tempura. They came as small nuggets on the stick. When you bit into it, you first would hit the delicious white fish meat and in the center was the wonderful sea urchin.
   We then proceeded to get several items from their Robata grill. First to come out was tiny Japanese eggplants served with a miso sauce. It was good, but I thought the sauce was a little heavy.
   We then got ika yaki, or whole grilled squid. It came with a side of the yellow Japanese style mayo.

   I really loved the beef tendon. It was soft and seasoned with a wonderful yuzu kosho ponzu sauce.
   We also got kokoro, sake-cured chicken hearts, which reminded me of very tender gizzards, and kariganebone, the shoulder blade of the chicken.
Somehow, they ended up giving us an extra order the the shoulder, but boy, was it good.

   My folks also really liked the erengi mushroom skewers served with garlic and more shishito peppers.
   After the small plates, each of us ordered a "main"  of either noodles or rice.
I ordered a tasting of nigiri sushi. Chef flies some fish all the way from Tsukiji market in Tokyo for the sushi.
   The rice was awesome, and the selection of fish was pretty amazing including mackerel, yellowtail, sea bream, and horse mackerel.
   My mother and aunt ordered Michael's Chicken Noodle, a chicken ramen with a really flavorful broth.
   My uncle ordered the soba noodles. It included a quail egg to mix with the dipping sauce.
   My dad had the unagidon which included a piece of foie gras on top the the freshwater eel.

  Of course we had to order dessert. With a pot of coffee from Lamill, first we had a deconstructed sesame ice cream sundae. In the large bowl was ice cream with cocoa meringues. In the smaller bowls, there was black tapioca, togarashi chocolate sauce, and caramel crumble.
   We also ordered the dessert omakase, a plate with four dessert items. There was a white chocolate bar loaded with whiskey. I really loved the honey panna cotta topped with yuzu gelee and tapioca.
   It also came with a green tea sorbet with lemon grass, melon and pineappple, and a small mochi with miso caramel ice cream.
   I'm already looking forward to go back to try promising looking items like Maryland crab okonomiyaki, octopus poke, and tsukune, as well as some ambitious looking rolls. 

200 International Drive
Baltimore, MD


Anonymous said...

Exciting stuff! Love the quail egg with the soba. Sad there's no menu online... I'd love to have a look.

theminx said...

Dominic - there is a menu online: