Thursday, February 11, 2010

Dinner at Shiro with Friends

Shiro Restaurant
1505 Mission Street
South Pasadena, CA 91030-3215
(626) 799-4774

Shiro Restaurant in South Pasadena is co-owned by Sherril and Chef Hideo Yamashiro, who also helms Orris in West Los Angeles.  Shiro is Okinawan by birth, and has worked in several high profile French restaurants in Los Angeles including Ma Maison, Les Anges,  and Cafe Jacoulet.  As a fan and frequent eater of Japanese cuisine, I clearly see the marriage of French technique to Japanese insistence on freshness of ingredients and clarity of flavor profiles.  Shiro visits the Los Angeles fish markets every morning to shop for Shiro and Orris.  The menu changes regularly to reflect availability and quality of ingredients for sale.

Last week S & E from Shiro hosted a beautiful dinner for my friend MAG and me in exchange for taking some snaps of their beautiful food.  They are looking to increase their web presence and needed some delectable shots to support their drive to elevate their profile, attract new clients and conquer the Pasadena foodiverse.  We were treated extremely well, ate delicious food and all the while I marveled at how Shiro has managed to sneak under my food radar the last couple years. S started us off with a glass of lovely prosecco and the games began.

Warm crusty bread, a great start on a rainy cold winter night.

Our amuse bouche: sweet shrimp with herbs in delicate endive cups.  The flavor was sweet and the texture was silky.

The first of three very hearty appetizers was a plate of grilled Alaskan King Crab leg sections. With shells split in half for easy access, the meat was just touched with a little charbroiled flavor. Grilled flavor present but not dominant.  On the side was a Japanese inspired cucumber salad that tasted of mirin, and the crab sections sat in a little pool of clarified butter.

Our second appetizer is one of MAG's favorite dishes at Shiro. Calling it "slurp it off my thighs deliciousness", it's a destination dish for MAG. She sometimes comes to Shiro just for this and a side of veggies. Black truffle shrimp ravioli in a truffle cream sauce with spinach.  

Housemade ravioli stuffed with shrimp served in a sauce flavored lightly with black truffle, then to compliment the sauce and throw the eater into foodgasms the chef adds shavings of black truffle on top and serves it all surrounding a bed of sauteed spinach.

This was my favorite dish of the evening, and I was surprised.  You can probably tell it was my favorite because a) the pic is huge and b) I took a lot of snaps to get this pic, circling the table obnoxiously like a hungry coyote.  Seared medallions of foie gras atop equally seared sea scallops in a red wine reduction.  I was a little concerned about the pairing of the two proteins together. I predicted their textures would be similar enough that the dish would lack textural heterogeneity and hence interest. I predicted wrong. Scallops and seared foie are a beautiful pairing. The firmness of the scallops stood up nicely against the dreamy luxuriousness of the foie medallions, and the reduction was sweet and savory stickiness. This was perfect for sharing. I sometimes am overwhelmed by the fattiness of foie if I eat an entire dish alone. The thought of sharing this dish with someone special will being me back to Shiro on my own dime toute suite.

Grilled cold asparagus in a tarragon dressing with tomatoes and hazelnuts.  A perfect interlude between appetizers and mains.

The way the chef used the end of the stems of the asparagus reminds me of the way my asparagus were served at Daidaiya in Tokyo.  Tossed with a light creamy tarragon dressing and served chilled.  An economical and still delicious way to make use of the lesser part of the asparagus spear.

MAG and I shared two mains.  The first was duck breast.  I am a game lover, big time, so no surprise that this thrilled me.  The breast was seared medium-rare served in another sticky/sweet/savory reduction with steamed carrots and a fluffy potatoes dauphinoise.

The middle of the flesh was a deep pink and the outside layer of fat around the breast carried the gamey flavors of the duck and the sweet/savory flavors of the reduction to all the areas of my palate.

Our fish course was also delicious. Snapper in a tomato basil sauce beribboned with fresh basil strands. This sauce was comparatively light, almost buoyant, and strongly redolent of basil.  The snapper was grilled, a treat to eat something so lean at the end of several fattier courses.  D would love this, it's nice to know there is something on the menu for someone suspicious of richer flavors and textures.

S & E at Shiro know MAGs well and paraded out three desserts to entertain her sweet tooth.  And despite my general ambivalence about desserts, I was impressed.  Nothing interestingly innovative here, just a capable creme brulee with a beautiful fresh blueberry and raspberry surprise underneath the custard and brulee. Very nice.

Flourless chocolate cake with mocha whipped cream and coffee ice cream. Very good.

And, wait. What? This is a dessert I would demand we order in a revisit. Two crispy won tons, lemon custard, baked apples on the top and fresh raspberries in the middle on a puddle of raspberry coulis.

So fun to photograph, delicious to eat. A treat for my non-sweet craving palate. will be seeing me again soon.  I enjoyed it so much, I might even bring my mom. And that is about my highest endorsement.

For the FTC and general knowledge: I abhor and take umbrage with the reputation of bloggers as food pushing shills for hire.  It's a generalization that, like many generalizations, offends me due to its inclusiveness of people I know and love who are nothing of the sort.  Having said that, I paid not a penny for this meal.  And having said that, I have been invited to many meals gratis, dozens at this point, that I have not raved over nor lusted after.  This was not a blogger dinner. It was a dinner hosted through the connections of a friend of mine so that Shiro could procure some good photos of their beautiful food at the expense of me dining there for free. If I didn't enjoy the food, I wouldn't blog about it. I probably would have sent along the photos with a thank you note. However. I enjoyed this meal immensely. The quality of the food was outstanding, service was gracious and the flavors delighted my now kind of  jaded palate.  When someone asks for an east side rec for an elegant dinner, Shiro will be at the top of my list. Not because they gave me free food. I get free food offered so frequently it is no longer a novelty. I will rec Shiro because I am very impressed with the food. And that's all she wrote.

Shiro in Los Angeles


haircutting in high heels said...

This gem of a restaurant is in my hometown. Although my clients and friends rave about it I have yet to try! Thank you for the reminder. I checked out MAG's bio and I like, as a Spin enthusiast may be checking out that pedal spin class.
Thank you for the share.

Tsz said...

Oh my, how have I lived near Pasadena for the better part of my life and not know about this jewel?! The ravioli looks sublime.

It's With A K said...

This tops the list of my favorite foodshthought blog posts. The way you so eloquently described the dishes in conjunction with the great photos has my salivation glands to go into over drive. These words in particular are ablaze in my mind: Black truffle shrimp ravioli in a truffle cream sauce with spinach.

I will dine here in 2010. Hopefully with you :-)

Diana said...

I think you accomplished what S & E hoped you would -- after looking at your beautiful shots, I'm ready to call up and make a reservation!

Kristine G said...

beautiful photos! :o) what an awesome exchange!

weezermonkey said...


Hall-e said...

What a beautiful post! These pics are something to be desired. Love the lighting!

Orlando personal injury lawyer said...

All of this looks delicious! great photos of food. You capture the deliciousness.

Tricerapops said...

holy fack - fois gras a'top scallops!? damn.