On Friday, we celebrated the second annual Asatte Press Christmas party. Once again, attendance was excellent with all two employees participating.
Actually, over the summer we were up to 12 employees. However, 10 of those employees were summer interns and have since returned to their studies or moved on to other activities.
At any rate, we started the evening with the remaining two employees at Olive and June in Austin. Olive and June is the newest restaurant from Parkside chef Shawn Cirkiel. It is an Italian restaurant, housed in beautiful, multistory, modern house with decks on multiple levels. Since we were there for happy hour (4:30PM to 6:30PM) we headed for the second level. It had been sprinkling on and off all afternoon, so we went inside and sat at the bar.
After examining the specialty cocktail menu, Tomoko ordered a Campari and Soda. I decided to explore a bit and ordered one of their specialty drinks, the “Paula’s Artichoke” which consisted of local Waterloo Gin and several other interesting ingredients. Both of these are shown at the right. Very nice, a bit bitter. I followed mine with a classic, dirty Martini, Bombay Sapphire gin. The Martini was also very good. Most importantly, the Martini came with two very-high quality queen olives. I am an olive guy and always get severely disappointed when a drinking establishment attempts to save money by serving inferior quality olives with its Martinis.
While at Olive and June, we sampled several of their excellent appetizers. The “Seafood Fritto Misto” is show at the left. This was a spin on the classic calamari. In addition to the usual squid, it had shrimp, baby octopi and other fish. It was light and crisp, very nice. Next we tried “Crudo Salmon” which was a small series of delicate Salmon belly with dabs of cauliflower purée. Finally, we tried the Spicy Chickpeas which were very nice and provided a little fiber. Fiber is very important when you are drinking. It soaks up the excess fat and alcohol in your system.
We were also lucky to encounter Chris, my favorite bartender at the Westin Austin at the Domain – another favorite place. If was Chris’s night off and we had a very lively conversation about the Austin bar/restaurant scene, careers in the hospitality industry and assorted other topics.
From there, we moved to our “二次会” (“Nijikai” = 2nd Party of the Evening) at Ichiban on Burnet Road. We have been eating at Ichiban for around twenty years. This low-key, comfortable restaurant serves sushi and a mixture of Japanese and Korean traditional dishes.
Recently Ichiban has moved up on our favorites list a bit because our son Tye is a waiter there, working several nights a week to pay for his college and automotive costs.
Since we knew that we would be taking pictures, we asked them to bring out something they were proud of and this plate certainly fit the bill. This plate had three white roses sculpted from sashimi. Each rose was a different fish, from left to right: Flounder, Sea Bass, and Snapper. The roses were plated in small pools of spicy Korean chili sauce. There was also a generous portion of wasabi and of course soy sauce on the table. This plate was Asian fusion at its finest. The sashimi was really quite nice with just the Korean chili sauce or with the traditional Japanese wasabi and soy sauce combination. Dipping a piece of the fish first in the Korean chili sauce and then in the wasabi/soy combination was really nice, a very nice littler choir of different flavors.
Next came a large plate with two specialty rolls.
- White Blanco – This roll consisted of white tuna drizzled with honey-wasabi and garlic.
- Spicy Susan – Spicy tuna with slices of mango drizzled with spicy mayo, panko flakes, honey-wasabi and tobiko (Flying Fish Roe).
These rolls were really good, but the portion was gigantic. We ended up sharing some of them with the serving staff.
The capstone of the evening was the Haemul Pajeon (Seafood Pancake). You can see Tye holding the Haemul Pajeon in the photo at the left. This is a rich pancake made with green onions, assorted seafood, eggs and both wheat and rice flour. It comes with a spicy dipping sauce and it is a classic Korean comfort food. Again, the portion was very generous and we ended up some of this home for further nibbling during the evening.