Food-istas like to say that ankimo -- the huge one-pound liver of the monkfish -- is the foie gras of Japan. After it's been marinated, steamed, and rolled in a cylinder (much like a torchon), its texture becomes smooth and silky, its flavor rich but surprisingly delicate. It practically melts away on the tongue.
If foie can be called meat-butter, then ankimo is surely fish-butter, a dish traditionally eaten cold with little more than chile-tinted grated daikon, ponzu, and the lightest sprinkle of minced green onion or chive.
Lori Hashimoto of Hana Japanese Eatery has put a modern spin on ankimo, and it hasn't gone over well with her sushi tradition-steeped parents, who seem a wee bit scandalized.
Hashimoto -- who works behind the sushi bar with her step-dad and brother -- has created what she calls an Ankimo Slider, putting a luscious round of the sake-marinated and steamed monkfish liver on a slice of lemon, giving it a dash of sesame oil, topping it with a fried quail egg and finishing it with a bit of grated daikon, green onion, sriracha, togarashi (a Japanese spice mixture containing chile pepper), and slivers of nori.
Adding sriracha and sesame oil may seem bold to tradition-lovers, but the real shocker (for Hashimoto's folks, anyway) is adding the cooked quail egg, which means mixing hot and cold ingredients. They'd probably faint over some of the crazy concoctions that now pass for sushi.
In any case, her parents, who refuse to try Hashimoto's creation, admit that it looks pretty. Her step-dad Kaz-san even goes so far as to say that her plating is "very female," which we'll take to mean feminine.
But the very modernity they object to probably will be what Hana fans like best about the dish -- a no-fear mash-up of flavors that includes heat, acidity, and the richness of egg yolk combining with buttery ankimo.
Probably the best way to settle this debate is to see for yourself. Hashimoto's Ankimo Slider went on the menu last week. $12.95 buys two sliders -- such a deal for such a delicacy.
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