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Omakase experience

Omakase Experience

Oh what a time to be alive! and to be in Aruba!

November has been the month for epicurious individuals like me, with all kinds of culinary events happening all over the island. The key to these things is knowing which one to attend, and how would you know with so many options? Well, look into the chefs behind them or the venue hosting it and you’ll be on the right path, the path to flavorland.

This time around The Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino was the ground where many forces came together for two special nights, bringing us an event of culinary delight, like few others can.

Arriving at The Lobby of the Aruba Marriott Resort on a night like this is entering a landscape of local familiar faces and food enthusiasts of all ages gathered around the bar, eager to see what these chefs were going to pull out of their sleeves. A special guest was going to be the facilitator of this delightful experience: Chef Daisuke Itagaki from Shimogamo in Arizona. He, along with our local celebrity Chef Urvin Croes and Raisa Tromp, were ready to serve us and blow our hats off.

Omakase is a must-try if you are one who lives for exploring food or anyone who wants to discover more about Japanese cuisine beyond a sushi roll. And who else than Chef Daisuke, a master at treating ingredients to their fullest, from fresh market fish to Wagyu beef, to deliver this experience?

The Menu, a mystery up until you reached your seat around The Lobby bar, contained 9 courses and did not give much away, just enough to guide you through the evening and inform you about the wine and sake pairings.

Champagne (the real one) was flowing like rivers and for what felt like a welcome and mingling period a cork popped every minute. Soon enough we were served with the first star of the night.

Champagne followed by Oysters, a classy move. A Guillardeau Oyster, farmed in the Marennes-Oléron region of France and legendary in the world of oysters, believe it, it’s a thing, was resting on an ice bed, topped with a little bit of caviar (no less), and a few other intricate minuscule details. The thing is not about what was in it, it is how it felt. If there is a way to have a taste of the freshest ocean, this must be it.

All kinds of motions were happening inside the bar, it was hectic but it would not interfere with your enjoyment. There was some sort of effortless vibe in the air.

Next, a Tuna Tostada arrived served on the rocks, literally. A layering of the finest tuna, anchovies, cherry tomatoes, and a touch of green olive in slices. The charred taste from the tostada with the delicacy of the tuna plus the savoriness of the anchovy was a heavy hitter.

The expertise provided by the sommeliers in charge, Andrew Ruiz from Pepia Est. and Mika Otomo, Chef Daisuke’s wife was in full effect. The first wine, La Sirena Moscato Azul by Heidi

Barrett was an unexpected surprise. Dry Moscatos are not the usual, and this was very much a triumph.

Urvin Croes delivers dishes in a way that very well could be a work of art. The Hamachi Aguachile made with Japanese Amberjack felt like a breath of fresh air following the savoriness of the tostada. Scallion and anchovies oil, coconut and kimchi gels, shiitakes, and mushroom chips in the shape of mushrooms, a double feature I would like to call it.

Omakase experience

Now I felt like we were entering the ‘mains’ section of the experience. A 3-day miso-marinated piece of black cod, tropically served on top of a plantain leaf, accompanied by a little bit of pickled red onion for acidity and citrusy beurre blanc, a delicate taste that only Yuzu lemons can give you.

Omakase experience

There was a Scallop dish next in the repertoire, masterfully cooked and served with a touch of black truffle and togarashi butter, topped with little strings of nori. Two bites and it was gone.

These chefs are not playing games when it comes to plating and presentation. The Salmon Nitsuke, a name given by the technique used to cook the fish by simmering it in soy sauce, makes an entrance. A little piece of culinary architecture I have to say! Notes of ginger, garlic, a perfectly seasoned ball of Japanese rice, a marinated daikon string in a not, topped with a crisp made of nori and rice, and for sure way more things that escape this description, of course, it tasted fantastic... I would say we are being presented with a real journey of the seas, before entering the beef section of the night.

Wagyu beef is not just beef, for those unfamiliar. It is the most expensive type of beef there is. A special breed of cattle is required, three high-energy meals a day, gotta keep ‘em happy, and even massage them to produce that uniform marbling. Of course, these chefs made sure we were served with the finest from Japan. A thin slice of Wagyu, cooked in broth and served with egg foam, a little grilled tomato, and shaved truffle. Here’s to experimenting and trying new things, was it my favorite texture? It was not. Was I ecstatic to be sitting here tasting the works of a Japanese master? Absolutely!

For the next course, we tasted the Angus beef tataki. A few slices of perfectly seared beef laid out in a fan shape. Complimented with sesame oil, shiso, pickled daikon, and chives. It is always a praise when you have beef cooked this perfect.

Omakase experience

I have not talked about the Sake pairings! Sommelier Mika Otomo was a true encyclopedia of Sake, highlighting the notes and origin of each glass poured. She explained the strategy used to pair each one, noting that a Sake pairing, is used to strengthen the flavors of a dish, if there’s sweetness, the sake will bring it out beautifully, for example.

Finally, dessert time! Knowing what Chef Urvin Croes is capable of when it comes to dessert, I had no doubts that we were in for a good one. The Banana & Kurogoma, a dessert starring roasted bananas and black sesame ice cream. Many other delightful things surrounded it but

Omakase experience

the wow factor was the banana granite on top, made with ice from imported from Japan. The logistics of it all! Long gone are the days of desserts with no thought behind them and this one is the perfect example.

The bar for culinary experiences in Aruba is getting higher and higher I have to say. The way these three chefs came out in full force and provided the lucky ones to attend with an experience that won’t be easy to forget was so impressive.

Food is Culture, like the book of the culinary historian Massimo Montanari, and why wouldn’t we like to enrich our life experiences with it? Next time you hear something like this is happening, make the move! I assure you’ll make everlasting memories and that is what life should be about.

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