The Flying Fish Grill in Carmel is a cozy, warm place with wood walls and floors, beautiful tables, unique art work, and colorful fish suspended from the ceiling.  The menu was filled with a variety of fresh fish dishes, fusion dishes, and Japanese classics.  We tried the Nikumaki, beef rolled around scallions with a light sauce, and Carmel Valley Mixed Greens with Sesame Soy Vinaigrette.  Sipping on a glass of Rombauer Chardonnay, (Carneros) ’05, and enjoying the fresh greens and tasty beef was quite pleasant.  Clay Pots are a specialty of Flying Fish and Yo was anxious for me to try Shabu Shabu, not believing that I, a “happa” (half Japanese), had never tried it.  What can I say?  I grew up eating Sukiyaki and broth with briefly cooked beef never sounded that great to me.  But I graciously agreed to try the Shabu Shabu, described on the menu as, “thin slices of rib-eye steak, vegetables, tofu, mushrooms, rice noodles, cooked in broth and served with lemon shoyu and sesame aioli dipping sauce.  We also ordered Black Bean Halibut, Alaskan halibut, fermented Chinese black beans, ginger and scallions, steamed in a paper pouch with steamed vegetables and rice.  I had seen someone at the next table order it and it smelled wonderful when they opened the paper.

A bottle of Etude Pinot Noir (Carneros) ’05, was so good I took a photo so I wouldn’t forget it.

The halibut was fragant, fresh, cooked perfectly and thoroughly enjoyable.  I watched as we were given a clay donabe (just like the ones my mother either created or collected that I have all over my house!)  The table had a built in electric burner and we cooked the various ingredients ourselves, adding the paper thin slices of beef at the end.  We dipped the meat and vegetables in the sauces and I have to admit, I loved it!
The sesame aioli paired with the tender beef was such a great flavor combination.  The vegetables, noodles, and tofu were also tasty and soaked up the flavor of the broth after we had cooked the meat.  I will prepare some Shabu Shabu as soon as I can, once the weather in Texas cools down.  This is not a dish for 100+ degree days we’ve been having.  I thought I knew all about Japanese food so it was a surprise to try something new to me and realize what I had been missing.  After the hot pot cooking, a cool trio of sorbets and some fresh fruit were very refreshing.

Since it will be a very long time before I can return to the Flying Fish Grill I am going to recreate this experience in my own kitchen and remember the wonderful time in Carmel.  Many thanks to Kenny Fukumoto, whom I had the pleasure to meet.