All Salads aren’t Created Equal

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The other day I enjoyed a lovely lunch at a peculiar restaurant on the border of Ebisu and Shibuya. This little neighborhood place is extremely popular with the locals and rated extremely high on Tabelog — Japan’s Yelp / TripAdvisor equivalent. The cuisine is French-Basque… in Japan.

If you aren’t familiar with the Basque region of Northern Spain, it is the birthplace of the world renowned elBulli and home to the father of molecular gastronomy Ferran Adrià for many decades. Aside from elBulli, Basque Country is known for its dishes cooked with regional foods. If you have ever visited or even looked on a map, the topography is absurd, with a stunning coastline on one side, lush rolling hills of a valley on the other. This gift from Mother Nature presents the people of Basque the choice to cook with fish (cods), seafoods (eel and squid and crabs and shrimps) but also with meat, and by products of meat (cheese!). Yum. No wonder tapas are the norm with this cuisine; too many choices.

The lunch at this French-Basque place was okay but the salad was my favorite even if it had a lot going on — prosciutto, terrine, roasted seasonal vegetables — it was like the earth was greeting spring from Basque and the meeting was happening in my mouth. Hello, welcome.

Salads are quite delightful and as I was recalling the flavors from the French-Basque salad on my walk home, I remembered a salad I once had in L.A. This was at the start of the kale boom and in L.A., almost every establishment had a kale salad, mainly prepared the same: fresh kale with a lemon based dressing, freshly shaved Parmesan cheese on top. Only one place did something different: grated Marcona almonds instead of Parmesan. The almonds brought a charming earthy accent to the same salad I was eating almost every night. So delicious.

As the weather warms, salads will increase and I do hope I meet shaved almonds on top of a salad again. If not, I may have to carry a grater and a bag of almonds. Or maybe just make salads at home.

Now I’m wondering what other nuts I can grate over different foods…


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