RINTARO: JAPANESE FOOD FROM AN IZAKAYA IN CALIFORNIA

​​By Sylvan Mishima Brackett (San Francisco: Hardie Grant, 2023, 304 pp, $40, hardcover)

With his new book, Sylvan Mishima Brackett, the chef-owner of San Francisco’s Rintaro brings the offerings of his beautiful izakaya restaurant to the page. Brackett’s restaurant centers on bringing the experience and foods of a Japanese-style izakaya, but with the menu focused on local ingredients, creating “the kind of food you’d expect if the Bay Area were a region of Japan.” Don’t be fooled by the simplicity of the ingredient list of some of these recipes. The Dashimaki Tamago (Folded Omelet) recipe only has a handful of ingredients, yet has a three-page recipe complete with step-by-step photos.

As you try these recipes, you will see that even a seemingly basic recipe becomes elevated with the particular care in specific selection of ingredients and careful attention to detail. Brackett also drills down into techniques, which readers can experience fully in entire sections such as in the sashimi chapter, where you can learn how to break down different kinds of fish into cuts of sashimi, or within specific recipes, such as Two Cups of Rice, which is exactly as it sounds. Those up for a challenge should take a look at the udon recipe, another seemingly simple food that actually takes a tremendous amount of technique and skill to turn flour into noodles. Kneading, shaping, cutting and cooking: every step is complete with photos for each stage, which if you’re the average home chef, you will absolutely want to reference. That being said, many of the recipes are not out of reach for the average home cook, especially since the dishes are rooted in foods that are closer to home-style cooking. Once certain bases are created, Brackett offers multiple variations that can be explored, such as the Shira-ae Goromo (Rich Tofu and Sesame Sauce). Many home cooks might use vegetables such as spinach or green beans, perhaps paired with some konnyaku, but Brackett pairs both sweet and savory, creating variations that combine traditional ingredients such as komatsuna with persimmon, or green beans with figs and peaches. For larger gatherings, the oden recipe is a great one to explore, as well as the yakitori recipes.The book ends with a dessert section, which is not to be missed. If you have spent any time eating desserts in Japan, the pictures alone will fill you with a delightful nostalgia. This book is filled with color photography, with the food cleverly arranged beautifully but still geared toward clarity and precision as opposed to purely aspirational beauty shots of food. This cookbook will inspire anyone who is serious about taking cooking to the next level, while bringing appreciation to the art and craft of Japanese cuisine.

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