At the beginning of 2020 we took on a new endeavor to feature some of our favorite local restaurants once a month on our blog. We'd bring them a box of our Perfectly Imperfect Produce, watch them transform it into a delicious dish (Chopped style), and capture the recipe on our blog so our customers could recreate it at home using their own PIP delivery. We launched the idea with Chef Ricardo Sandoval at Fat Cats, then we visited the bad ass lady butchers, Penny & Melissa, at Saucisson, and in early March we wandered out to see our friends James & Mick at Aurelia in Chagrin Falls. They each cooked up some truly delectable meals and some luscious cocktails. Then, Coronavirus happened. And the whole thing was put on hold.
We pivoted and began featuring more recipes from our own recipe developers and registered dietitians, Nicole Ryan and Carolyn Hodges. While Perfectly Imperfect Produce was busier than ever boxing up fresh fruits and veggies to deliver to people during the mandated Ohio stay at home order, many of our favorite restaurants were quietly reinventing new versions of themselves that would poise them for success during and after Covid 19.
And that's exactly what Matt Spinner and David Kocab at Ushabu were doing. They recognized that their "Japanese Fondue" communal style hot pot approach might not exist in this new world amidst social distancing. So they began planning to transform Ushabu, a fine dining restaurant in Tremont, into Bar Oni. This new izakaya, or informal Japanese bar, will offer traditional Japanese bar foods like skewered meats and veggies that can be grilled or deep fried along with favorite beers, sake and cocktails at more affordable prices. We're thrilled to be relaunching our monthly restaurant recipe features here and now with our friends at Ushabu, soon to be relaunching as Bar Oni!
While Matt had cooked in both Chicago and San Francisco and David worked in both Los Angeles and Portland, they CHOOSE to be here in Cleveland. "We could be in those cities, but we want to be here," says David. "We want to put our best selves forward for the people here. We want to give people food they really like. We missed cooking for people who we know and who we love."
David's love for cooking is evident in the dish he created for us using this week's PIP box! Today we're sharing with you one of the new items that will be featured on the Bar Oni menu. It is nothing short of perfection! He used this week's perfectly imperfect corn to create these ridiculously tasty Corn Kakiage, or tempura corn fritters. They may look fancy, but they are surprisingly simple to make and there may be no better way to use up blemished, "ugly" corn. Here's how you can cook it up at home.
Corn Kakiage AKA Tempura Corn Fritter with Mentsuyu & Togorashi Sunomono
Corn Kakiage (Corn Fritters)
2 ears of Perfectly Imperfect sweet corn
1 cup all purpose flour
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons corn starch
1/3 cup soda water
Mentsuyu (Dipping Sauce)
1 1/3 cup mirin
1 cup tamari
1/2 cup sake
To make the corn fritters, first slice the corn kernels off of the cob into a bowl. This makes about 3 cups of corn. Set aside. In a small bowl combine flour, baking powder, corn starch and salt and mix well to create the tempura mix. Add 1/2 cup of the tempura mix to the corn and stir well to combine. Then add another 1/2 cup and stir again. Add another 1/2 cup and stir well to ensure all moisture is absorbed. Next add the soda water to make it more airy and help it expand a little more.
Drop by spoonful into oil and fry on each side until lightly browned, flipping half way through. Place on a paper towel to collect the excess oil. Sprinkle with kosher salt. To make the dipping sauce combine mirin, tamari and sake into a small bowl and mix well and serve a small portion on the side.
Tagorashi Sunomono (Pickled Cucumbers)
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. salt
Rice Wine Vinegar (see below for strawberry vinegar recipe)
Tagorashi or Koren chili powder
To make the pickled cucumbers to serve on the side, slice one half of the cucumber into very thin slices. Place in a small bowl. Sprinkle with sugar and set aside about 10 minutes to let the sugar draw out the water. Drain the water. Next sprinkle the cucumbers with the salt and let it sit again to draw out more water.
Next add vinegar. Chef Kocab used Strawberry Vinegar that he made using strawberry tops in rice vinegar. It's a brilliant way to put the entire strawberry to good use. Reserve strawberry tops in a container, cover them with rice wine vinegar and let them hang out in the fridge for 2 days.
Serve with a sprinkle of chili powder on top.
If all of the items on Bar Oni's menu are as good as this one you can plan to find us there very often! Ushabu will close July 25th and they will spend a couple of week's refreshing the interior to relaunch as Bar Oni soon after. Go check them out now as Ushabu and later as Bar Oni at 2173 Professor Ave., Cleveland, OH
We hope you will recreate this delicious dish in your home. Show us what you're up to in your kitchen and we'll share it to inspire others. Tag us @perfectlyimperfectproduce on Facebook and Instagram. Have a fabulous Fourth of July PIP Fam.
Photos by Karin McKenna.