Last night The Gohan Society—a non-profit organization dedicated to fostering the understanding and appreciation of Japanese cuisine and its culinary history—held their annual Aki Matsuri, a celebration of autumn ingredients hosted by Brooklyn Brewery.
Over a dozen New York restaurants and beverage purveyors showed off their Japanese flair—some from places where you'd least expect it. Gramercy Tavern's Michael Anthony served a delicate and subtle matsutake mushroom gelée, while Oceana's Ben Pollinger served lightly pickled Spanish mackerel with shiso and ginger. Even Blue Ribbon Barbecue got in on the action with some ridiculously crisp and crunchy chicken wings dusted in spice and drizzled with wasabi honey.
On the more traditional end of the spectrum, Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto emcee'd while his head sushi chef put together a stunningly beautiful and diverse sashimi platter. Sushi Zen commanded the longest lines, offering a full range of nigiri from seared tuna to gigantic tongues of sea urchin roe served on barely warm seasoned rice (though Dale Talde's booth was the first to put up the "out of food" white flag).
The highlight of the evening was a stunning soba-making demo from Shuichi Kotani, the noodle-making mastermind behind the very best ramen shops in New York, including Soba Totto, Hide-chan, Jin, and the Sun noodle factory in New Jersey. Over the course of 20 minutes, he took a bowl of buckwheat flour and turned it into a massive pile of perfectly uniform, half-millimeter-thick noodles as the New York-based Soh Daiko traditional taiko drum group performed.
Afterwards I talked to filmmaker, TV personality, and burger lover extraordinaire George Motz who had managed to snag a view from behind the counter. He told me that not only was Shuichi dancing to the rhythm of the beat under the table, but that he actually spent the entirety of the laborious process standing on his tiptoes as he hunched over his bamboo work bench, putting the weight of his slight frame into the massive wooden dowels he used to roll the noodles out from a disk a few inches wide to a paper-thin sheet that had to be rolled like a scroll to fit on the table.
The noodles were served cold with shaved matsutake mushrooms and a light broth.
For a some scenes from the event and the food, check out the slideshow above.
About the author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Chief Creative Officer of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab on Twitter, or at The Food Lab on Facebook.