Jun 17, 2010|
The martini is to a bartender what the omelet is to a chef: easy to learn, impossible to perfect. But there is a man who might have come close to mastering both.
You’ll find him at Yu-Zen, the Japanese cocktail bar with an added appendage—a small sauté pan at the tail end where your head bartender will also flip the occasional omelet. It’s all very yin and yang. There’s the vigorous two-fisted assault on the shaker as he makes the drink, leaving a thin layer of foam like the crema atop an Italian espresso. And then the patient tipping of the pan over a slow flame before delicately tapping the handle so the fluffy blanket of egg folds back onto itself.
So, when I finally decided to stage an intervention, this was the place I chose to take her. Annabel was a cook—in every bit of the word. She loves the kitchen and ingredients and feeding people. But she no longer cooks. A high-paced job and life in a city with a postage stamp-sized kitchen will do that to you. Her kitchen cabinets became extra storage for shoes and handbags. Her refrigerator serves only to hold water and condiments. Nowadays when people ask her whether she cooks or not, she shakes her head no.
It’s heartbreaking, like Peter Pan growing up and forgetting how to fly. And despite the fact that people say that like riding a bike, you never forget how to cook, Annabel assures me that is a myth.
The last time she tried to make her mother’s fish curry recipe, she ended up with a lumpy slosh of separated coconut milk. She choked. And I understand why. The intimidating chef challenge reality shows and fancy sous-vide machines are enough to make any casual home cook expect Gordon Ramsay to pop out of no where and unleash a verbal assault on them. If your final dish is anything less of a Michelin three-star meal, people almost feel like they’ll be voted off the island somehow.
Places like Yu-Zen bring you back to reality. It reminds you that you don’t need a passion fruit, vanilla, chocolate martini—you just need a good martini. It reminds you that a simple base ingredient—three eggs—can create a meal that both silences and stimulates even the toughest of critics. And it shows you how the culinary road is a circular one, and everyone winds up back at the start, where the simplest things are also the most ideal.
“You’re saying that the least I could do is try making a good omelet, right?” asked Annabel, taking the hint.
“Yes,” I respond. “The least. And the most.”
Yu-Zen, 21/F, Circle Plaza, 499 Hennessy Rd., Causeway Bay, 2893-6120