Monthly Archives: April 2013

Snapped Back to Reality

The garden is starting to take shape. (Photo Credit: Amass)

The garden is starting to take shape! (Photo Credit: Amass)

Back to Reality.

While I was in Japan, the demolition had begun. I was a bit hesitant at first, not knowing exactly what was going on while I was out of the country, so the anticipation of seeing what had happened when I returned was unbearable on the flight home. The space had sat untouched for too long and something had to happen.

I, like most Chefs, get a bit antsy when progress slows. I start asking the question WHY? and how can we make things move faster. The process, at least with regards to the opening of the restaurant, has forced me to develop a whole new level of patience. I don’t like the fact that I do not have total control of what is going on at all times. It makes me extremely nervous. You are at the mercy of the people working for you, and if they want to take advantage of you to make a little extra money, they probably could and you would never know it. I have slowly been learning that there are a few key terms that can save you time, money, and stress: Why? How much? And what for?

I just heard about some colleagues that recently opened a restaurant with a budget of four million Danish Kroner and when they received the final bill from the builders it was… eight million. After hearing about that I immediately went into defensive mode, questioning everything and every number that was presented by the builders. For those of you that have started your own business, this is nothing new to you, but you cannot imagine the extra costs that start to pop up…and the little things do add up. And this isn’t just about the numbers – it’s the mental cost as well and we’re still months from opening.

With all the stress and the anxiety, today I did something that was absolutely amazing. I turned off my phone – well, kind of: I really just turned it to silent. (The other one sounds better though.) And I worked outside in the garden with Jacquie for eight hours straight. While I don’t remember doing yard work as being so therapeutic as a kid, for those of you that have access to a green space, I highly recommend it. And thankfully, after seeing nothing but weeds, it’s nice to see it really starting to take shape. Maybe it was so great due to the fact that we are planting the seeds that will feed our guests not only in the next coming months, but also in the coming years.

This Sunday's activity? Garden party. Pizza, beer and dirt. After working 85 hours, what else would a bunch of chefs want to do on their day off, but move dirt around? And yes, whatever happens in the garden stays in the garden... (Photo Credit: Amass)

This Sunday’s activity?
Garden party. Pizza, beer and dirt.
After working 85 hours, what else would a bunch of chefs want to do on their day off, but move dirt around? And yes, whatever happens in the garden stays in the garden… (Photo Credit: Amass)

Towards the end of the day, a group of people came by to see the garden and to hear a little bit about the project. When you sit there and explain to people your plans and ideas, you find yourself getting overly excited to the point that they start looking at you funny. When that look appears on their face you then catch yourself acting like a spaz and you try and tone it down a bit. But as embarrassing as it is, it’s hard to hide my excitement. I may not be able to control how fast the construction progresses, how soon I get my permits, or how much the restaurant will ultimately cost, I CAN control a spade and some dirt. And the ability to see something progress out of my own hands is incredibly fulfilling.

There are so many speed bumps along this road to creating a restaurant, but none of them outweighs the fact that you are going to have the chance to make people happy. I know that sounds so cliché, but as many of you out there know it is the truth.

Do or Do Not. There Is No Try.

I have been waiting for along time for this. The Tsukiji fish market!!!!! (Photo Credit: Amass)

I have been waiting for along time for this. The Tsukiji fish market!!!!! (Photo Credit: Amass)

The trip to Japan was amazing on so many levels. Of course, for me, the main focus of the trip was food. There are so many things to say about the food in Japan. The products are pristine. The chefs are so focused. But I think that the most amazing thing about the food in Japan is how subtle the flavors are and how balance is heart of this cuisine. You hear about the food and how amazing it is, but until you actually go there and experience it yourself, you cannot understand how pure it is.  Don’t overthink it – just eat.

The experience starts with sitting in a room with a hundred people for 2 hours. The anticipation!! Met some super cool people. Thanks Hieda from Ryugin for showing us around and Scott for the hospitality. (Photo Credit: Amass)

The experience starts with sitting in a room with a hundred people for 2 hours. The anticipation!! Met some super cool people. Thanks Hieda from Ryugin for showing us around and Scott for the hospitality. (Photo Credit: Amass)

And along the way it was apparent that the food was only one piece of the experience. The culture and the people I met along the way were incredible. The culture in Japan is so complicated in the sense that seems like a pull between ancient traditions and this über-modern society. The way in which people live in between these extremes is nothing less than intense: Long work days and the constant pressure to perform. It is not just chefs that are working these long days. The push towards perfection was seen everyday whether it was making coffee, cooking chicken or collecting whiskey. In the words of Master Yoda, “Do or do not. There is no try.”

The tuna auction. These auctioneers would give the guys at Sotheby's a run for their money. All tuna that you eat is frozen at sea. Did you know that? They are truly beautiful animals and we all should feel lucky to be able to eat them. Thank you tuna! (Photo Credit: Amass)

The tuna auction. These auctioneers would give the guys at Sotheby’s a run for their money. All tuna that you eat is frozen at sea. Did you know that? They are truly beautiful animals and we all should feel lucky to be able to eat them. Thank you tuna! (Photo Credit: Amass)

I just want to thank everyone who made this trip what it was. First and foremost, Kat and Kim for connecting me with everyone. Nick, for being my first contact in Japan and taking me for the most incredible coffee experience on the planet. Mick you are a mad man and I love it. I will be your wingman any day. A super special thanks to Ioanna and Hisashi. You two made this trip what it was. Thanks for showing me the beauty of Hokkaido. Thank you for driving me around for two days and exposing me to some amazing food and people. See you September 13th. There is a table waiting for you. And finally Robbie, for showing me some spots that blew my mind. I can only hope to repay the favor on your trip to Copenhagen.

This is the by-product of the largest fish market in the world. This is only a quarter of what the pile will become. And what you see here is at  6:15 in the morning. The roof is the perfect platform for Styrofoam box diving. (Photo Credit: Amass)

This is the by-product of the largest fish market in the world. This is only a quarter of what the pile will become. And what you see here is at 6:15 in the morning. The roof is the perfect platform for Styrofoam box diving. (Photo Credit: Amass)

Of the hundreds of pictures that I took at the market, I'll only show you the best ones. These are geoduck clams that are so alive they will suck your face off. (Photo Credit: Amass)

Of the hundreds of pictures that I took at the market, I’ll only show you the best ones. These are geoduck clams that are so alive they will suck your face off. (Photo Credit: Amass)

Eels, eels, eels and more eels. (Photo Credit: Amass)

Eels, eels, eels and more eels. (Photo Credit: Amass)

 

No words. (Photo Credit: Amass)

No words. (Photo Credit: Amass)

If you lose focus for one second, you will be smashed by one of the hundred carts driving around and nobody will even flinch. You will become fish food. (Photo Credit: Amass)

If you lose focus for one second, you will be smashed by one of the hundred carts driving around and nobody will even flinch. You will become fish food. (Photo Credit: Amass)

"Now that's a knife": Mic Dundee. (Photo Credit: Amass)

“Now that’s a knife”: Mick Dundee. (Photo Credit: Amass)

Tuna meat scraped off the bones with a clam shell. Out of body experience. The best tuna I have ever tasted. I think I had about 400 grams of it. (Photo Credit: Amass)

Tuna meat scraped off the bones with a clam shell. Out of body experience. The best tuna I have ever tasted. I think I had about 400 grams of it. (Photo Credit: Amass)

Blood clams. These were a first for me. (Photo Credit: Amass)

Blood clams. These were a first for me. (Photo Credit: Amass)

These cuttlefish were absolutely beautiful. And amazingly, there was no fish smell to the entire market. (Photo Credit: Amass)

These cuttlefish were absolutely beautiful. And amazingly, there was no fish smell to the entire market. (Photo Credit: Amass)

Sushi breakfast at the fish market 7:00 in the morning.The cherry on top? These guys get first crack at the fish at 2 AM. (Photo Credit: Amass)

Sushi breakfast at the fish market 7:00 in the morning. The cherry on top? These guys get first crack at the fish at 2 AM. (Photo Credit: Amass)

You will never escape the Danes. (Photo Credit: Amass)

You will never escape the Danes. (Photo Credit: Amass)

This is true luxury. Wagyu, sea urchin, Shiso. Thanks Robbie for the behind the scenes tour of Tokyo. See you in CPH this fall. (Photo Credit: Amass)

This is true luxury. Wagyu, sea urchin, shiso. Thanks Robbie for the behind the scenes tour of Tokyo. See you in CPH this fall. (Photo Credit: Amass)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m Not Dead…Yet

Japan has so much to offer, and like other countries, so much of what makes this country special lies in its regions. I’m in Hoikkado, the northernmost and largest of Japan’s 47 prefectures, as well as the largest source of food in this country. But what Hoikkado is really known for is seafood. And that’s what I’ve come here to see and learn about..and I was NOT disappointed.

The infamous fridge door bar owned by the most generous and accommodating hosts (and just good people) Hisashi and Ioanna . If you find yourself in Niseko then it is a must. Thank you so much for everything. I am forever in your debt.

This is infamous fridge door bar owned by my most generous and accommodating hosts (and they’re simply just good people), Hisashi and Ioanna . If you find yourself in Niseko then it is a must. Thank you so much for everything. I am forever in your debt. (Photo Credit: Amass)

Hisashi and Ioanna's  spring water. It was really sweet in flavor. This is basically at their backdoor

Hisashi and Ioanna’s own spring water. Incredibly sweet in flavor. And it’s basically at their backdoor! (Photo Credit: Amass)

The best sushi I had on this trip. I stand at a bar and he just goes for it. It's in a back alley in Otaru. While he trained in Tokyo, and instead of opening up a pretentious spot he did a stand only bar for 6 with music playing . He was super punk rock

The best sushi I had on this trip. I stand at a bar and the chef just goes for it. It’s in a back alley in Otaru. While the chef trained in Tokyo, he decided to open a standing bar for 6 (with music blaring) instead of opening up a pretentious spot. He was super punk rock. (Photo Credit: Amass)

A older gentleman at the bar bought me a hot sake infused with roasted blow fish tail.

A older gentleman at the bar bought me a hot sake infused with roasted blow fish tail. (Photo Credit: Amass)

Not only the guy who bought my the sake with roasted blow fish tail, but also the guy having the most fun at the bar.

By the way, this is the guy who bought my the sake with roasted blow fish tail…and he was also the guy having the most fun at the bar. (Photo Credit: Amass)

Hunting for sea urchins in Otaru.

Hunting for sea urchins in Otaru. (Photo Credit: Amass)

The only hint I am giving to this sushi spot. (Photo Credit: Amass)

The people in Hokkaido were beyond cool. Super open and excited to see people coming to visit the north of Japan. (Photo Credit: Amass)

The people in Hokkaido were beyond cool. Super open and excited to see people coming to visit the north of Japan. (Photo Credit: Amass)

Once again, thank you all the people who made this trip possible. And despite the sake with roasted blowfish tail, I’m still alive….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Big In Japan

I’m still exploring Japan and finding out that there is more than I can possibly capture in any of these photos. Fermented squid guts? Check. Mahagony clams? Yep. (Sorry Roddie…) And souvenirs for the folks back home in Denmark? Smoked octopus beak.

So I have come to find out that most beef in Japan is from Australia because all the beef in Japan that is produced is of such high quality that it is too expensive. (Photo Credit: Amass)

So I have come to find out that most beef in Japan is from Australia because all the beef in Japan that is produced is of such high quality that it is too expensive. (Photo Credit: Amass)

Fish market in Otaru (Photo Credit: Amass)

Fish market in Otaru (Photo Credit: Amass)

Sorry Roddie. These little guys exist in Japan as well. Let Battle Mahagony Clam begin! (Photo Credit: Amass)

Sorry Roddie. These little guys exist in Japan as well. Let Battle Mahagony Clam begin! (Photo Credit: Amass)

These ladies produce about twenty different kinds of fish cakes. They sell out everyday. They would give the Danes a run for their money. (Photo Credit: Amass)

These ladies produce about twenty different kinds of fish cakes. They sell out everyday. They would give the Danes a run for their money. (Photo Credit: Amass)

Breakfast of champions. (Photo Credit: Amass)

Breakfast of champions. (Photo Credit: Amass)

The view from the best bakery I have ever set foot in. They open at 11:00 and sell out by 12:00. (Photo Credit: Amass)

The view from the best bakery I have ever set foot in. They open at 11:00 and sell out by 12:00. (Photo Credit: Amass)

Smoked Tofu. This smoke shop sold smoked octopus beak. I bought a bag to bring home. OUTRAGEOUS!!!! (Photo Credit: Amass)

Smoked Tofu. This smoke shop sold smoked octopus beak. I bought a bag to bring home. OUTRAGEOUS!!!! (Photo Credit: Amass)

Ioanna and Hisashi picked this spot for lunch. The first serving was raw squid legs marinated in its own fermented guts. The owner pointed at me and said that the foreigner probably should have something else. I finished mine first :). Everything we ate was just grilled and came from the waters right out in front of the restaurant. (Photo Credit: Amass)

Ioanna and Hisashi picked this spot for lunch. The first serving was raw squid legs marinated in its own fermented guts. The owner pointed at me and said that the foreigner probably should have something else. I finished mine first :). Everything we ate was just grilled and came from the waters right out in front of the restaurant. (Photo Credit: Amass)

The broth is the highlight of the show in every soup. (Photo Credit: Amass)

The broth is the highlight of the show in every soup. (Photo Credit: Amass)

Sake+beer = The best ramen of your life. (Photo Credit: Amass)

Sake + Beer = The best ramen of your life. (Photo Credit: Amass)

Scandinavia representing!!!!! (Photo Credit: Amass)

Scandinavia representing!!!!! (Photo Credit: Amass)

 

I Think I’m Turning Japanese…

After nearly traveling 24 hours, I’m finally in Japan. And I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves…..

First meal in Tokyo. Completely vegetable based "sushi". Thanks for dinner Nick.

First meal in Tokyo. Completely vegetable based “sushi”. Thanks for dinner Nick. (Photo Credit: Amass Restaurant)

 

This is Nick leading us through the former Red Light district in Shinjuku. It is packed with 250 bars that are no larger than 10 square meters. Most of them are former brothels. Seeing that Nick writes about whiskey and other spirits for a living, we could not have been in better hands. You also have to be prepared for the headache that follows a night out with him. (Photo Credit: Amass Restaurant)

This is Nick leading us through the former Red Light district in Shinjuku. It is packed with 250 bars that are no larger than 10 square meters. Most of them are former brothels. Seeing that Nick writes about whiskey and other spirits for a living, we could not have been in better hands. You also have to be prepared for the headache that follows a night out with him. (Photo Credit: Amass Restaurant)

Of course we end up at the Shrine of Whiskey bars. This gentleman is the Godfather of whiskey in Tokyo. Aside from being an amazing connoisseur of whiskeys, he plays old black and white movies with hip hop in the background. The whiskey was going down a bit too easy at this point. (Photo Credit: Amass Restaurant)

Of course we end up at the Shrine of Whiskey bars. This gentleman is the Godfather of whiskey in Tokyo. Aside from being an amazing connoisseur of whiskeys, he plays old black and white movies with hip hop in the background.
The whiskey was going down a bit too easy at this point. (Photo Credit: Amass Restaurant)

 

I had to take it. Every single piece of food here is plastic. They even made plastic soup!

I had to take it. Every single piece of food here is plastic. They even made plastic soup!

 

This is what I call multi-tasking. When you flush, the water runs to wash your hands.

This is what I call multi-tasking.
When you flush, the water runs to wash your hands. (Photo Credit: Amass Restaurant)

You have time to kill in the airport? Amazing Soba!........ In the airport!!!

You have time to kill in the airport? Amazing Soba!…….. In the airport!!! (Photo Credit: Amass Restaurant)

 

The view on the way to Sapporo. (Photo Credit: Amass Restaurant)

The view on the way to Sapporo. (Photo Credit: Amass Restaurant)

First thing I see when you get off the train in Sapporo. Everyone loves Denmark. They had no idea what a tebirkes was. Yes, I asked for one. What a jerk, huh? (Photo Credit: Amass Restaurant)

First thing I see when you get off the train in Sapporo. Everyone loves Denmark. They had no idea what a tebirkes was. Yes, I asked for one. What a jerk, huh? (Photo Credit: Amass Restaurant)

 

 

 

 

There Are No Roof-Jumping Ninjas in Japan…

This might be the only thing left after construction...getting ready to start building! (Photo Credit: Amass Restaurant)

This might be the only thing left after construction…getting ready to start building! (Photo Credit: Amass Restaurant)

I still continue to be inspired by our trip up North to see Roddie. The thoughts of soft shell and Mahagony clams as well as the most amazing landscape are still racing through my mind.

Since returning to Copenhagen and getting back into the restaurant, a lot has happened. All of the final plans for the kitchen and the dining room have been signed off on. There have been meetings with three different painters. Demolition will begin on Thursday. I actually had to physically see something happen in the space before I left for Japan, so my wife and I rode out there to rip down some fabric and clean the bathrooms. I guess it was our own private ground breaking.

Japan on Wednesday!!!!  My anticipation for this trip to Japan is unbearable (Sorry Roddie, it is right up there with coming up to see you in the North). I have never been to Japan so I have this magical vision of what it will be like. I am sure the ninjas jumping roof to roof will not be there. Or the Samurais riding their horses through the field. But the fish market, the cherry blossoms, ramen fit for an emperor, and the most amazing Yakatori will be very real.

Our friends, Kat and Kim lived in Japan for four years and have been more than generous to put me in touch with the right people. First in Tokyo and then in Sapporo. I wont give away too much of what this trip will consist of because I will posting on the Blog while I am there. Rumor has it that Wi-Fi exists everywhere free of charge. I hope that rumor is a bit more realistic than my images of Ninjas and Samurais.

In the meanwhile, there “should” be loads of progress. I’ll post the “before” and “after” pictures as the space continues to evolve.

See you guys in Japan.