Another great SJ Supper Club is in the books. On Thursday, the clubbers convened at Rangetsu, the upscale Japanese restaurant that relocated last year from its original spot on International Drive.
Well, the original spot in the U.S. Most locals don’t know that the Central Florida restaurant is a second location for one in Tokyo, which opened in the Ginza district shortly after the second World War. The founder’s grandson, Masaaki Konaka, who is visiting his stateside restaurant for a couple of weeks, was our special guest host, along with Hector Ponce, who oversees the Maitland location. Konaka and Ponce shared some of the history of the restaurant with the participants at the sold-out dinner.
We started on the patio (it was a gorgeous night!) with a sampling of three types of sakes. One of the goals of the evening was to dispel some myths and misconceptions about Japanese food and drink. The first lesson was that, contrary to the way many Japanese restaurants in America serve it, sake is not always served heated. In fact, Ponce told us, premium sakes are always served chilled. The three sakes we sipped -- Sempuku Kura, Tenryo Hidahomare and Shirakawago -- each had subtle differences. It was interesting to taste them together. We also nibbled on nigirizushi that servers passed around on platters.
We then went inside and took our seats in the area set aside especially for the Supper Club next to the big window that looks in on the kitchen. We had not one, not two but FIVE appetizers, including edamame, chicken meatballs on a skewer, chilled beef, a shrimp cake and a crispy seaweed wafer topped with tuna tartare. The edamame had Cajun spices that really perked up the flavor, but I was most intrigued by the nori wafer with the tuna. After the course was finished, I walked around to see which one was preferred and it seemed every table had a different favorite.
The main course was a Japanese “surf and turf” that featured Chilean sea bass and a Kobe beef filet. The beef was very good, but I liked the sea bass the best. It was moist and had big flakes and a buttery mouthfeel. The dish included baby bok choy and carrot.
Dessert featured green tea creme brulee and a morsel of cheesecake, both refreshing finishers.
Service was first-rate, and it seemed that everyone had a good time. At Supper Club, we like to sit at four- or six-top tables, so you get to meet new people. I’ve already heard tales of folks who have met at Supper Club and gotten together for dinner on their own later. That’s terrific. And by the way, we always have singles come out for Supper Club, so you don’t have to be part of a couple to join us.
I think everyone had a good time, and we learned that dining in a Japanese restaurant doesn’t mean sitting at an oversized griddle while the chef bangs utensils and tries to flip a shrimp tail into his toque. It can be an elegant and upscale experience with food to rival and Western fine dining restaurant.
Click here for details about Rangetsu.
The next Supper Club will be announced shortly. Scott Joseph's Supper Club is open to anyone, but newsletter recipients are the first to know when the reservation site opens (and the dinners frequently sell out before a general announcement can be made). To make sure you're on the list, follow this link to sign up for my newsletter (I have a no-spam guarantee).