Chef Brian Lewis of The Cottage recently opened the doors of Oko, a modern Japanese eatery in Westport, CT. Lewis is incorporating some of the hottest trends in Japanese food, seen on his travels throughout the country. Here are four he’s loving:
Traditional Japanese Cooking Lewis says this includes cooked dishes from ramen to tempura, and less Americanized maki (sushi rolls). (He notes Tony Pham’s Mecha Noodle Bar, with locations in Fairfield and South Norwalk, as a favorite local spot for ramen and other noodle dishes.) At Oko, expect to find traditional nigiri sushi (pictured above), with fresh fish from Japan as well as the Pacific Northwest and the Northeast over rice.
Everything Made from Scratch In his kitchen, you’ll find Lewis making the dough for the gyoza and ramen. “This artisan approach is a trend but also something that will stick around,” says Lewis, who also makes his own wasabi from plant roots from the Pacific Northwest.
Slightly Unexpected Flavors Subtle but unique flavors, not found in traditional Japanese cooking, are something Lewis is seeing more of. He will finish a dish with a torch for a hint of smokiness or a touch of maple syrup for an understated sweetness. “I’m taking the traditional approach to sushi but going beyond just fish over rice,” says Lewis.
Uni (Sea Urchin) This staple of Japanese sushi restaurants is finally finding a home in the United States, says Lewis: “A few years ago it was foreign to people.” He uses it in a few ways, including on nigiri sushi and in seaweed wraps.