Tasting dinners have been one of the biggest (and arguably, most expensive) trends to take over the Houston dining scene in 2011. And one of the final dinners of the year unfolded last night at Kata Robata Sushi + Grill.
One in a series of "Umami" dinners, Eater was invited to attend last night's meal as a comped, media guest, which featured a 9-course (plus an amuse bouche and an intermezzo with a surprise encore at the end) feast with a focus on the savory.
The adventurous: a course of incredibly-hard-to-find-in-the-U.S. fugu, otherwise known as blowfish. Yes, that's the same type of sashimi that can technically kill you if it isn't prepared properly. Before the dinner started, many a morbid conversation about the possibility of death from the neurotoxin found in fugu, tetrodotoxin, traveled between table mates as well as a few bursts of nervous laughter.
Easing tensions were Kata chef Hori-san's reassuring words, "Don't worry, you're not going to die. I'm certified [in preparing blowfish]," after which all diners dove in at once with reckless abandon (perhaps the strong cocktail and glass of wine already served by that point helped ease fears as well).
However, not all courses held the promise of extreme life or death consequences. Some examples: handmade squid ink pasta with octopus and shitakes, a "riceless" risotto of root vegetables with seasoned mullet roe and a dessert made with pomelo, mint, black sesame seeds, maple and rum. What they did have, however, was a pairing of alcohol and most attendees were happily buzzed and nearing food coma stage by the time the epic, 4-hour dinner ended.
The massive menu along with sake, wine and cocktail pairings were a collaboration between mixologist David Long Wong, chefs Manabu “Hori” Horiuchi, Mark Gabriel Medina, Son Ong and Charlie Vuu of Kata Robata Sushi + Grill; Randy Rucker and Chris Leung of the Museum District's con?t, opening next spring; stages Mike Castillo of Houston Country Club and J.D. "Nooj" Woodward of *17 in the Alden Hotel.
The next Umami dinner will be December 18 at Kata Robata for $225/person if you want in on the expensive dinner action.