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San Francisco Bay Area Chawanmushi

Chawan Mushi @ Azuma, Cupertino

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Chawan Mushi @ Azuma, Cupertino

Melanie Wong | May 9, 2005 04:27 AM

A couple weeks ago, Auntie Helen took my parents and me to dinner when we visited her new digs. She said she picked Azuma because it was close by, had a lot of variety, traditional ambience, and good access for a wheelchair. When I had questions about the offerings, she whipped out a three-ring binder of menus of different places she's tried in her new community! They were arranged by cuisine and encased in plastic page protectors. It was fun to flip through to see where she'd been chowing. I was tickled that she liked House of Falafel down the street that I'd happened upon during its first week. The other Japanese restaurant in her book was Kitsho and she said she'd take me there another time.

We had a table with bench seating to the right of the entrance with easy access. The restaurant has many tatami tables (with wells), regular tables, and a sushi bar.

The menu is fairly Americanized. My mother got one of the "senior" dinners, priced at $10.80. Her beef teriyaki was cooked medium-rare as ordered. It was tender, nicely grilled and napped with a sauce that was candy sweet. It came with a choice salad or soup, tsukemono, and rice. The iceberg lettuce salad had a nice citrusy dressing that the restaurant sells by the bottle to take home. The tsukemono was stale tasting. My dad loves oysters, so he ordered the panko kaki fry dinner. The oysters had too thick of a soggy breading. The miso soup was delicious with more tofu pieces and other ingredients than most.

Auntie and I ordered a bunch of small plates to share. Deep-frying is definitely a weak point here, as the veggie tempura and the lotus root with ground chicken were both greasy and leaden and no better than the fried oysters. Another miss was the limp gyoza.

What we did like was the seaweed salad. It had more varieties of seaweed and a lighter dressing than I've had anywhere else. The Alaskan black cod (gindara) kasuzake was good too, albeit very sweet, and garnished oddly with canned pickled beets.

The best dish was the chawan mushi, which takes 25 minutes, and didn't make the photo shown below. The custard had a few bubbles along the edge but other than that was smooth and refined. Topped with some thick slices of oyster mushroom, it was also studded with a pieces surimi and other salty bits that infused the eggs and made it very tasty.

The Japanese waitresses in traditional costume were efficient and very sweet. Our teapot stayed full of scalding hot brew.

Azuma Japanese Cuisine
19645 Stevens Creek Blvd.
Cupertino
408-257-4057

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