This very publication’s annual Best of the Bay winners were announced last Friday and I’ve got a few bones to pick with the voters in this town. Once again, there are numerous businesses overlooked and a few first places that I simply can’t agree with.
For the life of me, I can’t understand why Yamato on New Warrington Road isn’t even in the top three, much less first, in the Japanese Restaurant category ? A quick glance at the reviews on urbanspoon.com begin to reveal an insidious, ill-informed mindset of Pensacolians’ expectations of Asian dining in general. Someone complained about not getting complimentary miso soup with their orders. Sorry that they’re a traditional Japanese restaurant offering their own, deeply-flavored, simple chicken soup and not some powdered, reconstituted excuse for miso that you’re used to. Just because all the newer restaurants do it doesn’t make it proper nor should each one offer the same dining experience everywhere. That’s a chain restaurant mentality.
Oh, quick sidebar: There should be no reason whatsoever for a single chain restaurant to make it onto any one of the restaurant categories in Best of the Bay. Period. If a chain is the “best” around, you’re not going to the right places. Take a chance and eat local.
Yamato’s Chef Hiro Muramatsu is the best around this town. He’s been making sushi there for over 25 years, personally inspects and breaks down every fish brought in the kitchen, sends items back if they’re not up to his standards and remembers everyone who sits at his counter. Many a time have I gone without my beloved Uni – sea urchin roe – with raw quail egg because what was brought to him wasn’t the freshest quality. I have the utmost respect for Chef Hiro.
Overlooking what’s good and perpetuating pre-conceived notions of how things should be are what’s holding up beer, too. After accidentally creating a loyal fanbase of ultra-hoppy, high-alcohol brews in recent years, America’s most renowned brewers are steadily getting back to making “session” beer. Unfortunately, people now believe these to be of lesser quality because the alcohol content is between 4-5.5% and they can’t seem to justify paying higher prices for what they deem to be on par with macro beer.
No 8% content or higher equals no miso soup with dinner.
What gets forgotten is that these are still craft brewers making beer as flavorful as their stronger offerings, just lower in alcohol. The point is being able to enjoy more at one time. Stone Go To, Terrapin Recreation Ale, Founders All-Day, all criminally overlooked.
Keeping the subject local, we have our own beer that is the “last kid picked for kickball.” Pensacola Bay DeSoto is a riff on Berliner Weisse, the once-ubiquitous beverage of Berlin, Germany. Traditional Berliner is heavy on the wheat and bottle-dosed with lactobacillus to create a tart, sour beer. Most folks don’t like it “raw” so they’ll cut it with woodruff or raspberry syrups.
Pensacola Bay uses sauer malt that’s been treated with lactobacillus in advance. They take the additional step of adding raspberries to the beer as it ferments, lending a soft, natural flavor to DeSoto. The end result is a pretty beer the most absolute palest shade of pink available with a towering head of starch-white foam. Scents of berry-nut wheat bread and raspberry blossom mingle with muted, slightly-sour yeast. Those raspberries lend more of a tart sensation than flavor, but it’s noticeable for sure along with clean grain and a hint of lemon.
Just because it’s not the most popular place or thing doesn’t mean it’s not the best.