What Makes A Great Steak?

The Flavor and Tenderness of Dry-Aged

What do you think distinguishes a good steakhouse from a great one? Great steakhouses serve dry aged beef. What does dry aging do to steaks? Dry aging does for red meat what cave aging does for cheese, or what cellaring does for Bordeaux. Aging improves the taste significantly.

There are many chemical reactions happening while dry aging red meat. Simply put, water content in beef evaporates while it ages, leaving behind the meat’s original flavor. There is breakdown also of connective tissue enabling the meat to be more tender, but again, there is no loss of flavor.

Many diners would love their steaks really tender so they’d opt for more tender cuts, like filet mignon. However, they may be less flavorful. The loss of flavor for tenderness is a compromise not found with dry aged beef. If you choose rib eyes or porterhouse/T-bones, where you go after the meat nearest the bones for flavor, if the beef is dry-aged, you get both tenderness and flavor.

Dry aging beef to enhance its flavor and tenderness is used by a very small number of meat purveyors for upscale hotels and restaurants and by an even smaller number of retailers for the gourmet market. Dry aging at refrigeration temperatures for one to five weeks allows the natural enzymatic and biochemical processes to result in improved tenderness and the development of the unique flavor.

Omaha Steaks are, of course, one of the more revered products out of Omaha, Nebraska. Family-owned and operational since 1917, the brand is recognized nationally. Beef are grain-fed, USDA-inspected, naturally aged and trimmed by hand. The vacuum-wrapped beef are flash-frozen to seal freshness. Omaha Steaks is the largest small parcel direct shipper of gourmet foods in the US.

Aged Omaha New York Steak: Flo’s Pride

Flo does its steaks like no other. Dry-aged Omaha steaks come with a slight Japanese twist that diners love. Pan-seared, the New York style steak comes with house-made Yuzu ginger Demi Glace or teriyaki and sautéed with seasonal vegetables. A must-order for special occasions.

Shiitake Mushrooms: Fungus With Benefits

The Amazing Fungus Called Shiitake

The shiitake mushroom has primordial origins and most revered for its health-boosting properties, hence, its use in antiquated medicine. The mushrooms have no roots, no leaves, no blossoms, or seeds, so they fall into a special category: fungus. They are sought after for their rich texture and smoky flavor, in fact more flavorful than the most readily available and cultivated edible mushrooms in the world, the white button mushrooms. When shiitakes are dried and reconstituted by soaking, their flavors intensify the more.

Japan used to be the leader in world production of shiitake mushrooms though China holds that post now – 80% of supplies. However, there are hundreds of US growers that use the superior “forest farming” method to produce shiitake mushrooms on hardwood logs. Elsewhere, the mushrooms are mass-cultivated, using pesticides and fungicides. So better look at labels saying that the product is certified organic.

The vitamins and minerals in shiitakes are unique than other foods. Copper in the mushrooms are 65% of the daily value per serving, one of the few metallic elements essential to human health. Few people eat copper-rich foods, leading to a copper deficiency that can be a factor in coronary heart disease development.

Shiitakes also provide 52% pantothenic acid and 51% selenium of the daily value. Riboflavin, niacin, zinc, and manganese play supportive roles, along with ergothioneine, an antioxidant that inhibits oxidative stress. They also have strong compounds that discourage inflammation, tumors, “bad” bacteria, harmful viruses, and other fungus. Vitamins B2, B5 and B6 are also present, providing energy by breaking down fats, carbs, and proteins.

There is a study showing the cancer-preventing properties of the mushrooms due to a potent antifungal protein found in them – lentinan. This protein slowed down the development of smaller tumors after oral treatment with lentinan. Another study found that the spores of shiitake mushrooms can have protective abilities on the liver, suppress inflammation, and even have cancer-preventive properties for patients with chronic hepatitis. (Original Article)

Shiitake In Your Diet in Bellevue

When you dine at Flo, your Japanese restaurant in Bellevue, request for your grilled and organic shiitake mushrooms; ours is lightly seasoned. It’s one of our most requested items on the menu. Eat delicious and eat healthy. Remember, it’s good for the heart.

The Bento Box History: by Bellevue Japanese Restaurant

The Bento Box: From Lunch to Luxury

The bento box is ingrained in Japanese culinary history. Over the last 15 centuries, the bento box evolved from an ordinary utility container to status symbol, prominent in Japanese popular culture. Japanese farmers, hunters and warriors in the 5th century would pack their lunches in sacks or boxes and take them to the fields. Designed from a farmer’s seed box, it contains separate compartments for rice, fish and vegetables. It spread to other countries and each culture adapted their own dishes for the box.

Actually, the word ‘bento’ was derived from the Southern Song Dynasty slang term biàndāng, which means “convenient.” Nonetheless, the general idea is to have variety and a balanced meal, and that remained constant.

Bento boxes can be made of basket material or lacquered wood, or of aluminum which became popular during the Taishō period, between 1912 to 1926. People loved their bento boxes; they brought them to cultural and social events, like religious holidays, festivals and to the theater. As Japan was recovering after World War I, the economy only permitted the rich to have shiny bento boxes; poor families could not afford it.

Then the government recommended nutritious meals for all school children in the late 19th century, which then became standard in 1954, post-World War II, that all lunches contain a cup of milk, a loaf of bread, a pat of butter, rice, and a bowl of soup.

By the 1980s, with the influx of TV dinners and convenience food, the bento resurged in popularity. Japanese-American sugar plantation workers were the first to bring the bento lunch to the US, and from hence, it caught up in other western cultures. In the 1990s, character bentos came into being and are still popular today. Children bring them to school, workers to their offices and factories. Mothers and housewives love preparing their bento boxes, in itself is art. There are bento recipes, bento blogs, and more.

Stores are all over out-selling each other with their own creative box designs and edible characters in malls, supermarkets, train stations, airports, among others. Eating spots, like lounges, bars, restaurants and hotels have their own bento offerings. Truly, the humble farmer’s lunch box has come a long, long way. But remember, a balanced meal remains constant.

Balanced and Beautiful in Bellevue

Enjoy our bento box lunch specials at FLO, your authentic Japanese restaurant in Bellevue. When you do, remember the beginnings of the lowly lunch box as you savor great Japanese cuisine now in our stylishly crafted bento boxes.

Fish: Best Source of Omega-3

Know Your Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Much has been said about omega-3 fatty acids (or omega-3 FA), which foods are rich in them, and their health benefits. Most people think you get them only from fish and that any fish will do. Not quite. Let’s clear up first what omega-3 fatty acids really are. They are essential fatty acids, necessary for body health. But our bodies don’t make them, so we get them from other sources.

Omega-3 is naturally abundant in cold water fish and shellfish, plant and nut oils, English walnuts, flaxseed, and algae oils. But there are 2 types of omega-3 fatty acids – the long-chain ones and the short-chain. Fish and shellfish contain long-chain FA which are EPA and DHA. Algae however provides only DHA. Plants, like flaxseed, contain ALA, the short-chain omega-3 FA with less potent health benefits.

While fish is the richest source of omega-3 FAs, they are also high in protein, vitamins, and minerals, and low in saturated fat. The omega-3s have been proved anti-inflammatory and consuming large amounts can reduce the inflammatory process that leads to many chronic conditions, like cancer, asthma, depression, cardiovascular disease, ADHD, and autoimmune diseases, like rheumatoid arthritis.

What about Omega-6?

On the other hand, you must have heard about omega-6 FAs as well; they are pro-inflammatory. The American diet, composed of crackers, cookies, cereals, poultry, eggs, mayonnaise, whole grain bread, corn-fed beef and most vegetable oils – are rich sources of omega-6 FAs. Consuming large amounts is a key step in many chronic diseases.

Eating two 8-ounce servings of fish each week may be all that is necessary to stay healthy, or better, supplemental daily dosages of between 2 and 5 grams of EPA and DHA. And DHA is considered as brain food, with studies showing decreased risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease. A study also showed how tuna and other non-fried fish lowered the incidence of silent brain damage which are linked to higher rates of stroke and cognitive decline. Salmon, herring or mackerel proved to lower the risk of developing prostate cancer in men and promotes healthier arteries in postmenopausal women.

Since mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are common toxins found in seafood, safer sources with less amounts of mercury can be found in canned light tuna, catfish, pollock, salmon (especially wild salmon), and shrimp. Predatory fish, like shark, swordfish and king mackerel may have higher mercury levels. Remember to be safe while staying healthy.
Fish at FLO: Omega-3 Rich and Healthy

At FLO, find only the freshest and safe-sourced fish and seafood that we serve our diners. Enjoy our traditional and modern take on omega-3 rich fish and seafood, prepared in true Japanese manner in Bellevue, WA.

Eating Healthy Seaweed

Seaweed: Beyond Color and Packaging

There are many types of seaweeds as there are different ways to eat them. Seaweeds are categorized based on their pigments, cell structure, and other traits. Most commonly consumed include: green algae (such as sea lettuce or ulva, and sea grapes), brown algae (such as kombu, arame, kelp, and wakame which is the miso soup seaweed), red algae (as dulse, laver, and nori which is the sushi seaweed), and then blue-green algae (like spirulina and chlorella).

Fresh seaweed can be bought at an Asian specialty store or at a Chinese market, while the dried variety can also be available at the same, plus at supermarkets and online. Dried seaweed should be rinsed well and soaked in hot water before use. And if your seaweed, like kombu, is thick and tough, better to slice them first or boil them. Some seaweeds may be sweet, most are not bitter at all, so you can really enjoy eating them even if you are not fond of vegetables.

The versatile seaweed can be enjoyed as seaweed soup, most can be made into a Japanese-style salad with vinegar, sesame oil, ginger, and garlic, or can be sprinkled on other foods, like rice, for flavor. Seaweed snacks available in bags are popular, too.

And did you know that seaweeds are packed with lots of beneficial nutrients and are helpful in certain physiologic functions? Take seaweed’s micronutrients – folate, calcium, magnesium, zinc, iron, and selenium, and most especially, iodine. Know that they are even more nutrient-dense than vegetables that grow on soil.

They are also a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA, known to fight a wide range of diseases like asthma, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis. And due to their antioxidant content, they protect against oxidative stresses and prevent chronic diseases.

While this sea vegetable added to your diet will prove beneficial, one must take precaution against consuming too much of it. It has the potential of increasing your iodine levels which can prove problematic especially if you are susceptible to thyroid problems. The Japanese diet, which contains staples such as tofu, soy milk, and cruciferous vegetables, fortunately can inhibit iodine absorption by the thyroid.

Hence, it is not so much a problem with the Japanese and other Asian cultures.

Seaweeds for Health in Bellevue

Enjoy health-giving seaweed at Flo, your Japanese restaurant in Bellevue. Have our seaweed salad, seaweed in your sushi roll, or have it sprinkled in your soup or rice. Healthy can also be flavorful.