Proof: In the four times Chow, Baby has name-checked Ian Connally in this column in the last three years, the phrase “chef pants” (with or without “fetish”) co-appeared only twice. But Chow, Baby admits it was a little saddened last fall when Chef Ian left Piranha’s center sushi-bar stage to work in the walled-off kitchen at Café Modern – and thrilled to hear that he was moonlighting occasionally at another sushi bar, Montgomery Plaza’s Ronin (2100 W. 7th St.).
Plenty of nice chef pants were on view the night Chow, Baby visited Ronin, but alas, none containing Ian. Chow, Baby had a great time anyway. Ronin has your typical hip-sushi-bar décor, but the staff and clientele aren’t intimidatingly cool, and the movie on the big-screen TVs (sound off/subtitles on, thank you) was the 1963 wandering-blind-samurai classic On the Road, Chow, Baby’s second-favorite in the Zatoichi series. Very pleasant. Chow, Baby had figured on trying some of Ronin’s heralded specialty rolls, probably the Bushido (“the Way of the Warrior”: tempura asparagus, crab, white tuna, red snapper, $15) and, ooh, the lobster roll (with fried calamari and avocado, $18). But lucky Chow, Baby had stumbled into “$2 Tuesdays,” a small menu of sushi, sashimi, and half-size rolls available all night long. Chow, Baby settled in for a long stay.
Alas, $20 worth of shrimp, tuna (red and white), crab, and salmon sashimi later, it dawned on Chow, Baby that $2 per piece isn’t that great a deal – true, it is a lot less than Ronin usually charges for those selections ($2.50-$4.50 per piece on the regular menu), but it’s pretty much the everyday price at Piranha and Sushi Zone ($1.50-$2.50 per piece). In fact, Ronin’s prices are 25 to 40 percent higher across the sushi board, though the portions are not commensurately larger or tastier. Silky white tuna and sushi chef Tuan’s pants are scrumptious, but surely price-gouging isn’t part of the samurai code of honor. Chow, Baby shall wander the countyside looking for a better value.
In other Ian-related news, and this time it really is related: Café Modern’s lovely executive chef (and Ian’s boss) Dena Peterson was on Good Morning Texas a few weeks ago, sporting the latest in chef pants and preparing her signature Moroccan chicken salad. This is great because now that Chow, Baby can theoretically make its favorite Modern dish at home, it doesn’t have to order it on every single visit. Instead, a recent Sunday brunch was filled with an amazing duck PB&J sandwich ($12) – toasted multigrain bread with cashew-peanut butter, jalapeño jelly, and smoked, shredded duck, quite the taste sensation – and a new creation of Ian’s called pumpkin-ginger French toast ($11).
Embarrassingly, just as Chow, Baby was thanking Ian and his chef pants for curing its childhood French-toast trauma (for one, his eggy part was fully cooked), a sugar-rush tsunami swelled from the exhilarating fusion of pumpkin pound cake, lemon crème fraiche, candied pecans, and maple syrup, turning Chow, Baby into a flaky babbling idiot. There may have been drool. Small consolation: By now, Ian’s used to that from Chow, Baby.
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