Friday, January 9, 2009

Fulfilled in Beverly Hills

Last night I got to tag along with LA2Day’s “Wayward Foodie”, Sarika Chawla, to Fulfilled in Beverly Hills. Since she was doing research for her next article, I decided out of professional courtesy to restrain myself from asking questions, taking notes, and flirting with the young, good-looking owner, Susumu Tsuchihashi. My journalistic sensibilities said those privileges were her turf for the evening. She’s married and I have a boyfriend, but flirting with interviewees is all part of the job (a fun part of the job) in my opinion. But, I had to settle for making love to the Japanese pastries, called Imagawa-yaki, which I did with gluttonous abandon.
Going out on an interview with a more experienced food writer, I was curious to check out her technique. I was dismayed to find that while I carry a crumpled list of questions dampened by perspiring palms to my interviews, Sarika needed no such crutch. She took few notes and interjected insightful questions seemingly off the top of her head, absorbing the details without having to write them down word-for-word. Ok, enough of my journalistic jealousy.

Imagawa-yaki, which Fulfilled’s owner shortens to “Ima” for the linguistically challenged, is like a biscuit-shaped pancake filled with any sweet or savory things you can think of. They make them right in front of you on hinged pans with round indentations for the batter. The batter is poured into both sides and the filling is added in a ball on top before the whole contraption is quickly slammed shut like book and left to cook for 4 minutes. The real bummer is that these special pans came straight from Japan (after a lengthy process of being tested for use by the U.S. government) and aren’t easy to find here-- though I'm checking out Anzen Hardware in Little Tokyo today, because I can't resist the challenge.

We started with the savory menu and opted for the “Green Ninja” with spinach, feta cheese and sundried tomato, and the “Sumo Italiano” with prosciutto, ham, parmesan and basil. They came out hot, placed in little individual baggies with the ingredients and reheating instructions, and smelled delicious. Now, one of the nice things about being a journalist is that you can stuff every bit of printed paper into your pocket without feeling like a kleptomaniac, so as I sit here writing this, I have both bags in front of me—and let me tell you, they still smell amazing. Like cotton candy and waffles. Yes, I’m sitting here sniffing yesterday’s paper bags. I love my job.
After blissfully noshing on the savories, Sarika and I sagely decided to split a few sweet Imagawa-yakis so our New Years resolutions wouldn’t be completely obliterated only 8 days into 2009.

Even though the “Karaoke Kitty,” with strawberry, cream cheese, and Ghirardelli white chocolate looked like the easy-winner, we had to sample the traditional “Sweet Geisha,” filled with Japanese Azuki bean…and the “Honey Yakuza” with goat cheese, mission fig, honey, walnut and cracked black pepper, and the custard-filled Ima. Yeah, we got all four. The Karaoke Kitty is Paris Hilton’s favorite, and the owner and manager told us that the paparazzi line up outside their store when she comes in. She likes Karaoke Kitty because it’s pink, like the majority of her wardrobe. The paparazzi have taken quite a few pictures of her carrying the signature Fulfilled take-home boxes, and even have some pics of her eating – I didn’t know she was into that. Eating, I mean.

As for Sarika and I, we were surprised to find that our favorite was the traditional Adzuki bean filled Ima. Just as I was halfway into my pastry--my eyes dizzily unfocused as all sense awareness was redirected to my tongue--it occurred to me that this particular Ima was satisfying. Not filling, but like mulled wine on a cold English day, or macaroni and cheese at a summer BBQ—just right. The owner interrupted my beany reverie by explaining that Imagawa-yaki is Japanese comfort food that has been around since the early 1800’s. That’s it. This is comfort food. However, you won’t find chicken-apple-sausage, pepper jack cheese and cilantro filled Imagawa-yaki in Tokyo. Fulfilled has taken the traditional pastry and played with combining European, western, and eastern flavors—and it is play. The owner and manager, old friends, have fun coming up with new ideas for the menu and add something new each month. Fearless experimentation with food is a Japanese tradition that far pre-dates these 200 year old goodies.

I’m sure Sarika’s Wayward Foodie article will cover the owner’s story, and it’s a good one. I will post it here when it’s up on the LA2Day website.

Fulfilled Store hours are 10:30 AM - 8:00 PM Daily.
9405 S. Santa Monica Blvd.
Beverly Hills, CA 90210

1 comment:

Ashley said...

This post made my mouth water! I have to try this place!

(Good on you for finding one of these rare pans from Japan. Sounds like a true culinary adventure!)