1830 Fourth St., Berkeley; 510.841.8783
Chef / owner David Vardy
Hometown: Born in San Francisco but grew up in Nevada, Palo Alto and Chicago.
Experience: Vardy has been cooking in restaurants since 1973. He's also studied medical anthropology at Hampshire College in Massachusetts; spent a year studying the medicinal practices of indigenous people in Guatemala; spent a year working at a Buddhist monastery in Taiwan; and spent five years studying (cooking and baking) and teaching (food/beverage management) in Japan. In the Bay Area, he owned Daruma, a small tea and bento shop in Berkeley for three years; and opened O Chamé in 1990.
Languages spoken: Japanese, Spanish and English.
Early inspiration: "Both of my grandmothers were involved with food. One owned a restaurant and the other owned a catering business. So, whenever I was with them, I was around food. Every day, food was a big deal in my house."
What is your favorite restaurant? Chihana in Kyoto, Japan. Chihana means "10,000 flowers" in Japanese. "It was a restaurant that had about seven seats at a bar, an old chef and seven assistants helping him out. Every dish was pristine and perfect."
What is your biggest challenge? "The restaurant business is all about the clock. You're always thinking about what to do next. The biggest pressure is time."
What is your favorite food? "Any slow-cooked braised beef or pork."
If you weren't a chef, what would you be doing? "I'd probably be a surgeon."
Culinary philosophy: "Everything needs to be balanced. That's the whole trick. The most important thing is how it affects the stomach; you cook for the stomach first, the mouth second."
ROASTED BLACK COD WITH JAPANESE EGGPLANT AND RED ENDIVE SALAD
For the fish:
5 ounces white miso (Maru-Hi brand Hawaiian white miso is
recommended; it's naturally low in sodium)
2 cups water
4 3-ounce pieces of fresh black cod (ask for pieces from the
top loin, near the head of the fish)
For the salad:
7 ounces Daikon radish, peeled
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons natural mirin (or sweet sake, unsalted)
2 tablespoons naturally fermented rice vinegar
5 Japanese eggplants
Canola oil for frying
2 whole red Belgium endive, cut in half and separated into
The fish: Dissolve the miso in the water. Place the fish in a bowl and cover with miso mixture. Marinate in a refrigerator for six to 10 hours. Remove the fish from the miso, rinse with fresh water and pat dry. Place the fish on an oiled sheet pan. Broil it until it is golden brown (no need to turn the fish) and begins to release its oils.
The salad: Grate radish as finely as possible; it should have the consistency of a puree. You can also grate the radish in a food processor if you don't have a fine enough grater. Set aside. Combine the soy sauce, mirin and rice wine vinegar to make a dressing. Combine with grated radish. Set aside. Quarter the eggplants lengthwise, then cut each piece in half to make eight pieces from each eggplant. Deep fry the eggplant in canola oil, heated to about 330 degrees, until the white part is golden brown. Drain the pieces for about half an hour
To assemble and plate:
Gently toss together the endive, eggplant and radish mixture. Serve the broiled cod with the eggplant salad.