We’ve all been cautioned to never judge a book by its cover, but the cover of The Japanese Grill: From Classic Yakitori to Steak, Seafood, and Vegetables by Tadashi Ono and Harris Salat gets the mouth watering and the mind spinning. A perfectly-grilled Porterhouse steak is completely cut from the thick bone and presented in a way that stays true to the popular cut of beef. In short, it makes a reader very excited to see what the inside of the book has to offer up.
Salat is a writer by trade, and he teamed up with Tadashi to write this large and informative book. Tadashi is a world-renowned chef and restaurant owner, and both men are huge fans of the grilling process. Salat is careful not to overstep the bounds of a writer hired to convey information, but he does infuse a few of the lessons and excerpts with some of his own opinions and experiences. Ultimately, the book is a clear glimpse into the mind of Tadashi. A themed cookbook is nothing new, but a cookbook that speaks to a broad audience about a technique of cooking from an expert in the field is almost always welcomed by culinary enthusiasts.
The book’s first dozen pages aim to dispel the widely-believed myth that authentic Japanese dishes cannot be prepared using conventional North American grilling techniques. Tadashi is passionate in his belief that cornerstone Japanese ingredients such as soy sauce and miso are absolutely perfect for live-fire grilling, and his passion comes across clearly over the course of the many recipes.
The structure of the text is modern, varying in subject and layout. On any given page there may be boxes of text above and below the recipe and instructions, and within those boxes is everything from short anecdotes to quick suggestions about how to store a certain type of meat. The many different offerings of the book keep a reader engaged and actually turning the pages to read onward. This is a rare feat for cookbooks, which are often referenced one or two pages at a time.
A very helpful and logically laid out index is perhaps the most valuable component of the book. Readers are able to look up simple concepts such as bacon or carrots, whereupon they will be directed to each page that makes mention of the specific food. A well-structured index is obviously essential to any cookbook, and this one boils the search down to the most commonly used ingredients.
One knock on the book is that it rarely if ever takes budgets or thriftiness into account, which is a theme that is gaining much traction in an era when most families are counting their nickels. It would be nice to be able to prepare each and every one of the delicious dishes in this book, but doing so would definitely put a dent in a pocketbook. For the foodies that do not consider cost when putting together a shopping list, this book is a perfect fit.