The Onigilly Event – The Rice is Right!

Check out this awesome post from the bloggers Alex and Kristina at Bites by the Bay about our recent event with Onigilly (The Rice is Right!). We really couldn’t have said it better ourselves…

Simmr presents:  The Onigilly event!

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The Place:

As great as it is to go around and stuff our faces at all the restaurants in SF (and great it is), when it’s time to have a meal at home, our cooking skills just can’t seem to compare to the high standard The List has set for us.  Now, we are being a little self-deprecating.  We can make a pretty decent meal, but we often find ourselves trying to the make the dishes we have when going out, however they never seem to hit the mark.  The problem is that while we know how to eat the food at our favorite restaurants, we don’t know much about it or how to make it.  Other times we notice our dining experiences kind of running together.  Get a drink, order apps, eat good food, rinse and repeat.  We find ourselves wanting something a little different.  So how does one rectify these issues?  Enter Simmr, a company that connects customers to local restaurants through unique events.  Simmr teams up with chefs and restaurants to create fun, hands on experiences that are sometimes part learning and part eating.

We really like this idea because it has obvious benefits to both customers and businesses.  For customers, they get to experience a restaurant in a way they’d never get to normally.  Depending on how the event is set up, they may learn a little about the concept and history behind the food, they may get to make the dishes, or they may have a sweet customized meal just for them!   Not to worry about price either, this value came for a VERY reasonable price.  For businesses, they get a great chance to give customers a more in-depth look at what makes them special and to forge a more personal relationship.  This can really help create evangelists for their business and increase word of mouth.

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So, on to the food!  The Simmr event we decided to attend was hosted by Onigilly, a Japanese restaurant that specializes in the traditional onigiri, or rice balls, with a little flair of fusion.  Onigilly has two set locations as well as a stand and a roving foodcart.  The event took place in their location in the Financial District, a nice and cozy spot with an open kitchen and a small upstairs.  We were not sure what to expect on arrival but the Simmr and Onigilly staff was very friendly in welcoming us, giving us name tags, and directing us to the event area.

Things kicked off with an introduction of the staff and a description of what we’d be learning / eating.  The size of the group was perfect, roughly 15-20 people, just enough to have fun but not too large.  We had a nice time meeting our table-mates (and of course had an easy topic to talk about, food!), one of whom we found out runs the excellent blog Shikha la Mode which we highly recommend.  After the intro we jumped right into the demonstration!

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The Dish:

The first thing covered was the rice.  Onigilly uses a custom made brown rice that is 30% polished and actually looks a bit more like white rice.  Their method is straightforward; soak the rice for 30 minutes in a 1 : 1.5 ratio of rice to water, and then cover on medium high heat for 10 minutes and fluff.  One of our biggest shocks for the evening was how damn good that rice was.  It was slightly sweet with a little hint of earthiness and the perfect texture.  Unfortunately the rice is custom made for them by Koda Farms, so we might have to search a bit to find something comparable.

Next up was the onigiri itself.  Onigiri dates back about 2,300 years as a popular, quick meal.  Samurai would carry onigiri into battle for a quick and hearty snack.  The concept is very simple; pressed rice and a savory filling, all wrapped up in seaweed.  Though this sounds similar to sushi, it is far from it.  We were told that onigiri is just as popular as sushi in Japan, and more of a staple (we’ll have to ask Uncle Mark, who lives there).  The Onigilly staff gave us a quick demo of two different techniques of making onigiri and then we were let loose to try our hand at it.  There were four different fillings to choose from; Ume (sour pickled plum), Hijiki (soy-braised seaweed and carrots), spicy shrimp, and spicy bacon.  Of course we tried making all four (multiples of each as well).

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Though our onigiri maybe didn’t turn out as pretty as the one’s made by the staff, we were surprised by how compact and easy to hold they were.  Definitely makes sense that these are great for on the go.  Another cool thing is since the fillings are already cooked in different sauces, there’s no need to fumble with the mess of pouring soy or wasabi on it (something anyone who’s had to-go sushi has probably gone through).  All four were delicious, though the seaweed and bacon were our favorites.  The seaweed added a nice meaty texture and crunch and imparted a burst of soy flavor.  The bacon was……well, it was bacon, which is always awesome, but add some spice to it?  Bam!  Now you’re speaking our language.

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We sat down to enjoy our variety of delicious rice balls and were also greeted with edamame, miso soup, marinated mushrooms, chicken katsu, and some delicious infused sake.  Talk about food overload in the best way possible!  We chowed down, comparing notes with the other patrons, talking about food experiences, and generally just having a kick-ass time.

The Verdict:

Yes to Simmr and yes to Onigilly.  We really had a fantastic time, and one that we felt was very unique.  Have you ever watched a cooking demonstration on the Food Network and thought, wow, that looks fun?  Well this is that in real life.  We really enjoy what Simmr offers for a number of reasons.  First off, the best way to learn is by doing, and this allows you to step inside the kitchen of local restaurants and really get to know how things are made.  We are always looking for different types of experiences, and this event was definitely something you don’t get often.  It was so neat to meet the chefs and get to ask questions about the food, their philosophy, and their history, all while eating to our hearts content.  We are looking forward to our next event (especially when we heard that Simmr is teaming up with our favorite pho place, Turtle Tower!) and highly suggest you do the same.  How each event is structured will vary, but you can be sure that it will be something unique.  We will definitely be back to Onigilly and look forward to some more spicy bacon onigiri!

*Note*  There’s going to be another Onigilly event hosted by Simmr, and you should definitely check it out and sign up for the wait list (events get triggered when enough people sign up!)  http://www.simmr.co/events/3

Dig In,

A & K

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