On Saturday, February 8, 2020, LANSCA formally welcomed in the Year of the Rat at a luncheon held at the restaurant Azay in Little Tokyo. Opened last year, Azay is the home of Chef Akira Hirose, formerly of Maison Akira in Pasadena. Chef Akira has prepared his signature dishes for two LANSCA events: the August 10, 2014 Nagoya Day at the Grove and the March 25, 2019 Explore Nagoya 2019 event at the Paley Center in Beverly Hills. For this New Year’s luncheon, Chef Akira let LANSCA have the entire restaurant for its event.
The luncheon began with New Year’s greetings from Chairwoman Teruko Weinberg and Deputy Consul General Hiroki Matsuo followed by a toast from former LANSCA Chairman Norman Arikawa. Then came one of Chef Akira’s specialty dishes: Nagoya hitsumabushi or grilled freshwater eel (unagi). The grilled eel was coated with a sweet and savory sauce that the enhances the natural taste of the eel and was served over rice. As is traditional in Nagoya, hitsumabushi was served with wasabi and scallions to accent the flavor of the eel. A light, tea-like broth was also served so a portion of the dish could be eaten chazuke style. After enjoying the rest of Chef Akira’s menu, the LANSCA diners were treated to amazing sleight-of-hand card tricks by 2019 LANSCA exchange student Caelen Carter.
It was a wonderful way for LANSCA to finish its 60th anniversary year and approach the start of its 61st year on March 31.