December 24, 2011

A special fishy Christmas

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It's Christmas Eve, and I'm having dinner with the Specialist.  She's in Taipei for a few days, and I promised to show her a couple of places that I've found worthy.  Not wanting to be forced to take any special Christmas set menus, I decided to go Japanese and revisit Gyodoike (魚道生).  My first visit there just a month ago was pretty spectacular, and I was relishing the opportunity to return.

We sat at the sushi counter, although at the wrong end... meaning we were the farthest away from the head chef.  Damn... I started to get a little worried.  Years ago I had a similar episode at a sushi joint in Hong Kong, and the food was so bad I never went back.

As usual I let the chef decide what to serve us, but we did tell the waitress specific items that each of us didn't want to have.  She seemed to have trouble getting it right on paper, and as we found out later, the right info didn't make it to the chefs as we were served items we had said we didn't want.

Beef consommé - we were given a bowl to warm our stomachs.  Nice way to kick off dinner on a cold winter night.  There were tiny chunks in the soup, though... which was yummy.

Raw oysters - from Hokkaido (北海道), in a bowl of ponzu (ポン酢) marinade along with some spicy grated radish (辛おろし).

Flounder (平目) - not bad, with an acidic dipping sauce.

Yellowtail (鰤) - very nice, just torched (炙り) on the outside so it's still  raw in the center.

I honestly don't understand why they bother to give us an "appetizer platter", since it never seems interesting enough.  Twice in a row this was the weakest dish during the entire evening.  The three items on the plate were:

White fish (白身魚) - just like last time, chopped and marinated in plum vinegar with shredded (not quite chiffonade) perilla (紫蘇) leaves.

Christmas shrimp (聖誕蝦) - I was told that this is so named because they had added a bit of shredded leaves and carrots to make it red and green.  Deep-fried.  Ho hum.

Abalone (鮑) - actually, not bad.

Whelk (つぶ貝) - for the second time in a row, I somehow forgot to take a picture of this nice and crunchy shellfish.

North Pacific giant octopus (水蛸) - coming from the Hokkaido area, this is the world's largest octopus.  Nicely served with a couple of perilla flowers and a yuzu (柚子) dipping sauce.

Round-snout nase (鯃) - I had this local fish instead of fatty tuna belly (中トロ).  Like last time, this was served with some wasabi on top and yuzu rind shavings.

Grilled beef - the flavors were alright, but the beef was definitely overcooked.  Oh well.

Squid (イカ) - we weren't told but I suspect this was scored some 60 times like the chef said on my last visit... Perilla flowers and yuzu rind shavings.

Male snow crab (松葉蟹) - pretty yummy.  Can't remember the last time I had it as a 軍艦巻き.

Sea urchin (雲丹) - yummy like last time.

Mackerel (鯖) - just like last time, with a thin piece of pickled kelp (昆布) on top.  Lovely.

Conger eel (穴子) - this was good, but didn't blow me away like last time... probably because this was a smaller piece and not as carefully selected.

Scallion sprouts (芽ねぎ) - apparently this is often served in Japan, but for some reason I've never had it.  Actually pretty interesting just to have the young sprouts with some bonito (鰹) flakes on top.

White miso soup with clams - the miso was pretty sweet, no doubt aided by the sweetness from the clams.  The Specialist was pleasantly surprised.

All the courses from tonight's "regular" menu had been served, but I wanted a little more... so the chef sent us a couple of additional items:

Grilled mullet roe (カラスミ焼き) - I love mullet roe and Taiwan happens to be a big producer.  Here we got pretty thick chunks, not the thin slices that one sees in traditional Taiwanese restaurants.  VERY yummy.  Nice crust with that smoky, grilled flavors, while being soft and fluffy inside.

Ark shell (赤貝) - pretty good after the chef slammed it on the counter top...

Finally, we get to our extra order of diced sushi over rice (バラちらし鮨).  I do like the way this is done here...

Red bean soup with mochi

Rihaku Daijinjo Tobingakoi (李白大吟釀斗瓶囲い) - one of my favorite sakes.  Sweet mid-palate, dry and spicy on the finish, but at the very end of the long finish one feels sweet again.  A pretty complex sake that took time to open up to reveal its tropical fruit and floral notes.  The Specialist approved.

This being Christmas Eve, the Specialist wanted to go for a round of drinks after dinner.  I decided to show her Max Bordeaux/Wine Gallery and Cellar (美樽廊) in the Grand Formosa Regent.  I accidentally discovered this place not long ago, but kinda laughed when I saw that they were only serving 2008 Bordeaux in all the Enomatic machines.  C'mon!  This is pure infanticide!  Why would I want to drink 2008 Lafite now instead of waiting for it to become mature?!

But the place is run by Bordeaux Wine Bank, with whom the Specialist has a business relationship.  So here we are, on Christmas Eve, and the Specialist is talking about drinking the "Ultimate Nine"...  Since we just wanted to taste, we took 25ml tasting portions of each.  I decided to go for wines that I didn't taste during en primeur tastings back in April 2009.

2008 Calon-Ségur - very sweet, with dates, oak, dried herbs, vanilla and coffee on the nose.  Pretty decent.

2008 La Lagune - smoky, dried herbs, vanilla and oak on the nose.  More classic claret and not as sweet.  Later I realized that I had actually tasted this wine at the UGC tasting in Hong Kong earlier this year.

2008 Ausone - Alain Vauthier was busy when we turned up at his door in April 2009, so I never got to taste this wine.  I decided that I owed it to myself to see what this tastes like.  The nose was very open and approachable, typically sweet fruit with vanilla and oaky notes.  Very fragrant.  Not quite ready on the palate but one can see greatness in the future.

Alas, the wine bar closes early so we were only able to grab 3 glasses each.  At least I got to sip some Ausone...

1 comment:

Michelle Chin said...

wow. sushi looks really good! <3 <3 <3


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