September 22, 2012

A fishy and smoky evening

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My week of Japanese feasts continued tonight, as I went for my fifth Japanese dinner in six nights.  I'd read about Mihanhonke (三燔本家) in the papers a few months ago, with the article highlighting the fresh local catch that the restaurant brings in daily.  My interest was piqued, and I dragged a couple of friends along to try out the place.

I chose to sit at the robatayaki (炉端焼) counter, and it was very clear that they weren't gonna be doing good business tonight - less than 1/3 of the seats were set up.  The sukiyaki (すき焼き) area next to us had no diners tonight.  I guess that meant we'd have a little more freedom and receive better service…

Since I had my heart set up the fresh catch, I decided it wouldn't make sense for me to order the set menu.  Besides, I'm used to ordering à la carte when I have robatayaki, anyway.  We took a look at the 5 different types of fish displayed on ice, as the captain tried to explain their names to us.  Trouble is, my friends didn't think that the captain really knew his stuff… and they also felt some of the fish really wasn't all that fresh when they looked at the eyes.  To top it all off, I had some doubts about the grilling skills of the staff… as I saw some of the fish being plated after having had large chunks broken off.  I was beginning to have doubts about dinner… since I came specifically for the fish!

We stayed in the robatayaki area and ordered fish.  The result?

Grilled cuttlefish - the cuttlefish has been dried overnight (一夜干し), which explained the noticeable increase in saltiness.  Very nice smoky flavors.

Chilled tomato - peeled and cut into quarters, served very chilled (perhaps a few degrees away from being frozen) with a plum perilla (梅紫蘇) sauce.

Grilled bamboo shoot with sweet miso - not surprisingly, bamboo shoots of this size are nice to look at, but the fibers have gotten tough and chewy.

Grilled chicken wings stuffed with cod roe - pretty damn good, actually… I do have a thing these days for mentaiko (明太子)

Grilled fusilier (梅鯛) - not exactly sure of the exact species.

The fish was opened up and grilled.  The texture of the flesh was slightly chewy as the captain warned, but still fairly succulent.  Pretty good.  Interestingly, the salt on the side was flavored with wasabi.

Grilled gingko nuts - these were on the green side, therefore fairly bitter.

Grilled tiger bass - called 花身 in Taiwanese by the locals.
The fish was grilled whole, and the flesh seemed to be more densely packed compared to the fusilier.  As a result, this actually tasted a little drier and firmer.

Grilled Arabesque greenling (𩸽, ホッケ) - as is usually the case, this was dried overnight.  We were getting pretty full and couldn't finish this, even though it's one of my favorite dishes in any given Japanese restaurant.

Grilled chicken - made with local free-range chicken, which explains the pretty chewy texture.

Grilled corn - the corn was absolutely delicious… very starchy with high sugar content.  But for some reason they decided to slap on a ton of salt, which totally defeats the point of eating very sweet corn…

We were supposed to have ice cream for dessert, but as we discussed our disappointment at the poor selection of flavors, the captain decided to give us a treat by offering us some mixed fruit and sweet beans over crunched ice.  None of us thought this was a successful replacement, however.  While the fruits were all sweet and tasty, I soon finished eating them - leaving behind a huge bowl of crushed ice and a little bit of sweetened mung beans and red beans.  I guess maybe we weren't meant to eat the ice?

Fortunately the evening was saved by someone with the foresight to bring a box of macarons from Sadaharu Aoki.  With citron, yuzu, genmaicha and caramel salé… this dinner had a real sweet finish.

Kokuryu Daiginjo Shizuku (黒龍 大吟醸 しずく) - nose of banana and tropical fruits, and obvious fermented rice notes.  Sweet mid-palate but with a little spicy finish.

2005 Vincent Girardin Corton-Charlemagne - mineral, toast, lemon and butter.  Very ripe, tart and bitter on the finish.

Lots of fish tonight, and the pricing was reasonable given the setting inside a five-star hotel like the Grand Formosa Regent.  Lots of alcohol, too… HICK!

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