September 20, 2013

A ho-hum third visit

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Time for my big cheat meal of the week.  We had set up this dinner the last time we met in Hong Kong, and I was looking forward to visiting the new location of Shunsai (旬採)a restaurant I liked in Taipei.    This would be the second Japanese meal for me this week, as I try to get my fill of good value Japanese while I'm back home.

We were seated in one of the private rooms equipped with an induction table for hot pot, and the space seemed a little small for us.  I guess real estate is a precious commodity…

The waitstaff dropped off the amuse bouche and left without a word.  WTF?!  Maybe they thought we were too engrossed in conversation to care about what we were eating?  When I asked our waitress what it was we were having, she simply said: "sea urchin".  No shit, Sherlock!  I can see there's sea urchin on top, but what else was there?

Tofu skin (湯葉) and sea urchin - the tofu skin was from Kyoto, and there was a sprinkle of perilla flowers on top.

A selection of sashimi followed:

Greater amberjack (間八)

Yellowtail (鰤)

Glass shrimp (白海老)

Triton's trumpet (法螺貝) - very crunchy.

Oyster (牡蠣) - pretty sweet and creamy.

Clam abductors with grated Japanese yam (山芋) - I took this in lieu of tuna.

Braised splendid alfonsino (金目鯛) head - with burdock (牛蒡).

Horned turban (栄螺) - steamed with sake, and the liver imparts a bitter flavor to the soup inside the shell.  Served with shredded perilla (紫蘇) leaves.

Grilled broadband thornyhead (喜知次) - what an awesome fish!  Sooo tender, and wonderful smoky flavors from grilling.

Purple sea urchin (紫雲丹) - served over rice.

Squid marinated in miso (イカ味噌漬け)

A few nigiri sushis (握り寿司) followed:

Striped jack (縞鰺)

Chinese mactra (青柳貝)

Torched flounder wings (縁側炙り) - yummy melted fat.

Grilled fins - great snack to accompany our alcohol.

Grilled ginkgo nuts (銀杏)

Miso soup with manila clams

There was some sort of tofu with what I thought was shaved yuzu (柚子) rind, but I was too drunk at this point to ask the staff…

Salmon jerky - pretty nice, actually.

Small horned turban (姫栄螺)

A little bit of fruit before the sweets show up…

I'm not sure what flavor the sorbet was, but my dining companions seem to think that it's made with green mangoes (情人果).  Maybe the waitstaff told them, but I definitely didn't hear it...

A little cube of peanut panna cotta to finish the meal.  Don't think this was introduced, either...

Honestly, the food was good but I expected a little more.  I was hoping for a little bit of the "wow factor", which was certainly absent tonight.  Food-wise I'd have to say that Shoraku (匠樂), Sasa Sushi (笹鮨) and even my old favorite Gyodoike (魚道生) can all do better.  Plus the service was a little off tonight.  Perhaps it's time to revisit the other places.

Plenty of alcohol tonight… and we are now in the habit of bringing extra bottles as "backup"…

1998 Dom Pérignon - toasty and smoky, with ripe orange and marmalade notes.  Very nice.

2001 Ramonet Bâtard-Montrachet en magnum - very toasty, very ripe and lovely nose.  Finish was a little short, so somewhat disappointing.

2002 Colgin Herb Lamb Vineyard - Wow!  This was definitely a Cali!  Very sweet and really ripe nose, with lots of sweet fruit.  Dried herbs, caramel and toffee.  Love this wine.

1995 Rihaku Daiginjo Choki Jukuseishu 1995 (李白大吟醸 長期熟成酒1995, bottled October 1998) - I had expected a koshu (古酒) to display a nose similar to those from Chinese yellow wine like Shaoxing (紹興酒), but this wasn't like that at all.  Having been matured at low temperature, this was very rounded, smooth and elegant.  Pretty sweet on the palate.  40% seimaibuai (精米歩合).

Kikuisami Sanjurokuninshu Junmai Daiginjo (菊勇 三十六人衆 純米大吟醸) - this was recommended by the chef when we needed more alcohol.  Not bad, but I liked the Rihaku better. 40% seimaibuai.

Oh and one final note… they somehow lost my umbrella...

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