February 7, 2015

Tokyo Michelin tour day 3: Krug with kaiseki

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A few hours after that very big and delicious lunch, it was time to eat again... at another restaurant with 3 Michelin stars.  At our dinner together a couple of months ago, Chef Uwe Opocensky extended a very kind invitation for me to join him and his wife for dinner at Kanda (かんだ).  As Uwe already knows Kanda-san, the opportunity seemed too good to pass up.  Uwe was also kind enough to be able to secure seats for both the Great One and My Very Very Very Very Taken Friend, too.

The restaurant seemed to be within a reasonable walking distance from the train station... and it was.  Except that it started to rain once we emerged from underground, and the rain went from a very light drizzle to something a little more serious.  And then I made a wrong turn... and had to double back a little.  By the time we arrived at the restaurant a few minutes late, my hair was pretty wet.

We took our seats at the counter after a round of introductions, and I waited for the magic to come my way.

Steamed egg custard with blowfish milt and seaweed - this may look like just any chawanmushi (茶碗蒸し) with seaweed (若布) on top, but...

...digging the spoon in reveal hidden treasures - blowfish milt (read: sperm sacs), or shirako (白子) in Japanese.  Unfortunately, it's one of the few things I don't eat, but I'm in luck.  I'm sitting next to someone who has a habit of stealing food from her neighbors, and she loves shirako.  So she very kindly relieved me of them... leaving me with just the egg and seaweed.

Monkfish liver with radish and Sichuan green pepper - we loooove monkfish liver (鮟肝), and this was just really rich and creamy.  The shredded radish on the side provided relief from the richness, and the sprinkle of sansho (山椒) powder delivered a nice kick.

Deep-fried oysters - from Okurokami Island (大黒神島) in Hiroshima Prefecture (広島県).  The batter was really thin, and the oysters were just really delicious.

Needlefish with broad bean - needlefish is one of my favorites, and I got my first hit at breakfast this morning.  Served with broad beans and a sprinkle of vinegar and egg powder.  Loved the needlefish as it was a little sweet.

Olive flounder with liver - the olive flounder (鮃) has been lightly torched on the skin side, served with its own liver, wakame seaweed and chives.  This was really beautiful, with a nice, crunchy texture and lovely smoky flavors.

Snow crab with bamboo shoot - the soup bowl is one of my favorite courses in Japanese kaiseki because it usually features very clean flavors.  Tonight our bowl came with a "dumpling" made of shredded snow crab (松葉蟹) meat, along with some rapeseed flowers (菜の花) and a very young and tender bamboo shoot.  Purity of flavors.  Simple.  Beautiful.

In place of the usual course of sashimi (お造り), we have two pieces of nigiri sushi (握り寿司).  And when I'm dining at the best restaurants in Japan, I will tend to relax my normal rule of not having any bluefin tuna, as I don't wish to show any disrespect to the chef.

The first piece of fatty tuna (大トロ?) sushi arrived, and it looked beautiful.  The sprinkle on top wasn't salt, but essence of salty seaweed which has been ground into a powder.  Needless to say the tuna melted in my mouth.

The second piece looked like chu-toro (中トロ?) which was less fatty.  This was brushed with sauce on top, and also very soft and tender.

It's interesting to hear Kanda-san explain that during this season, the tuna migration starts from the seas around Taiwan and goes up to Hokkaido, eating horse mackerel (鯵) along the way.  They then pass by Oma (大間) as they cross the Tsugaru Strait (津軽海峡), where there is no longer any horse mackerel, so they start eating squid.  This changes the flavor of the tuna.  And that's the tuna we were eating tonight.

Grilled amadai - the amadai (甘鯛) was marinated in miso and sake lees (酒粕), giving it both sweet and savory flavors simultaneously.  Very, very delicious.  Served with some pickled radish, deep-fried arrowhead (慈姑) chips - which Uwe served us at Krug Room last month - and a vegetable bud called tsubomina (蕾菜).

Straw-grilled beef - from Kyushu.  The exterior is nice and dark, and obviously a little crunchy.  This little slice is the "end cut".

This was definitely some delicious beef!  Just look at the color of the interior.  This wasn't the over-marbled type, but it was still tender and flavorful.  Perfectly cooked.  Lovely fragrance and flavors from the straw.  Served with a salad of watercress and seaweed (海苔).

Taro, gluten and mushroom - this little vegetarian bowl had four different ingredients, and they were all delicious.  The shrimp taro (海老芋) from Kyoto is so named because its curvature resembles that of a shrimp, and it was one of the smoothest taros I have ever put in my mouth... and I'm a guy who doesn't like taro.  The gluten (麩) was deep-fried and then braised, delivering an incredibly soft and bouncy texture.  Absolutely delicious.

Icefish with egg on rice - we were all pretty full, but this looked delicious!  And it was!  Icefish (白魚) is one of my favorites, and I love it that they've made a runny omelet with it, added some peas and put it over rice.  Sooooo good... and the seaweed on the side didn't hurt, either.

Oh and at top Japanese restaurants, they are serious about their pickles, too...

Soy milk pudding with black beans - I looooove the texture of Japanese puddings, and when you add muscovado (黒蜜) and sweetened black beans (黒豆) to the equation, what's not to love?!  I could have had three of these...

Strawberry milk mousse cream - very, very strawberry.  Yum!

When I sat down tonight, there was already a bottle of Krug Grande Cuvée out on the counter.  No prizes for guessing who was responsible for bringing that...  I always think Champagne goes very well with Japanese food.  And when we ran out of Champagne, it was time to take on some sake...

Juyondai Nakatori Junmai Muroka Namatsume (十四代 中取り純米 無濾過 生詰) - with a seimaibuai (精米歩合) of 55%. Very, very sweet and smooth on the front palate, then a little dry and spicy (辛口) at the back.  Unfiltered and unpasteurized.

This was a very, very delicious dinner.  While the presentation of the dishes seemed less "classical" and elaborate compared to my dinner last night at Ishikawa (石かわ), the flavors were just as pure.  How lucky I was to have had the opportunity to taste Kanda-san's creations tonight!

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