February 19, 2016

Two different responses to dietary restrictions

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I'll start this off with a little rant.

We were looking for a venue for our get together with Snoopy, and Hello Kitty suggested Sushi Tokami (鮨とかみ).  We both enjoyed our lunch experience there, and I thought I'd go and check out dinner service at this outpost of a well-regarded 1-star sushiya from Tokyo.

So Hello Kitty booked us a table.  While on the phone, the person on the other end of the line asked about our dietary preferences, so we first informed them that two of us do not eat tuna.  Later on we realized that none of us eat tuna, so we called the restaurant back and amended our request.

About half an hour later, the restaurant called back to inform Hello Kitty that they could not accommodate our dietary restriction.  Apparently tuna was meant to be a key part of the dinner menu, and they did not wish to do any substitution for us.  We weren't happy with this turn of events, and told the restaurant to cancel our reservation.  We would go eat somewhere else.

This episode left a bad taste in our mouths, and it probably means that the restaurant has lost our business for good.  Not that they ever needed our business in the first place.

From our previous experience - and Hello Kitty has had lunch there twice without having a single piece of tuna - the chefs have always been very accommodating when it came to the request for no tuna.  So what the hell happened this time?

When I go to top sushiyas in Tokyo, tuna is not an issue for me.  I am respectful and have no wish to offend the chefs, so I don't make any alterations or requests - since they don't even bother asking you about your dietary preferences.  You eat what they serve you, period.  And I'm fine with that.

But the situation here is different.  The restaurant took the proactive step of asking us about our dietary preferences, then turned around and threw it back in our faces... kinda like a "fuck you, tough shit" response.  If you're not gonna adjust the menu according to my request - which, in my not-so-humble opinion, wasn't outrageous or unreasonable (after all, it's not like I went to a sushiya and asked for all my sushi to be cooked...) - then why bother asking at all?!

Well, we decided that we would take our business to Wagyu Kaiseki Den.  It used to be one of my favorite restaurants, and I was planning on taking Hello Kitty there for Valentine's Day until my plans were changed for me.  The surprising thing was that out of the four of us, I was the only one who has ever been to this restaurant.  The others hadn't even heard of it...

Once again Hello Kitty picked up the phone to make a reservation, and the restaurant was informed of our "no tuna" preference.  Not a problem for this restaurant, since it wasn't the first time customers had requested for "no tuna".  Hello Kitty also told them about my "no sperm" policy...

...which came in real handy, because lo and behold, there be some fish cum in the very first dish on the menu here!

Appetizer: Fish egg white, icefish, dried fish roe, yomogifu with sanona sauce yuzu (前菜:白子 白魚 唐墨 蓬麩 佐野菜餡 花穂) - seriously?!  Fish EGG WHITE?!  If you don't wanna write "sperm" or "cum" because it's too blunt and vulgar, at least use the term "milt".  Don't try to pull the wool over your customers' faces... If you're serving fish sperm, I think your customers deserve to know what they're eating.

Having said that, they did remember to leave the fish cum out of my bowl...  Besides the icefish and the delicious dried mullet roe I love so much, there was a piece of chewy mugwort gluten (蓬麩).  The whole thing was flavored with the fragrance of perilla (紫蘇) and yuzu (柚子).

Bamboo shoot, baby octopus, peas, kinome and miso, kinome (筍と飯鮹 スナップ豆 木の芽味噌 木の芽) - the octopus tentacle was very tender, as were the young bamboo shoots.  Served with a miso made with sansho leaves (木の芽), and garnished with sansho leaves, sugar snap peas, and burdock (牛蒡).

Soup: Clam dumpling, nanohana, warabi, shiitake mushroom, Kyoto carrot, radish in clam soup, kinome (椀物:北海道 香深浜産藏囲利尻昆布 蛤真丈 菜花 蕨 椎茸 京人参 大根 木の芽) - this was beautiful.  The soup looked deceptively clear as if it would be light in flavors, but the reality is anything but.  The base flavors come from kelp from Rishiri (利尻) in Hokkaido, but the sweetness of the clams really shines through... along with a hint of smokiness.

The clam dumpling had a surprising number of clams encased inside, which made for an interesting mix of textures while delivering sweetness to the palate.  Lots of different vegetable garnishes here.

Tsukuri: Chef selection sashimi platter (造り:料理長おまかせ) - no tuna here!

Fat greeling (鮎並) - pretty crunchy.

Yellowtail (鰤)

Cherry salmon (桜鱒)

Lobster (伊勢海老) - Canadian "Boston" lobster, served with tomalley on top.

Chef specialty dish: Zuwai crabmeat with sesame julienne in whole yuzu, white shrimp sushi with caviar, fukinotou tempura, egg castella (お凌ぎ:柚子釜 ずわい蟹 胡麻ジュレ 白海老鮨キャビア 蕗のとう天 カステラ玉子) - another dish with lovely Japanese presentation.

The crabmeat came with slices of shiitake mushrooms, along with yuzu jelly and sesame sauce.  Lovely combination of acidity with sweetness from the crab.

The deep-fried butterbur bud (蕗の薹) was incredibly bitter.  It was always going to be a bitter flower, but I've never had it so bitter. Ever.  This thing needed a chaser.

I had this white shrimp (白海老) sushi next, which was absolutely delicious with the vinegar rice and a little dab of French caviar.

The sweet egg castella was supposed to follow after the bitter butterbur bud, and was pretty good.

Seasonal dish: Kinmedai, braised abalone, ebi taro, taranome, kogomi with grated turnip sauce, yuzu, chive (旬菜:金目鯛 鮑 海老芋 こごみ たらの芽 蕪餡 柚子 浅葱) - interesting to see both golden alfonsino and abalone together.  Both were delicious.  So was the soupy sauce made with turnip, especially when you shave yuzu rind on top.

Main course: Charcoal grilled A-5 Nozaki wagyu tenderloin, variety of vegetables (主菜:A-5野崎牛テンダーロイン 炭火焼 季節野菜そえ) - ah yes, the main event.  We have a few beef lovers at our table, and I'm sure they were really looking forward to this particular course.  Interestingly, half of the beef was marinated in miso, which imparted a nice flavor.  I also preferred the texture of the marinated beef as it was a little more moist.

Needless to say, the beef was grilled perfectly.

Chef specialty rice: Sea urchin with black truffle rice served with pickles and red miso soup (シェフスペシャリテ:海栗 黒トリュフ 土鍋ご飯) - this has long been the restaurant's signature.

Of course it's even better with fresh truffle shavings on top, in addition to the truffle paste that's already mixed in.

Aaaaannnd... of course I had to ask for the rice crispies!  That's the best part of any clay pot rice!  So crunchy and tasty!

Dessert: Strawberry and red bean paste wrapped with mochi cake, sweet potato and Dekopon jelly (甘味:いちご大福とふわふわ安納芋乗せ と デコポンゼリー) - naturally I started with the Dekopon (デコポン) jelly.  Pretty nice.

The strawberry daifuku (いちご大福) was stuffed with both strawberry and red bean paste, but the interest part were the shavings from Anno sweet potatoes (安納芋) from Tanega Island (種子島) in Kagoshima (鹿児島県).

This crowd can drink (well, at least half of this crowd...) so we came prepared.  I knew I was a goner but decided to open all four bottles anyway...

2002 Krug - nice and toasty nose, and a little floral.  Very nice and lively on the palate, with some maturity.

1996 Moët et Chandon Cuvée Dom Pérignon - pretty smooth, initially light on the palate, but gradually opened up and became more acidic on the finish. With more aeration this turned into a beautiful wine, with incredibly nutty and toasty nose.

2000 Beychevelle - decanted for more than 1½ hours prior to serving.  Smoky and savory notes, like soy sauce, with pencil lead, oak, and almost earthy notes.  A little ripe.  Drinking very nicely now.

1999 Rayas Blanc - initially this was too cold and wasn't open, but improved after warming up a little.  Nose of acetone, white flowers, and white pepper.  Surprisingly young and lean.


We had a lot of fun tonight. The food was still very good, and as Big Monkey said, we generally don't need to worry about the food at any restaurant where Uncle Peter has ownership.  I really should come back a little more often, especially since they've always been pretty customer-friendly.

Oh yeah... I was pretty toasted...

1 comment:

Alfred G said...

Not wanting to rain on your parade, but as someone who has a real dietary restriction because of health reasons I find your use of the word in the context that you don't want to eat tuna a little offending. ;)

But you are right to rant about the restaurant to not wanting to accept your choice about not eating tuna.

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