This was a night we've been waiting for since December, and I was glad that it finally happened tonight. Ever since I first got my hands on some Russian beluga caviar late last year, a few of us have been discussing the possibility of doing a beluga tasting. Our schedules went through a few changes, but we managed to clean out our stash tonight.
Rather than asking our favorite chef the Man in White T-Shirt for another favor like last time, our friend RC offered to host us for this gathering, and proceeded to cook up a storm. We had only been able to drool over pictures of Chef RC's cuisine at Chez Ro Ro, and tonight we finally had the chance to have a taste.
A: Iranian beluga - RC's contribution and a gift from one of his (obviously very generous) friends. This has been sitting around for a while, and clearly some of the eggs have burst. Pretty good in terms of depth of flavor, definitely tasting of the sea... almost a little umami.
B: Russian beluga, packed in December 2016 - Fergie's contribution. Lighter in terms of flavor, definitely less salty. Oily and nutty. The eggs in this tin look the freshest.
C: Russian beluga, packed in November 2016 - my contribution, from the same 22-year-old fish whose eggs I tasted in December. I think we all agreed that this was the best batch. Really big flavors, full of the ocean and seaweed, nutty, good acidity on the finish along with slight bitterness.
D: Russian golden oscietra, packed in December 2016 - my contribution. slightly more salty with nice acidity.
|Clockwise from top: Iranian beluga, Russian beluga (Dec 2016), Russian beluga (Nov 2016), Russian golden oscietra|
Since we just had all this good stuff, our host decided that we should have some of the "regular" stuff for comparison's sake. Out came this jar of oscietra, which looked like it had been picked up in a supermarket in Russia. It's been sitting around for at least a year, and upon opening the jar we can see that a lot of the eggs had burst. Honestly, this wasn't very tasty at all... no complexity nor depth of flavor beyond the salt and fishy notes... none of the oily, nutty flavors of the others.
Conclusion? Yeah, it's worth paying up for quality when it comes to caviar. But is beluga worth double the price of golden oscietra? Well... that's the same kind of question as whether Romanée-Conti is worth 3 to 5 times the price of La Tâche...
I picked up this sake castella (酒ケーキ) made by Dassai (獺祭) on the spur of the moment, and figured it would be interesting to try it out. While some of the others were surprised by the level of alcohol inside (it was only about 2%), I was quite happy with it. I love Japanese castella (カステラ), and this had junmai daiginjo (純米大吟醸) inside!