September 29, 2017

Format change

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The last time that I caught up with both Winnie the Chew and Zhongmeister together was more than a year ago, and a request for made for a Japanese dinner.  I had originally wanted to book one of the new places on the Dark Side, but alas, not having the help of a High Person meant we were relegated to the restaurant's waiting list.  So I decided to make a long-overdue return to Tenku RyuGin (天空龍吟) and check out what Chef Seki Hidemichi (関秀道) is serving these days.

I was surprised to find that the menu has now changed to 12 courses, and wondered about the format change.  They had also taken their classic hot/cold dessert off the menu, so it looks like quite a few changes have been made since I was last here a year ago.

Uni, namanori seaweed and shiromiso paste with superiore Chinese broth jelly (海胆  生海苔と白みそのピュレ  上湯の煮凝り) - I love that when the weather is warm, the menu here always starts off with something on ice.  Always so refreshing.

Sea urchin is always a crowd-pleaser, and here we have a great balance between the sweetness and creminess with the savory flavors of the white miso, along with delicate and clean flavors of the Chinese superior broth (上湯) made with ham.  Perilla (紫蘇) flowers add a lovely dose of fragrance here.

Simmered abalone, grilled eggplant with matcha foam (煮鮑と焼茄子  抹茶) - the abalone comes from Chiba Prefecture (千葉県) and has been simmering for 8 hours.  Served with charcoal-grilled eggplant which delivered a lovely, smoky fragrance.  Covered in abalone liver sauce and topped with a matcha (抹茶)-flavored foam.  I was surprised to discover some sansho leaves (木の芽) with the abalone for some added fragrance.

Pretty decent, but here Hello Kitty starts to run into issues with having caffeine in her food...

A drop of tomato (フルーツトマトの雫) - clearly inspired by the Adrià brothers' spherification. 

Inside the agar 'skin' - which was rather thick - was the purée of Amera tomatoes (アメーラトマト) from Kyushu (九州).  The calyx was actually made with fried bok choy (白菜), and a drizzle of Spanish extra virgin olive oil was added.

Hairy crab dumpling soup, chrysanthemum, aroma of matsutake (毛蟹真蒸のお椀  黄菊  松茸香る) - the usual bowl containing ichibandashi (一番出汁) has been complemented with the delicate fragrance of matsutake (松茸) mushrooms, along with yellow chrysanthemum petals.  This was definitely more complex than the usual ichibandashi.

The crab ball was made with delicious Japanese horsehair crab (毛蟹), along with some crab tomalley (蟹味噌) inside. Very yum.

Sashimi, one by one (お造り  盛り合さず):
Bonito (鰹) - marinated in soy sauce and served with a dab of yellow mustard.  The mustard was, thankfully, not very pungent... and worked well with the soy flavors.

Anago caviar (穴子とキャビア) - the shirayaki (白焼き) of conger eel was meant to be taken with French farmed sturgeon caviar instead of salt.  I chose not to use either the sudachi (酢橘) or the wasabi on the side, but I did like the crunchy ice plants.

Wined kuruma shrimp (酔車海老油霜) - the shrimp was pan-fried in a mixture of 12-year-old Huadiao wine (花雕酒) and soy sauce, following by being dunked in 220°C hot oil for 3 seconds.

The result is a shrimp tail which was a little more raw than mi-cuit.  We've also got the head deep-fried after being flattened.  Very tasty.  Not sure I picked up much of the Huadiao fragrance, though...

Beef shabu shabu, taro stem with ginger sauce (牛しゃぶと芋茎 生姜のあん) - the taro stems (芋茎) had been cooked so that they were no longer crunchy.  The tender and marbled Miyazaki beef (宮崎牛) was, in my view, somewhat overcooked.  The ginger sauce provided a little fragrance and a kick, which matched perfectly with the shredded myoga (茗荷) on top.

Crispy scales amadai with deep fried and charcoal grilled maitake mushroom (あまだい鱗焼き  マイタケの天ぷらの炭火焼) - along with the fish, we had maitake mushrooms (舞茸) which were cooked as tempura first before being charcoal grilled, as well as grilled fresh ginkgo nuts, physalis, and togarashi (唐辛子) pepper.

The tilefish's scales were flicked up by hand, and the fish was pan-fried before being charcoal-grilled.  Delicious as expected, with crispy scales providing a nice, smoky fragrance to the succulent flesh.

Muscat, cucumber, wasabi (シャインマスカット  胡瓜  山葵のジュレ) - the Shine Muscat (シャインマスカット) grapes were slightly boiled to lend a softer texture, then drizzled with sudachi juice before being mixed with wasabi, white celery, and cucumber. Surprisingly savory, with a little kick from the celery building up to a bigger kick from the wasabi.  A nice balance here with the very sweet muscat grapes.

Duck hot pot in Miyagi style (鴨とクレソンとポルチーニの鍋) - the duck breast from Bresse was pretty tasty, and the soup made with other parts of the duck had plenty of black pepper for seasoning.  The porcini mushrooms were delicious, but the watercress was a little earthy.  Served with some yuzukosho (柚子胡椒) on the side.

Charcoal grilled river eel and ikura with chestnuts rice (栗ご飯とおかず) - it's chestnut season, and what I had in my bowl with rice was pretty sweet.

The salmon roe was served with yuzu zest, giving it a more delicate flavor profile.

The charcoal grilled eel was as delicious as ever, with sansho (山椒) pepper and sansho leaves.

Peach and sweet corn (桃のすり流しとトウモロコシのアイス) - sweet corn ice cream and white peach purée, coffee coulis, and white peach espuma.  A very nice balance of delicate flavors, but another dish that Hello Kitty couldn't eat.  Not that she enjoys desserts...  So Zhongmeister inhaled it for her.

"White peony" tea mousse with bamboo leaf sorbet wrapped in yuba (湯葉と白牡丹茶) - wrapped inside the fresh yuba (湯葉) was some soy milk ice cream with white peony (白牡丹) tea leaves and cookie crumble.  Sprinkled with soy milk powder made by freezing with liquid nitrogen, and topped with a piece of yuba.  Delicious.  Another dessert Hello Kitty couldn't eat, so I took it despite being very full...

White peony tea was served on the side.

I brought along a very interesting bottle of vin nature bong water to try:

2006 Ganevat Les Vignes de mon Père - a little oak, pollen, and definitely a little more "dusty".  Initially the acidity was high when the wine was a little warm, and the acidity stayed high.  One hour after opening the nose was really fragrant, with a bit more honey and flint.  Kinda lean on the palate.  Opened up further after 2 hours and showed almost like oxidized pear.  Very complex, from vines planted in 1930.

There was a conflict between Winnie the Chew and the Zhongmeister about the wine they were bringing, so they didn't.  We ended up ordering a bottle of sake off their wine list.

The restaurant claims to have two bottlings of Kokuryu (黒龍) - from one of my favorite sake breweries - which were "exclusive" to their restaurant.  I am a big fan of Kokuryu and have been known to collect a few of their sakes.  I asked the restaurant staff about the Kokuryu Gin (黒龍吟) and what the differences were between this and the brewery's more common daiginjo Ryu (龍).  The answer?  The liquid inside is the same, but they get a customized label...

So I made the executive decision to order the other "special bottling".  Well, it turns out that this label was designed by artist Fujishiro Seiji (藤城清治) and the bottling had originally been released in December 2011, just before the start of the previous Year of the Dragon.  I believe this is just the same thing as their regular Daiginjo (大吟醸) inside the bottle.

Kokuryu Daiginjo Tenku ni Noboru Ryu (黒龍  大吟醸  天空に登る龍) - seimaibuai (精米歩合) of 50%.  Very tropical nose, fruity with banana and floral notes.  Very sweet both on the nose and on the palate.  Later on the nose showed more fermented rice notes.

A very delicious dinner, and we were totally stuffed.  It was nice to see Seki-san when he came to greet us, and I felt bad that we had stayed so late.  I guess I can only make it up to him by not waiting another year to visit him...

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