December 5, 2018

Japan 2018 day 5: an afternoon in Aoyama

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Our second day in Tokyo started with lunch at L'Effervescence.  I've been curious about this place for the last few years as many friends had raved about it, so I figured I owed it to myself to check it out on this trip.

My Birdbrain Cousin has already been here before in the evening, but thankfully she is happy to return for lunch.

I asked for some water, and what came was 栗林の仕込水 from Kuribayashi Brewery (栗林酒造).  This is the same water used to brew sake by the brewery, and I understand that sometimes breweries supply them to their customers.

One thing that I take notice of, which I take as an indication of service staff's attention to detail, is whether the staff notice that Hello Kitty is left-handed.  The service staff here noticed very early on, before we even got our first dish.  That's very impressive.

Our welcome drink was a mix of sake and Barolo Chinato, which would explain the bitterness on the palate.

Almanach des gourmands~ crabe séiko, chou-fleur / yuzu, sake - you've got cauliflower purée at the bottom, Sherry vinegar gelée, female snow crab (せいこ蟹)), and finally crab foam on top.  This was delicious but came with a slight hint of bitterness on the finish.

Sake and yuzu sorbet - this was nice and refreshing with the acidity from the citrus, and the alcohol from sake was pretty obvious.

Comme le chausson aux pommes#35~ foie de lotte de mer, champignon, truffe noire - I finally had a chance to try the famous "apple pie"... which came inside a paper container resembling what one sees from McDonald's...

This was pretty much bite-sized... or maybe two bites.  The filling was a combination of smooth and creamy monkfish liver, mushroom purée, and black truffle.  Certainly a delicious mouthful (or two).

Étoile polaire~ noix de St. Jacques au sashimi, vinaigrette de citron vert et échalote, miso blanc, radis daikons - what a stunning dish!  Very thin slices of raw Hokkaido scallops, presented with white miso and lime vinaigrette along with thin wafers of pickled radish.  The sweet scallop worked well with the slightly acidic pickles and vinaigrette, while the miso added some umami.  Very clean and pure flavors here.

Un point fixe~ navet cuit entier et persil, jambon basque de porc et brioche - a signature dish for the restaurant.  Apparently this is always on the menu, and the preparation does not change.  What does change with the seasons, however, is the taste of the turnip itself.
The turnip from Chiba Prefecture was soaked for 4 hours (did our server mean simmered/slow-cooked?) and pan-fried with butter.  There was definitely a bit of spiciness coming from the fall turnip.

Automne, embrassement~ mérou grillé au charbon, purée de celeri rave, huile au lardon torrefié, maitake, noix de ginkgo - the grouper from Nagasaki Prefecture (長崎県) was very tender but also springy at the same time. Served with a celeriac sauce, maitake (舞茸), ginkgo nuts, and pickled shallots which added some acidity.

Un pays entre mers et montagnes~ canard de Kyoto rôti et sauce à la brandade, betterave, poireau negi, chou noir - the Kyoto duck came with both a piece of breast as well as leg.  Served with a brandade sauce as well as beetroot purée - the latter of which was removed from Hello Kitty's and my plates.  Interesting to see cavolo nero here.
Nice execution on the breast.  The leg came with very yummy and chewy fat.

Retour à la maison~ châtaigne, raisin sauvage, pomme, glace au thé au sarrasin torréfié - inspired by Mont Blanc, with sauce made from grilled apples. The ice cream was made from Tartary buckwheat tea (韃靼そば茶), and the flavors were not as strong as I had imagined.

Chestnut mousse wrapped around chestnut compote and wild grape sorbet.  We have a total a 4 textures of chestnuts here: chips, mousse, compote, and powder.
Mignardises, thé matcha, "World peace" - a series of bite-sized mignardises came on a plate.  First we have the chocolate dacquoise.
Gateau marjolaine

Mochi with dried persimmon and red bean paste (餡子)

The chocolate lollipop came with black sesame and lime filling, along with some pop rocks at the bottom.

Needless to say, the matcha was made to order tableside.

"World peace" - made with peanut milk and shochu (焼酎), and inspired by a drink served at State Bird Provisions.
I normally don't drink at lunch, but it's been pretty obvious over the last few days that I'm dining with two very thirsty ladies... and Champagne was requested.

Ulysse Collin Les Roises, dégorgée le 16 février 2015 - nice and plenty of toasty oak on the nose.  A little bit of straw.

Our parting gift was a small slice of pound cake, made with mushrooms and nuts.

We were very full and need to walk a little, so I asked the ladies for permission to take a detour.  Our destination would not exactly be a place frequented by tourists...

As a teenager growing up in Tokyo - and living in Setagaya Ward (世田谷区), I often met up with friends in front of the statue of Hachiko (ハチ公) outside Shibuya Station (渋谷駅).  I knew he was a famous dog, but this was pre-Internet and I didn't exactly read up on his story.  I did more research on him after watching Hachi: A Dog's Tale, the Hollywood adaption of the moving story of the loyal dog. A few weeks ago I happened to re-read stories about him, and realized that Hachiko is buried in Aoyama Cemetery (青山墓地) next to his owners Ueno Hidesaburo (上野英三郎) and Sakano Yaeko (坂野八重子).  As the location is marked on Google Maps and not far from the restaurant, I decided that I wanted to pay them a visit.

It was a lovely day out, and there were plenty of trees inside the large cemetery, so I treated it as a casual stroll.  Soon we spotted Hachiko's tombstone, and three was a little area next to it on which people had left gifts.  There were a few dog figurines, some fresh flowers, and coins from around the world.  More than 80 years after his death, it's clear that Hachiko is as beloved as ever.

I clapped my hands and bowed my head as a sign of respect, whispered a prayer, and left one of the pound cakes I took from L'Effervescence for Hachiko.  I hoped he would enjoy it.  I also left coins from Taiwan as well as Hong Kong to add to his collection.  Then the three dog lovers exited the cemetery, and Hello Kitty and I left with our eyes moist.

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