February 15, 2020

Supporting chef friends: the simple couple

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V is stuck in Hong Kong by himself, unable to visit his family in Japan due to rumored quarantine measures.  Hello Kitty and I figured that he needed some company, so we met up for dinner while trying to do our part to support our chef friends.  I figured Sato-san at Ta Vie 旅 probably could use some love, so I made a last-minute booking.

Business was never flourishing here, and I don't recall ever seeing the place more than half full.  But I was happy to find more diners here tonight than I had expected... or perhaps it's because today is the day after Valentine's Day.

As always we start our meal with some of the homemade nukazuke (糠漬け) bread.  And I love the fact that it comes out nice and toasty.

In addition to the regular homemade butter and ricotta, today we also had some malted syrup butter.  Very savory and nice.

"Zuwai" snow crab and cherry radish salad with Chinese kale "gai lan" purée - we would start by sipping on the crab consommé, which was nice and full-bodied.

The "salad" is next, with shredded Japanese snow crab, sliced and julienned cherry radish, some broccoli, and the kailan (芥蘭) purée.  Pretty nice with good balance on the seasoning.

"Lung Guang" chicken consommé with wonton, water cress, black truffles - I've had these wontons in consommé before, but tonight they seemed extra delicious.  Maybe it's the wonton skins, which had more bite than I remembered.  Or maybe it's the slices of black truffle which were so, so fragrant.  What a beautiful, comforting dish!

"Aori" squid and winter Japanese turnip carpaccio - this was surprisingly interesting.  The bigfin reef squid had a nice texture as expected, but it was the presence of sesame oil and a few sesame seeds - along with white spring onion - that really made the dish.

I also love the pain de campagne, for which there are different recipes using varying flours.  I can't believe I had two of these...

Deep fried "Lung Guang" chicken wing stuffed with black truffle rice, pea sprout, Shaoxing wine sauce - ah yes, the stuffed chicken wing again.  What's not to like about deep-fried chicken wings, especially when they come draped in black truffle?  The nice part was having the earthy notes from the pea shoots match the flavors from the truffles.

Not to mention that they were stuffed with both glutinous rice and Koshihikari (こしひかり) from Niigata Prefecture (新潟県).  And bits of black truffle.

Charcoal grilled "saba" Japanese mackerel topped with smoked oscietra caviar, anchoïade sauce - the mackerel came from Akkeshi (厚岸) in Hokkaido and tasty on the strong side.  The savoy spinach (ちじみほうれん草) tasted kinda metallic, and we also had some cabbage on the side.

That smoked caviar on top?  Totally unnecessary.  Just made the dish more salty than it needed to be.

Saba bouzushi - I had seen a few posts from friends recently, so I figured this might be served up as an extra.  We each got two thin slices, and as expected a little sesame added just the right amount of fragrance.  Very, very happy.

Roasted French milk fed veal from Burgundy with Japanese bamboo shoots from "Kagoshima" - the veal was very, very tender, if slightly on the bland side.  One chunk of bamboo shoot was cooked in sage butter and came covered in panko (パン粉).  These were very, very sweet.

Roselle tea - this was really refreshing and delicious, and particular fragrant thanks to having been brewed with orange peel and osmanthus.

Kumquats compote with crêpe, cream cheese ice cream, osmanthus powder - pretty damn good with that orange, honey, and osmanthus sauce.  Japanese kumquats (金柑) were very fragrant.

"Sakura" - we have compote of Tasmanian cherries at the bottom, vanilla ice cream and white chocolate mousse on top, with sakura cookies shaped like pink sakura petals.  Very pretty, and pretty tasty.

For my drink, I chose Da Hong Pao (大紅袍) from Wuyi (武夷).

Walnut meringue - so the petits fours accompanying the Oolong tea were these tasty little pieces.

Chocolate mousse - I was intensely jealous of V because, as someone who asked for coffee, he got the amazing chocolate mousse.  When I told Takano-san how much I love this chocolate mousse because of the beautiful fragrance of kaffir lime, I was lucky enough to be offered an extra portion...

We brought 3 bottles with us tonight:

2007 Ram's Hill - pretty ripe and alcoholic at first, especially when not cold enough.  Much better after chilling and using a smaller glass designed for sauvignon blanc.  Still got green apple notes, and sweet like Chinese licorice.

1970 Lafleur - opened for 1 hour prior to serving.  Smoky, minty.  Much more open with the second pour, sweeter and more woodsy.  Pretty nice.

1996 Sine Qua Non Raven Syrah No. 4 - served more than 1½ hours after decanting, and was just opening up.  Metallic notes, sooo ripe and sooo fragrant.  Really fucking good 2½ hours later.  Still going strong after 3½ hours.

A very happy meal as usual, and I'm always happy to support the lovely couple whose labor of love - with 2 Michelin stars and a place on Asia's 50 Best Restaurants - is clearly recognized by critics yet under-appreciated by the general public.

We adjourned for drinks at House Welley, a relatively new bar nearby with a lot of interesting and rare single malts.

The Wishing Well - distilled in 1994 at Braes of Glenlivet, aged 24 years in Bourbon cask and bottled for The Mash Tun Tokyo.  Very floral, kinda sweet on the nose.

Glen Grant 25 Years - initially fragrant, fruity and almost pear-like.  Nose concentrated in glass with intense alcohol.  Smooth on the palate.  Very nice.

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