December 13, 2009

A pair of black dragons

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I met up with a couple of old friends in Taipei tonight, and went to a Japanese place I've been wanting to try out.  I've long read about Masa from Dreamfis' blog - and drooled over his collection of Japanese sake.  I finally got to see what all the fuss was about.

We sat at the sushi bar, and started with 前付 of diced tomato, yamaimo (山药) and cooked tuna.  Nice and refreshing start.

Next came a series of white fish sashimi, including some red snapper (鲷) and other variants.  All were fresh and delicious, with wonderful texture to some of them.

The grilled corn lollipop was pretty amazing.  I call it "lollipop" because it literally tasted like candy on a stick.  This has got to be some special Japanese corn - it was just amazingly sweet.  I'd never tasted any corn with sugar content this high.  Of course the grilling only helped caramelize some of the sugar... I can eat this all day!

The thin slices of dried mullet roe (カラスミ, 烏魚子) were really something.  I've eaten tons of this stuff in Taiwan, but what I got here tonight was neither dry and crunchy, nor did it hang on to my teeth for dear life.  These slices were creamy, soft, velvety and melted in my mouth.

Along the way we also had some small bowls of marinated seafood, such as little pearl oysters and an interesting combination of cooked cuttlefish with yellowed chives (韭黃) and celery.  The latter was definitely Chinese...

Some time during the evening the conversation turned to blowfish (河豚), and I mentioned that one of my least favorite experiences was eating blowfish sperm sac (白子) sushi at another restaurant in Taiwan.  My friend next to me was pretty disgusted by my graphic description of the white, sticky stuff all over my teeth.  Shortly thereafter, a little cube of tofu was presented in front of us.  I couldn't exactly figure out what it tasted like, only that it wasn't sesame as another friend suggested.  Turns out it was made from 白子...

A series of yummy nigiri sushi followed, but the highlight has to be the bonito (鰹) and the turbot (平目).  The slice of turbot has been seared with a torch, and part of this just melted and turned jello-like.  It just dissolved on my tongue!

I had kinda announced that I would stop eating tuna in order to do my small part in helping the species survive in the wild - especially bluefin.  The chef assured me - at my friend's behest - that the tuna was farmed, not wild.  I'm not so sure about that, but I did end up eating the double-layered toro (トロ) nigiri...

A nice salad of persimmon, okra, alfalfa sprouts and tomato followed.  The dressing was Thousand Island (surprise, surprise...) but the mix of ingredients was very interesting.

One of the highlights of the evening was definitely the grilled rock fish (紅喉魚).  This is a fresh local fish that I had earlier this year but did not enjoy.  Tonight I was wow'ed, and one of my friends had the same reaction.  While the skin was grilled to perfection, the flesh underneath was soooo succulent that the juices literally oozed out as I put pressure on it with my chopsticks.  I'd definitely have this again!

The last item to arrive before dessert was a bowl of clam soup with tofu and spring daisy (茼蒿).  Very nice and pure flavors.

Dessert was a bit of a non-event...some panna cotta with peanut paste.

But the main event of the evening was actually a pair of limited production sake from Kokuryu (黒龍). I had drunk both of these before, but tonight I would have them side-by-side and compare them.  Both are daiginjo (大吟醸) quality with semaibuai (精米歩合) of 35%, but the differences were immediately apparent.  The Shizuku (しずく) was nice and sharp, clearly much drier and spicier.  The No. 88 (八十八号) was smooth and sweet initially, before the ice bucket lowered the temperature significantly, and then turned drier as it got cold.  But as I noticed last time, the Shizuku isn't terribly complex...and was outclassed by No. 88 in this respect.  Given that I paid 3 times as much for the Shizuku compared to No. 88, I think the latter turned out to be a pretty good buy - something Dreamfis seems to agree with.

I really enjoyed both the food and the sake tonight, but then again I always have a good time with this crowd in Taipei!

1 comment:

笑狼 said...

Excellent Sake! Thanks!


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