February 23, 2010

The three Pierres

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A friend of mine graciously invited me for dinner and share some wines at Wagyu Kaiseki Den. It's been a couple of months since my first visit, and I was pretty excited about going back.  Interestingly, I was sandwiched between two Pierres - making us a trio.

先付:lobster, uni, komatsuna and caviar with seaweed in sesame sauce - I suppose the combination of lobster, sea urchin and caviar is interesting, as the sweetness of the first two ingredients would balance out the savory flavors of the caviar.  The komatsuna (小松菜) was kinda interesting, as it is a Japanese variant of spinach - hence the familiar pairing with sesame sauce, although interesting we had both white and black sesame tonight.

前菜:hairy crab with vinegar jelly, ebiimo age, daigo age, negitoro, kamo quail meat with gobou and shirauo - this is pretty typical of kaiseki... putting lots of different bite-sized items in a lacquer box and serving them together.  The hairy crab jelly was not bad; the deep-fried taro (海老芋) was good; ネギトロ and the rest were OK.

椀物 :hamaguri clear soup - actually the clam (蛤) was kinda disappointing.  There was a single bamboo shoot and some kind of radish wrap on top.  The veggie inside the wrap has pretty strong flavors.

造り:chef's selection sashimi - served in two courses: first were a few thin slices of yellowtail (鰤), which I didn't like.  I'm used to thicker slices of buri, which when served cold gives a crunchier, chewier texture.  What we got tonight were limp and soft - which may be the way locals here prefer the fish.  Second serving came with a very nice halfbeak (細魚) as well as pieces of fatty tuna.  I didn't think it would be polite to turn down the tuna - even though I'm trying not to eat bluefin - so I ate the very fatty and yummy slices.

お淩ぎ:gyu tan iimushi - two very soft and tender pieces of ox tongue, steamed in a ceramic cup (with holes at the bottom) over rice.  Very yummy.

揚油物:fried taraba crab and amadai yasai maki - the deep-fried veggie wrapped in a thin slice of horsehead (甘鯛) was pretty nice, as the texture of the fish was soft and silky.  Nice deep-fried slice of mushroom - I think it was king oyster mushroom (エリンギ) and not matsutake (松茸)... The real interesting part was the deep-fried red king crab leg (鱈場蟹), with a layer of flour in the shape of a bunch of brunoise-sized "studs".  Very yummy.

進肴:kamo and lilybulb manjyu with truffle sauce - I'm assuming by kamo the restaurant meant duck, but I didn't taste anything remotely like duck... The manju was filled with sweet lilybulb mash, and the black truffle sauce was pretty fragrant.

主菜:charcoal grilled wagyu - very fatty, succulent and yummy beef, grilled flawlessly, with a single grilled ginko nut on top.  I didn't want to spoil the beef by dipping it into a sauce or even salt.

雲丹とトリュフ土鍋ご飯 - the claypot rice that I had last time was great, and tonight's variation was also impeccable.  Reasonably big chunks of sea urchin, finely chopped spring onions, finely diced black truffle along with black truffle shavings were mixed together to create this really fragrant pot of rice.  I couldn't resist a second bowl, especially with the burnt rice crispies.

Dessert was a crème caramel with black soybeans, with a caramelized hard top made from Okinawan black sugar.  A pretty nice combination.

The wine lineup tonight was very nice, spread across two countries and three regions.

1999 Amour de Deutz - the last time I had this Champagne was at my friend's wedding in Reims.  This was beautiful with a yeasty nose, ripe, round and smooth on the palate and a nice finish.  Paired very well with the first course.  Interestingly, there's a twist to the metal cap which traditionally covers the Champagne cork.  The metal piece here has been stamped with an image of Cupid, and a string has been attached to make it into a pendant.  That's a pretty nice touch.

1996 Ramonet Bâtard-Montrachet - I've always loved the white wines of Ramonet, and this was no exception.  A very lovely nose, very ripe with notes of pineapple, straw, marmalade, salty plum (話梅), sweet cotton candy, caramel...and towards the end, almost exactly like the Cantonese drink of sugar cane and water chestnut (竹蔗茅根水)!  Acidity was a little high, and showed some minerality and metallic flavors on the palate.

1993 Hubert Lignier Clos de la Roche - unfortunately I only had one pour of this wine (drinking too slowly...), but initially it was a little sharp, with notes of pine needle, forest, eucalyptus and black cherries.  It died about three hours after opening, and all that was left was smoke and brett.

1998 Baron Bornemisza Aszú 6 Puttonyos - this interesting wine is the baby of Marchese Lodovico Antinori.  Nose of orange marmalade, botrytis, sugar cane and plum.  Obviously pretty sweet as it's a 6 puttonyos.  Once I've tasted the next wine, this one naturally tasted much fresher and lighter...and it's not everyday that you can say that about a 6 puttonyos!

1993 Château Pajzos Esszencia - Wow! What a wine!  This is the first time I've drunk Tokaji Esszencia, one of the richest sweet wines in the world.  I actually have a couple of 50cl bottles of this wine, and my friend brought out a 10cl baby bottle given to her by winemaker Ronan Laborde, whose family also owns Château Clinet.  This was really concentrated, unctuous, with nose of salty plum (話梅), caramel, toffee, spices and a little botrytis.  Tokaji is known to be very sweet, especially Esszencia, but this has great acidity balance.  I think I's gotta get me some more...

What a wonderful evening!

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