June 2, 2011

Lisboa tour: New Furusato

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Day 2 of my Lisboa tour began with my stomach complaining to me that it was empty.  After all that food yesterday, I actually felt the hunger pangs sometime before 10am.  I grabbed a continental breakfast from the Round-The-Clock Coffee Shop to have some fresh fruit and fruit juice, and allowed myself one fluffy croissant.  I needed to save precious stomach space for lunch!

The PR team treated us to lunch at New Furusato (新故里) inside Hotel Lisboa, and happily for us, they were able to join us, too.  I was only aware of a couple of restaurants within the two Lisboa hotels - and this definitely wasn't one of them - so it was surprising to learn that this place has been around for quite a while.

There was a pretty big spread on the sashimi platter - with all the usual suspects.  Unfortunately, our hosts didn't realize that neither KC nor myself actually eat salmon sashimi.  In fact it's one of KC's biggest pet peeves... I also don't eat any raw tuna, so we ended up with some leftovers.

Poached octopus with carrot, winter melon and taro - actually this was kinda nice.  The octopus was slightly chewy, with a little mustard on top.  The flavors of the various balls were enhanced by a sprinkle of green yuzu (柚子) rind.

Winter melon and shrimp somen - the winter melon was nicely done, but unfortunately the diced shrimps were a little overcooked.  The somen (素麺) was a pleasant surprise, as was the bits of perilla (紫蘇), conpoy and a little bit of spicy ginger to pick up the flavors.

Boston cherry stone clams with uni, miso and Gruyère cheese - a mixture of cherrystone clams and sea urchin in the shell.  Honestly it was a little rich and heavy... and too salty for my taste.  Loved everything else outside the shell, though...  I've always loved black soybeans (黒豆) for their sweetness, and Japanese sweet potato (薩摩芋)... but the real surprise today was the chestnut.  It was the sweetest chestnut I've ever tasted - like I was biting into a piece of candy.

Assorted tempura (天婦羅盛合せ) - done pretty well, with very little oil soaking into the paper.  The sweet potato (薩摩芋) came in a pretty thick chunk, which made it a little dry, powdery and heavy.

We were presented with three types of salt - regular, green tea and curry.  While the curry flavor was pretty obvious, I couldn't get the green tea flavor out of the middle contain for the life of me.  I kept smelling curry/turmeric/preserved plum...

In preparation for the next dish, we were given mortars filled with sesame seeds, and proceeded to grind the seeds against the grooves on the insides of the mortars.  I have to say that the sesame seeds we got were particularly fragrant, even before I had a chance to grind them and release the oil trapped inside.

Deep-fried Portugal black pork mille-feuille (ポルトガル黒豚薄切りかさねカツ) - this was pretty damn good... The chef created a thick "roll" from the pork, making it extra-thick.  The high heat from deep-frying was able to fully cook the center of the pork while allowing it to retain the moisture.  The panko (パン粉) crust on top was definitely pretty crispy.

Deluxe Saga beef sirloin steak (A5) - the A5 Saga beef (佐賀牛) was very nice.  Cooked on a teppan, it was a completely different experience from last night.  The garlic chips were very, very fragrant.

Seasonal vegetables (野菜炒め) - a nice break after two rather heavy dishes...

Claypot rice with mushrooms and sea urchin - this was pretty amazing... The waitstaff removed the lid and uncovered a bed of shrooms on top of the rice.  KC's first reaction was to put his nose forward to sniff the aroma from the mushrooms. 

The flavors only got better once some raw sea urchin was mixed in, and the rice cracklings at the bottom were practically irresistable...

We finally reached the last stage of our lunch... dessert.  This egg custard wasn't what I was expecting... It was very sweet but didn't have the usual "eggy" flavors I love.

Black sesame ice cream - very intense flavors.

Azuki ice cream - not bad.

Mizu no Eau Daiginjo Light (水の王 大吟醸ライト) - we were treated to a bottle of this sake, which was meant to pair well with food due to its lighter flavor profile.  I had drunk a bottle of this a couple of years ago... It was indeed light on the palate at first, but very lovely and fragrant like fermented rice (酒釀).  Later on the palate became a little stronger, and for some reason the phrase "コクがある" popped into my head... Interesting when tasted with sea urchin. 

Kuronawa Daiginjo (黒縄 大吟醸) - this is made by the Takagi Brewery (高木酒造)from Yamagata Prefecture (山形県), maker of the famed Juyondai (十四代) brand.  I thought I had a pretty good grasp of most of the Juyondai range, but I had never seen this before.  Apparently (according to one source) Kuronawa was the brand name the brewery used within Yamagata, while in the old days Juyondai was the brand name used for koshu (古酒) sold outside the home prefecture.  Anyway, as I had the opportunity to taste something that I thought was out of the ordinary, I went for it and ordered a bottle.  Later on I realized this probably wasn't as much of a bargain as some of the other selections, but never mind...

This was much drier and spicier, very full-bodied with a very long finish. Interestingly, the spicy mid-palate led to a sweet finish, in what the Chinese would call 囘甘. Seimaibuai (精米歩合) of 35%.

We were pretty stuffed from all the good food, but luckily we would have an opportunity to walk around after lunch...

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