April 14, 2013

Dragon of the northern mountains

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Tonight we celebrated a birthday in the sky.  It's been a few months since my first visit to Tenku RyuGin (天空龍吟), and I took this opportunity to treat the Tiggers to this dinner.  I was really looking forward to a return visit, while the Tiggers are getting an advanced taste of what is to come for them in Tokyo…

Lightly simmered spring vegetables with icefish fried in "Okaki" on a boat of sasa bamboo - interesting how they deep-fried the icefish (白魚) in the style of rice crackers (おかき)…  Served with bamboo shoots, broccolini, and really fine ginger brunoise.

Hot egg custard topped with yuba and sea urchin - NOT your average chawanmushi (茶碗蒸し)…  The organic egg came from Kyushu (九州), although the flavors paled in comparison to the other ingredients.  The yuba (湯葉) was pretty tasty, and you can really taste the soy flavor.  Needless to say the sea urchin packed the biggest flavors, being pretty sweet and fresh.

Quickly simmered "Iidako" octopus and refreshing wasabi cucumber salad - the little octopus (飯蛸) was really, really tender… and served with seaweed (海苔), Japanese spikenard (独活), and sansho leaf (木の芽).

Soup of simmered abalone and scallop dumpling with fragrance of "Fukinoto" - the soup, made with 一番だし was pretty light and sweet.  The abalone was actually really tender, and the "dumpling (団子)" of scallop had some green soy beans (枝豆) inside.  The scallop was pretty sweet, too.  Interesting to have giant butterbur shoots (蕗の薹)…

Sashimi of "Yokowa" baby tuna, spring onions with fragrance of shiso leaf and lime - I have been staying away from bluefin tuna as much as possible for a while, but every once in a while I will break my habit when there is something truly special… and tonight there definitely was…  The baby Pacific bluefin tuna (黒鮪) is finished this season when it is under 10kg…

The tuna was sooooo tender… and lovely on its own with slight seasoning, raw onions and shiso (紫蘇) leaves.  This was definitely a special treat!

"Amadai" tilefish wrapped on kadaif with aroma of binchotan, salad of five green colors - interesting to see kadaif here, as this has just shown up at my Robuchon dinner last month…  So the kadaif is made into a shell around the amadai (甘鯛), and sprinkled with grated yuzu (柚子) rind.  Definitely smelled the aroma of the binchotan (備長炭).

I have to say… the amadai was soooo tender…

The salad of five green colors was interesting, as there was green apple mash, mint, radish sprouts…etc.  Very cool and refreshing.

Sukiyaki "Kuroge Wagyu Beef Sirloin" with white asparagus, morel mushroom, onset tamago - I have always loved the sukiyaki (すき焼き) here, and tonight the Saga Kuroge wagyu (佐賀黒毛和牛) was again barely cooked and oh-so-tender…  The flavors worked so well with the morels, and the white asparagus wasn't bad, either… Of course sukiyaki works best with a raw or soft-boiled egg (温泉卵)… A little bit of scallion sprouts (芽ねぎ) for decoration and light flavor enhancement.

Rice simmered in "Sakura Tea" with deep fried "Sakura Shrimp" from SURUGAWAN Bay - OMG… this was soooo yummy!  I looove sakura shrimp (桜海老), and deep-frying them just brings out all the awesome flavors.  Suruga Bay (駿河湾) between Izu Peninsula (伊豆半島) and Shizuoka Prefecture (静岡県) is famous for these little suckers…  As bad as my palate is, I actually did detect a hint of sakura flavor in the rice…

With the rice, we were served some pickled veggies and shredded tofu skin.

Some white miso soup that was a little on the sweet side…

Fruit tomato poached with "Umeshu" encased in a fragile glass - there was the candied "glass dome" on top with the seemingly obligatory gold foil… The little tomato from Shizuoka (静岡) was delicious, especially with the umeshu (梅酒) flavors.  The lime sorbet underneath worked well.

Meringue of SAKURA flowers, almond flavored ice cream with fresh strawberries - the texture of the sakura meringue suggests that it was flash-frozen with liquid nitrogen, bringing a little molecular play that Chef Yamamoto is known to like.  The marinated sakura leaf was kinda interesting as it's slightly salty.  The strawberries from Kumamoto (熊本) were really sweet and full of flavor.  In comparison the almond ice cream seemed a little bland.  Not sure what the red beans (小豆) were doing there…

A nice cup of matcha (抹茶) to finish the evening.

Mrs. Tigger brought along a very special bottle of sake tonight.  This was made exclusively for Hokuetsu Kishu Paper (北越紀州製紙) by Kondo Brewery (近藤酒造) of Niigata Prefecture (新潟県) and given to business partners of the paper company, so it's not commercially available.

Etsugosenzan Sugandake Hokuetsunokaze Daiginjo (越後泉山 菅名岳 北越の風) - very refined with a semaibuai (精米歩合) of 35%.  Sweet on the attack and mid-palate, with a slightly dry finish.  Smooth and round, elegant at first but hides the full-bodied flavors, and the Japanese would say "コクがある".  Nose of banana and fermented rice.

I was pretty stuffed by the end of the evening, and more than a little buzzed as I was drinking the bulk of the sake… Would love to come back in a few weeks' time to try the other spring seasonal menu...

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