May 11, 2013

It's your birthday… It's your birthday...

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I was invited to a dinner tonight jointly celebrating the birthdays of a happy couple.  We gathered at Wagyu Kaiseki Den, one of my favorite places for kaiseki cuisine (懐石料理) in town.  There would of course be wine, and our thoughtful hosts had not only wines from their birth vintages, but also those of the attending guests.  The last time I had a similar theme at dinner was when Frédéric Engerer hosted us at Château Latour

While the wines were being decanted and we waited for everyone to arrive, we had some snacks to nibble on… edamame (枝豆) was an obvious choice…

…as was grilled dried puffer fish.

Steamed egg with sea urchin, broad bean and yuzu citrus (冷: 雲丹釜 玉地蒸し 天豆 うに 柚子) - look real purrty in the spiny sea urchin shell…  Cold and refreshing, with just the right balance between sea urchin and egg.  Oh and that nice yuzu (柚子) fragrance...

Stem of taro, abalone, mountain plant with sesame sauce (温冷: ずいき と 鮑  ワラビ  胡麻和え  木の芽) - I guess the taro stem was kinda interesting… slightly crunchy and marinated in sesame sauce.  The abalone was really, really tasty and full of flavors of the ocean.  The clear jelly seems like it was made with fern (ワラビ), and kinda acidic.  Nice touch with the sansho leaf (木の芽).

Clear soup: grouper, shrimp ball, cucumber noodle and vegetable with yuzu citrus (椀物: 北海道 香深浜産蔵囲利尻昆布 アイナメと海老真蒸、胡瓜麺、嫁菜、花柚子) - very nice and simple.  The shrimp ball was more interesting than the grouper, but the cucumber noodle was the most exotic… Springy texture, and you could definitely taste the cucumber flavors.  I didn't really think the kelp was any special despite its place of origin, but maybe some of the flavors have already been cooked into the soup…

Seared Awaji pike eel with onion vinegar jelly (炙り淡路鱧 ポン酢たまねぎゼリー) - didn't realize that pike eel season had started… Very nicely seared, and I really liked the ponzu (ポン酢) and onion jelly… I liked the use of scallion sprouts (芽ねぎ) and perilla (紫蘇) flowers.

The chef's selection sashimi (お造り) consisted of 3 items, but as I'm still not eating tuna I decided to give my share of fatty tuna (トロ) to the birthday boy.

Instead I had the lobster (伊勢海老) to start.

The red king crab (鱈場蟹) was actually cooked, and incredibly tasty.  Served with a citrus jelly with yuzu seed.  There was a wasabi (山葵) leaf, which had a fairly mild taste.

Interesting to find a cube of jelly made from kelp (昆布).

Chef selection sushi (淩ぎ) consisted of three pieces:  a piece of Manganji pepper (万願寺とうがらし) on the side,

tuna and scallion (ネギトロ) was very tasty...

...and fat greenling (アイナメ) that was used earlier in the soup, wrapped in leaf. Pretty nice.

Grilled amadai sea bream with tofu and vegetable roll, mountain plant, bean curd sheet and deep fried eggplant with minced shrimp (旬菜:甘鯛巻織焼 うど諸味 たらの芽新引揚 くみ湯葉 玉 茄子海老射込 茗荷) - the roll with amadai (甘鯛) and tofu was pretty good.  The eggplant and shrimp thingy was pretty tasty, too.  There was a little bit of egg yolk paste sandwiched between 2 halves of a broad bean, and that was kinda interesting.

Charcoal grilled wagyu tenderloin and sirloin (主菜:和牛テンダーロイン、サーロイン炭焼き) - as the name of the restaurant implies, Japanese beef is the main attraction here.  This has always been very much melt-in-your-mouth fatty goodness... Yum!  The veggie rolls on the side were pretty good, too.

Sea urchin, amadai sea bream with sanshou pepper rice (食事:うに、甘鯛、山椒土鍋ご飯) - very yummy... with sea urchin, sliced bamboo shoots (筍), shreds of amadai.  But for me the real star was the sansho (山椒), which just added so much fragrance to the rice and tickled your tongue a little at the same time...

Beef and tomato sandwich - this isn't on the regular menu, but just had to be done... I've never failed to enjoy this delicious sandwich made with thick, fluffy white toast, tender wagyu and tomato "salsa"... INHALED.

Finally we have dessert (甘味), which came in two parts:
Strawberries ice-cream (苺アイスークリム) - ummm... I think the correct カナ should be アイスクリーム...?  Anyway, the ice cream was pretty decent.

Wasanbon warabi mochi cake (和三盆わらび餅) - how can I not love the wonderful flavors of the sugar?!  Yum!  I'd drink a whole cup of this...

But let's not forget to birthday cake.

We had an interesting lineup of wines, and a couple of "backup" bottles as the hosts weren't sure of the condition of some of them.

1980 Dom Pérignon Rosé - nose of raspberries, minerals, a little plummy, savory, fruity.  A lovely wine.

1998 Haut-Brion Blanc - decanted, of course.  Surprisingly sweet, like marzipan.  Oxidized nose but still wonderful, like cooked sugar cane drink (竹蔗茅根水), dessicated coconut, Chinese licorice (甘草) and toast.  A beautiful wine!  Interesting that the accelerated oxidization has produced such an orange color in a 15-year-old wine.

1955 Massandra Collection Sherry - dry on the palate, straw, plums, caramel, savory and mineral.  Very much like Chinese yellow wine.

1979 Rousseau Chambertin - really lovely wine.  Animal, farmy, bacon notes.  Sweet fruit, plummy, fragrant and beautiful.  There's an elegance that belies that masculinity here.

1970 La Mission Haut-Brion - old and over the hill.  Nose a little cooked, dusty and chalky, brett, wet cardboard, and savory soy sauce.

1983 Jaboulet La Chapelle - surprisingly sweet creamy corn, straw, and a little toasty.  Drinking nicely.

1982 Latour - WOW!  What a beautiful bottle of wine!  Classic pencil lead, smoke, black tea, cassis and minty.  Slightly savory on the palate.  When was the last time I saw such perfect balance between power and elegance?  Amazing condition.

1971 Günther Mehrlein Mittelheimer St. Nicolaus Riesling Spätlese - marmalade, salty plum (話梅),  savory, desiccated coconut.  Flat and dead on the palate, acidic.

Kokuryu Hachijyu-hachi Go (黒龍 八十八号) - classic banana, tropical fruits.  Soft and elegant.

1983 Margaux - another lovely wine but would have benefited from additional aeration.  Sweet fruit, grassy, toasty.

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