August 29, 2013

My 3,000-calorie dinner

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Less than a week after my last dinner here, I'm back at Tenku RyuGin (天空龍吟) for another 10 courses.  A friend is in town from Taipei and our host insisted on coming back for this dinner.  Not wanting to have the same dishes twice in less than a week, I pleaded with Takano-san - the restaurant's assistant manager - to have the chef arrange a different menu for us.  Fortunately the chef was agreeable, and only 4 out of the 10 courses tonight were identical to what I had last time.

Mixed salad of "KEGANI" crab and sea urchin, topped with black vinegar jelly of chrysanthemum ("北海道毛蟹"のうに和え 菊の花の黒酢ジュレと共に) - similar main ingredient but slightly different from the first course last week.  There is definitely some crab roe (蟹味噌) in the ball of shredded crab meat, and in fact the inspiration behind the chef's creation of crab meat, roe, sea urchin and black vinegar apparently came from the local yellow oil crab (黃油蟹, female mud crab) - except that all the parts still come from the Japanese horsehair crab.  In addition to the chrysanthemum there are also chunks of avocado, strands of ginger (in keeping with the Chinese theme of pairing crab roe with black vinegar and ginger), and cucumber.

"Sweet corn" steamed "a la minute" on corn egg custard with "Kobashira" clam (蒸したてろうもろこし "小柱" と "とうもろこしの茶碗蒸し" と共に) - I had this last week, and this bowl was almost as enjoyable as the one I had last week.  Wonderful sweet corn, eggs from Kyushu (九州), and those amazingly fragrant spring onions!  I think the chef gained another couple of fans of this dish.

Pen shell, "Kurumaebi" shrimp and abalone with summer vegetables seasoned with wasabi and sudachi ("平貝" "車海老" "蝦夷鮑" と夏野菜の和え物) - the shell was huge and a natural serving utensil for the dish.  The pen shell was actually a little hard and chewy but not quite crunchy.  Of course the abalone was very delicious... The dish came with seaweed, okra, baby corn.

Charcoal grilled "Kinki" in premium "Ichiban Dashi" soup (引き立て一番出汁への想い 炭火焼 きんきのお椀) - pretty much as good as what I had last week.  That ichiban dashi is just so clean and pure...and delicious in all its simplicity.  The charcoal grilled kinki was just melt-in-your-mouth...

Assortment of sashimi (本日のお造り盛合せ) - there were 3 types tonight but I gave up my fatty tuna (中トロ) to the boys.
Olive flounder (平目)
Octopus (鮹) - still love the way this is sliced, scored and blanched shabu-shabu (しゃぶしゃぶ) style, but execution was a little off tonight.  This was noticeably colder rather than being a little lukewarm last week.

Sukiyaki with "Matsutake" mushroom ("炭火焼松茸" と "和牛サーロイン" のすき焼き) - RyuGin's wagyu sukiyaki has always been one of my favorite dishes on the menu, and tonight it was even better with the addition of some incredibly fragrant Matsutake mushrooms.  Having them lightly grilled on charcoal has really brought out the delicate but wonderful perfume.  Of course the scallion sprouts and lightly caramelized onions all contributed to the dish...

...but the sukiyaki simply isn't a complete dish until you put the soft-boiled egg on top, puncture the yolk sac and let the bright orange yolk slowly ooze out and blend in with the sweetish sauce and cover everything...

"Iwagaki" oyster ("岩牡蠣" 青海苔の香り) - O-M-G!  This oyster from Tokushima Prefecture (徳島県) was GINORMOUS!  (Do I sound like a 15-year-old Valley girl now?)  I was blown away when I saw what was on the plate in front of me...

...and I had to take a picture of it using a wine cork as a size reference... Honestly, this oyster was ridiculously huge.  I should have asked them to bring out the shell so we could see how big it was...

While the mantle was a ever-so-slightly chewy, the rest of the oyster was perfectly soft and creamy.  It has been decades since I last ate an oyster which came anywhere close to this size... This was topped with a mix of seaweed, butter, soy sauce and sudachi lime (酢橘).  Very tasty, I must say.

White shrimps and egg yolk on steamed rice ("白海老" の玉子かけ御飯) - seemingly simple and looks like comfort food, and it was!  Diced glass shrimp (白海老) from Toyama Prefecture (富山県), a sprinkle of sesame seeds and finely chopped spring onions, an egg yolk and some seaweed over a bowl of white rice.

But the real pleasure, again, was in poking the yolk sac and mixing up all the ingredients so that every mouthful was full of goodness. Oh yeah, those spring onions were just amazing...

A little cup of sencha (煎茶) was served (and refilled numerous times) to cleanse our palates before desserts arrive...
RyuGin Specialty -196°C "Candy Peach" and +99°C "Peach Jam" (-196°Cの桃飴 +99°Cの飴炊き桃) - yes, I had this last week, but given that it's such an awesome dessert, I didn't mind having more of that yummy peachy stuff one bit.

Fruit tomato poached with "Umeshu" (フルーツトマトの梅酒煮) - I had something almost exactly the same earlier this year, but this time there was a layer of tomato-flavored agar on top, and the sorbet was made with plum wine (梅酒) tonight.  The tomato was incredibly ripe and the flavors were incredible... like a mini-explosion in my mouth.

Finally, a cup of matcha (抹茶) to send us on our way.

As our host insisted on treating us for dinner, I naturally volunteered to bring the alcohol.  I had actually brought 3 bottles but, upon learning anything that is not red wine or white wine would be charged HKD 1,000 for corkage, decided not to open my lowly bottle of Egly-Ouriet Champagne...

1990 Nicolas Potel Meursault 1er Cru Perrières - initially too cold so the nose was somewhat muted.  Some toast and good, round fruit in the nose.  Medium acidity but the finish was rather short and disappointing... other than the obvious alcohol.  Later on as the wine opened up the sweetness became more apparent in the nose.  I had slightly higher expectations but this was a more elegant expression.

1997 Kistler Pinot Noir Cuvée Catherine - sweet, a little sharp alcohol, black cherries in the nose.  After 17 years this has finally softened somewhat, and has become drinkable, but you can still feel the tannins there.  After a while there was a little bit of forest and sous bois.  An enjoyable wine, but like the Potel I had expected slightly more.

This was definitely way, way over the limit for me... since normally I'm feeling full after about the 6th course.  To have done in twice in the space of a week was certainly not what I had planned... I was half-joking with some friends about taking in 3,000 calories for dinner, but if you really think about it - not that I'm a nutritionist or anything - it's not too far-fetched.  10 courses, perhaps averaging 250 calories per course.  (The 3 eggs alone throughout the dinner would come to about 450 calories.) Plus one-half to two-thirds of a bottle of wine for an additional 400-500 calories.  Did I just have 3,000 calories for dinner?  In all likelihood, yes.  

Let's not do this again for a while...

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