October 28, 2015

The North Korean

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A friend was in town and wanted to catch up with the Great One and me, and of course we met up over dinner.  For some reason the task of choosing a restaurant fell on my shoulders, and I kept drawing blanks in my head... except for places with Japanese themes.  Since I haven't been back to Ronin for over a year - and it was doubtful that my friend had ever been - I decided it would be an interesting night out together.

As it turned out, the Great One had just seen Matt a few nights ago while dining at Amber with Ferran Adrià... before Ferran went over to Yardbird with the Amber team for his second dinner.  We had ordered a couple of our favorite dishes and asked the kitchen to "fill in the blanks", but once Matt arrived and saw us at the bar, things got a little more interesting...

The welcome snack / amuse bouche was a few pea shoots marinated in dashi (出汁) and yuzu (柚子).

Kumamoto oyster, apple, ginger - there was a hint of apple and a hint of ginger, but whatever else they put in was so salty that it covered up the creamy flavors of the oyster.

Uni, fresh nori, aonori panko - there is a pile of panko (パン粉) at the bottom that's been tossed with aonori (青海苔), plus some fresh nori (生海苔), and a little bit of yuzu oil.  Mixing things up gave some crunch to the otherwise creamy sea urchin, and also added interesting fragrance from both the seaweed and the yuzu.

Then came the usual platter of sashimi when one asks for a tasting:

Tai seabream sashimi, karasumi, yuzu - always good to have bottarga.

Largescale blackfish (目仁奈) - never had this fish before.  Whatever they put on top of the "flower roll" had a spicy kick to it.

Saba mackerel sashimi, persimmon, smoke - the usual, and love the fattiness of the fish paired with the sweet persimmon.

Kampachi amberjack sashimi, negi soy, sesame - the "relish" on top was full of spring onion and very tasty.

Hitachino Nest Weizen (常陸野ネスト バイツェン) - I normally don't drink beer, but I'll drink this from Hitachino.  The Great One, of course, cared only about the fact that the label has an owl on it...

Sanma tartare, myoga, spring onion, chips - loved that this came with the deep-fried bones of the Pacific saury.

Chips came on the side.

Plated after mixing up the tartare with the myoga (茗荷) and spring onions on top, and I used the chips as the delivery vessel.  Loved the fragrance of the myoga, and of course the fatty flavors of the fish.  Yum!

Flower crab, uni, mitsuba - always a crowd favorite, and it seems we got ourselves a big pile of crab meat and sea urchin, but very, very little mitsuba (三つ葉).  I'm sure just about no one else would complain about having too much crab and sea urchin, but I did miss the added texture and slight bitterness of the veg...

Lily bulb tempura, tensu - battered and deep-fried lily bulb with lily bulb mash at the bottom.

Grilled itoyori, olive, tomato - the golden threadfin bream is known locally as 紅衫魚.  Simply grilled and topped with a dab of olive/tomato that reminded me of tapenade - but not as salty.  The fish itself was very soft and succulent.  Very yum.

K.F.C. - here the acronym stands for Korean fried crab... and in this case Japanese river crabs (沢蟹).  Nice and crunchy, with the expected spicy kick on top of the sweet coating, plus a little citrus.

Quail, orange, sansho - another crowd favorite, so just so pink, tender, and juicy!  Wonderful fragrance with the shavings of orange zest, and not real heavy on the sansho (山椒).

Kagoshima beef, maitake, egg yolk - this is an absolute must, and I've had it every single time I've been here.  Kinda sukiyaki (すき焼き)-style.  The most tender and smooth Japanese beef served with pan-fried maitake (舞茸) mushrooms, shredded spring onions, deep-fried garlic chips, a little chili powder, and topped with a raw egg yolk.

I was tasked with mixing it up and did a pretty piss poor job of it... but hey, you still get the same ingredients in the mouth...  So, so, so, soooooo yummy.

Udon, clams, garlic leek - another one of my absolute favorites here is the udon, which comes from a guy in Fukuoka (福岡) using just flour, salt, and water.  I get such an incredible, satisfying feeling as I bite into them.

Served with chopped clams and baby geoduck, and tossed with so much butter than I could just smell it.  Garnished with deep-fried roots of garlic leeks.  Slurp!  Literally...

Hamaguri, olive oil, lemon, shichimi - we were done with food, but as I got talking to Matt about the clams he used for the udon, he proceeded to mention that he's got some clams from North Korea... (!!!)  So of course we had to order one up!  This giant clam was done basically a la plancha... Very, very nice both in terms of the flavors (fresh and sweet) and also the texture (nice and springy).  I joked that the clam swam all the way from the cold and clean waters of North Korea...

Yardbird coffee shochu - one needs coffee to help with digestion, so I took one of these that they're famous for.  Seriously good.

Seeing how our friend has been hitting a lot of traditional Cantonese places on his trip, I'm kinda glad that I ended up choosing something not so traditional.  Food is always good here, and service is also pretty friendly.  Gotta come back a little more often, then...

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