March 29, 2016

Tokyo sakura trip day 4: heavy taste kaiseki

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Tonight's dinner was arguably my most-anticipated meal this trip, in terms of food.  Unlike last year, there were no 3-star stops on this trip.  In fact, there were only two meals at starred restaurants this time around, and with two macarons, Kadowaki (かどわき) would be the top fine dining destination.

We arrived a little early for our late seating, and were led around the corner to a small private room in a dark bar upstairs.  The air in the room was suffocating with cigar smoke leftover from the previous evening.  The six of us would squeeze in here until our private room was ready.

Kinda like at Kanda (かんだ), there was no menu presented... so we had no idea how much food was coming our way.  I must say it's a little strange for a kaiseki experience...

Icefish with shirona and grilled mullet roe - a pile of icefish (白魚) sat on top of a vegetable from Kyoto called shirona (しろ菜), which isn't exactly the same as bok choy (白菜) or cabbage.  A nicely grilled slice of mullet roe (カラスミ) came on the side.  A little sprinkle of sesame seeds make things complete.

Deep-fried fat greenling with bamboo shoot in starchy sauce - with noble orchid tempura (春蘭天ぷら), shredded myoga (茗荷) on top, and some sansho leaves (木の芽) all sitting on a bed of wakame (若布).

Olive flounder rolls with Chinese cabbage, asatsuki, and perilla leaves - now this was interesting...  Slices of raw olive flounder (鮃), which is normally taken as the first item in any sashimi or sushi meal, gets used as a wrap over a bunch of veg like Chinese cabbage, asatsuki (浅葱), and perilla (紫蘇) leaves.

This would sound really bland, until one is asked to dip this into a sauce made with monkfish liver (あん肝) and wrapped with seaweed (海苔).  One would expect the liver sauce to be rich, but what was totally unexpected was how spicy it was.  Yowza!

Grilled trout with fermented sweetfish sperm - WHOA!  Hold on there for a sec...  Did someone say sperm (白子)?  Homie don't play that.  And I don't give a rat's ass if it's from fermented sweetfish (鮎うるか).  As I've said time and again, "I don't do fish cum."

So I was thankful that Hello Kitty volunteered to scrape that white goo off my fish onto her plate...

Crab chawanmushi with foie gras and truffle - this was certainly not a traditional preparation, but I wasn't gonna say 'No'!  This reminded me a lot of André's signature Mémoire dish, with the same ingredients minus the crab.  Hearty and warm, full of rich flavors and fragrance.  Totally delicious.

Golden alfonsino shabu-shabu - we were curious to find this plate of golden alfonsino (金目鯛) on the table, because it didn't look like a sashimi course.

Then this pot was placed on the table, with some sansho leaves floating on top of the broth, and a plate of shredded burdock (牛蒡) was put on a side table.  Now we were told that this would be a shabu-shabu (しゃぶしゃぶ).

Our waitress lightly blanched the fish in the broth, and made sure that each piece was served with a some burdock and sansho leaves.  Very nicely done.  We were to dip the fish in a mixture of sesame oil, karami daikon (辛味大根), salt, and wasabi (山葵).  Once again we were surprised by the heavy flavor profile of the dip.

After all the fish was gone, our waitress cooked some bamboo shoots and Japanese honeywort in the broth and served us some soup.  Very soothing and comforting.

Truffled rice in clay pot - finally we have reached their famous dish, which has probably been copied by numerous restaurants elsewhere.  The chef came to shave a generous quantity of truffle on top of the rice.

The truffle was then mixed in to the rice, and served with a good selection of pickles.

Dessert was a cup of milk pudding, kudzu, umeshu jelly, kuromitsu, and green tea powder.  The ingredients were certainly very Japanese, and the latter component were pretty strong in terms of flavor.  Yum.

Finally, there was a cup of houjicha (焙じ茶) that was surprisingly burnt and smoky.

We were debating about how much sake to have, in the event that we wanted to hit another bar after dinner... and eventually settled on just two bottles of sake with dinner.

Isojiman Aiyama Daiginjo (磯自慢 愛山大吟醸) - with a seimaibuai (精米歩合) of 50%.  Very smooth and sweet on the palate at first, then became more spicy with deeper and more complex layers of flavors.

Kokuryu Junmai Daiginjo Nizaemon (黒龍 純米大吟醸 二左衛門) - with a seimaibuai (精米歩合) of 50%.  Soooo smooth, mild, elegant, and sweet on the palate.  With notes of tropical fruits.  After some aeration the body seemed fuller and the finish became drier.

A pretty good dinner, but a little disappointed that there weren't as many "wow" moments.

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