November 26, 2016

Local beef hotpot

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Tonight we celebrated the birthdays of two good friends.  Fergie and Cha Xiu Bao have their birthdays just two days apart, so they have a habit of doing a joint birthday dinner together.  This year a group of us tagged along to make it more of a party.  Someone suggested that we go to this place for their hotpot, featuring cuts of local beef.  That sounded pretty good to everyone, so a table was booked and a menu was written up - with seafood dishes for the first half of dinner, and hotpot at the end.

The only problem is... a bunch of us didn't really check the location of this restaurant.  We knew it wasn't fancy, but it turned out to be in an industrial warehouse in the boonies.  Sure, there was public transport, but the walk from the train station turned out not to be a short one.  Then there was the unfortunate fact that it was pissing cats and dogs all day, which made it very difficult to grab a taxi.  In the end, it took some of us almost two hours just to get to dinner...

So a few of us were thinking: "This dinner had better be fucking worth the trek!"

By the time I arrived, some of the seafood was already laid out on the table.

Deep-fried squid and tofu with salt and pepper (椒鹽鮮魷豆腐) - these were OK.

Chilled flathead lobster (凍食琵琶蝦) - these were pretty nice, with plenty of roe and tomalley in the heads.  Very satisfying to chomp down on half of a flathead lobster like this...

Stir-fried abalone with leeks (京蔥爆鮑魚) - what's not to like about some fresh abalone?  Scored to let the seasoning get into the abalone, with a mound of leeks and chili peppers to provide some contrasting textures.  Very nice bite that is both firm and springy.

Steamed razor clams with minced garlic and glass vermicelli (蒜茸粉絲蒸聖子皇) - these were huge... no, YUGE!!!  It's been a while since I last had the classic Cantonese preparation of steaming with tons of minced garlic, spring onions, and glass vermicelli, and this was soooo good!

Steamed fish (清蒸海魚) - we didn't check what kind of fish we got, but it sure was tasty.  No complaints here.

Then came a full-frontal assault of beef... all different cuts... and some which I had never even seen or heard of before.  All in a pot with bone broth and sections of corn on the cob.

Top shoulder blade (ミスジ) - this is one of my favorite cuts of beef in Japanese yakiniku (焼肉), and I was so happy to see it tonight.  Except... someone the whole plate disappeared before I had a chance to even dip one slice myself into the hotpot.  I lodged a loud protest, and as a result we got ourselves a second plate a little later.

Beef shank (牛𦟌) - this was pretty damn good, too... I normally don't see it cut up this way.

Skirt steak (橫隔膜) - very tasty, as expected, even without the marbling.

Sternum cartilage (牛白肉) - now this is something I had never seen or heard of before.  Hello Kitty was very, very excited about this, as her daddy had shown it to her and she knows how rare this is.  This is literally the cartilage part that is closest to the sternum in the middle of the cow's ribcage, and supposedly each head of cattle would only yield about one catty of this.  Hello Kitty has only seen it served in small slices - certainly not something like these giant strips!

It's interesting to cook them in the pot, as they kinda shrivel and wrinkle up.  The texture is both tender and slightly crunchy.  Such a unique experience!

崩沙腩角 - these are the cartilage/tendons bits around the area between the brisket and the short plate.  They came already cooked, but dunking them into the hot broth melted the fat and make things much, much better.

Short plate (腩底) - taken from between the 5th and 8th ribs.  Pretty damn tasty, too.

Hump (牛駝峰) - now THIS was a real treat - perhaps even more than the sternum cartilage (牛白肉).  This comes from the hump on the back of the cow near the neck, and the chef said that he would have to cut away all the fat surrounding this little bit to extract it.  None of us had ever seen it (or even knew it was edible), and upon seeing this plate, our eyes just became as wide as those doe-eyed Japanese cartoon characters.  Just look at that marbling!  Simply.amazing.  What a revelation!

Oh, and the birthday boys were quoting Fergie and singing about "my humps, my humps, my humps my humps my humps"...

After we've cooked all the beef, we then got our plates of veg... The Chinese lettuce were put into the pot, and after they've been cooked... Oh, man... These things were coated with so much beef fat and collagen that we weren't sure we could still say with a straight face that we were eating vegetables...  Oh and those corn on the cob were damn good, too!

Finally, we got the restaurant to give us two packs of Demae Itcho (出前一丁) instant noodles to cook in the pot.  Our resident experts insisted on timing it and cooking only for exactly two minutes.  All that fatty and beefy goodness in the soup.  Slurp.

This being a birthday and all, of course we brought along a cake.  This mont blanc from Patisserie Yamakawa wasn't bad at all...

A birthday celebration simply couldn't do without a good amount of alcohol, and of course we brought along enough to make everyone happy... Thankfully our organizer even brought along a few glasses, since I was too lazy to stop by my office to pick up my Riedels...

Champagne Barons de Rothschild Blanc de Blancs - acidity a little on the high side, which wasn't surprising given it's a blanc de blancs.

Azumaichi Junmai Daiginjo Shizuku Shibori Senbatsushu (東一 純米大吟醸 雫搾り 選抜酒), 14BY - this was AMAZING.  This is made only in exceptional years, and comes from the best tobin (斗瓶) selected by the brewery master for sake competitions - and each tobin can fill exactly 10 isshobins (一升瓶).  So you can see any bottle bearing the extra red sticker must be truly special.

And it was beautiful!  Very fragrant nose, with rich fermented rice notes.  Very sweet on the attack, nice and a little round on the palate.  After warming up a little, this became slightly more dry on the finish.  What an awesome bottle of aged sake!  And why did I only buy one bottle?!

2009 Poggio di Sotto Brunello di Montalcino - smoky and a little fruity.

2013 Flor de Pingus - aired for a little while before I tasted it.  Kinda softened up the tannins, with ripe and sweet fruit.

Caol Ila Old Malt Cask 18 years - cask strength, but I prefer it neat.  Very peaty, and the alcohol is naturally very sharp and torches the hairs in my nose...

Sawanotsuru 1999 Koshujikomi Umeshu (沢の鶴1999年古酒仕込み梅酒) - using koshu (古酒) from 1999 as the base, this was a lovely "marriage" between sake and plum wine.  The flavors of the Nanko plum (南高梅) from Wakayama Prefecture (和歌山県) really shone here, with a nice and savory nose.

A very, very, very enjoyable evening.  Even though this was waaaay out in the boonies, and all of us had trekked long distances to get here, at the end of the evening it was totally worth it.  We toasted the chef with our sake and whisky, and thanked him for the special treat he had given us.  The memories of tonight's beef would probably stay with us for a very, very long time...


ayummyeats said...

Hi, may I know the location of the place? Is it in HK Island, KLN or N.T....the beef looks soooooooo yum.

Peech said...

Sorry... I've been sworn to secrecy by my friends.


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