January 17, 2017

Fish cum? Not on your life...

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A mere two months after we met up in Singapore, L was back in town for another business trip.  This time she again requested that the Great One and I take her to Ta Vie 旅, since Sato-san was away when she last came to town.  I was only too happy to oblige, having not visited one of my favorite restaurants for the entire second half of last year...  This meant that the entire current menu was new to me.  Yes!!!  I had seen pictures of some of the dishes on social media, and I finally got the opportunity to taste them for myself.

Kegani crab and avocado cocktail with black vinegar sauce, covered with chrysanthemum jelly - the Japanese horsehair crab (毛蟹) from Hokkaido (北海道) was served with some crunchy bits of cucumber along with black vinegar and ginger, on top of a bed of avocado.  The addition of black vinegar and ginger to the crab meat really does emulate the classic flavors of dipping Shanghainese hairy crab (大閘蟹) into black vinegar that has been sweetened with brown sugar and sprinkled with finely diced ginger.  Very, very delicious, and the creaminess from the avocado worked really well to tame the acidity of the black vinegar.  Not sure what additional flavors the sheet of jelly on top added, but the chrysanthemum petals sure looked pretty!

Nukazuke (糠漬け) bread - ah... I missed this homemade bread.  But as I am on a diet, I decided to just one one of these.

Homemade butter - always yum, although they've changed the look and it no longer comes as a square block.

Roasted "nameta" turbot with cauliflower - the ladies all got their shirako (白子) meunière, but Sato-san is well-acquainted with my distaste for fish cum, so he arranged to serve me slime flounder (滑多鰈) from Hokkaido instead.  This was pretty nice, with Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and cauliflower purée alongside.

Black egg custard topped with aori squid and colorful radish - one of Sato-san's signature dishes since his days at Tenku RyuGin (天空龍吟).  The bigfin reef squid (アオリイカ) came from Shikoku (四国), and the pieces were meticulously scored before being lightly torched.  Soooo soooo tender.  And I always love the acidity from the ponzu (ポン酢) that comes with the squid ink custard.

"Civet" braised abalone with abalone shell - "civet" here refers not to the civet cat, but to the traditional French method of cooking items in jars sitting inside a water bath.  The abalone has been braised this way, and served with shiitake (椎茸) mushrooms, pearl onions, and an abalone liver sauce.  Very, very tasty.  Hearty flavors which are perfect for winter.  The "shell" on top isn't a real abalone shell, but an edible cookie made to resemble the shell.

House made pasta with "aonori" sauce topped with premium uni - an extra dish from Sato-san, who knows how much I love it.  In fact, I included it in my post on "the best dishes I had in 2016".  This is such a simple yet delicious dish - which fits perfectly with Sato-san's philosphy.  It only took a split second for Hello Kitty to inhale this, and she then had to audacity to ask me to share some of my portion with her... Sigh... In the end I did give up one of my three tongues of sea urchin - which were soooo deliciously sweet.  Yes, the sea urchin that is soaked in sea water (海水雲丹) is still the best in my book.

Pan seared Ise-lobster, braised fennel, Buddha's hand confit - the Japanese spiny lobster (伊勢海老) came from... (where else?) Ise (伊勢), of course... Very fresh and sweet while drenched in lobster butter, with diced confit of Buddha's hand to impart some wonderful fragrance.  The tomatoes on the side went through a drying process which greatly enhanced their flavors... which were almost explosive inside the mouth.

"Charcoal roasted" wagyu smoked with "hoba" leaf, glazed with Arima pepper sauce - the tenderloin from Kagoshima (鹿児島) came charcoal roasted with some simmered sansho peppercorns from Arima (有馬山椒).  These were not as marbled as many Kagoshima beef that one would find around town, but still very tender and delicious nevertheless.  Wrapped in hoba (朴葉) - the leaf of the Japanese bigleaf magnolia - for their distinctive fragrance.  Served with some grilled maitake (舞茸) mushrooms.

amazake - certainly nice and sweet, with a little bit of Japanese mikan (蜜柑).

Oriental mulled wine - I happen to see a post on Facebook by the restaurant earlier today, and it piqued my curiosity about this.  Since it was still a little chilly today (or were my hands cold because of the strong aircon in the office?) I figured I could use a glass of mulled wine.  Takano-san showed me the box that contained all the spices they used - rosebud, Iron Buddha tea (鐵觀音), Sichuan peppercorns, star anise, aged mandarin peel, cloves, Taiwanese mountain litsea (馬告), cinnamon, dried jujube, and luohanguo (羅漢果).  In addition, fresh ginger, fresh orange peel, and honey were also used.

The spices were soaked in a mug of heated red wine for a few minutes.  I must admit that the fragrance was very complex, certainly with the sweetness of oranges as well as many of the other spices.  Very nice.

"Reminiscing in winter child's play": creme d'ange and mandarin sorbet under "Kamakura" snow igloo - another dish which had recently been posted on FB, as Sato-san lamented that he hadn't seen snow since he arrived in Hong Kong some 5 years ago...

Hidden under the candy shell were slices of fresh Japanese mikan (蜜柑)mikan sorbet, as well as creme d'ange made with yogurt.  I did like the mix of sweetness and acidity, as well as having the creaminess contrasting with the fruit.

"Les Feuilles Mortes": fresh chestnuts Mont-Blanc with Pu'er tea ice cream - I'm glad to be having this dessert again, and the presentation has changed and edible "dead leaves" have been added.  The Mont Blanc isn't very sweet but retains all the flavors from the chestnut, and the meringue underneath was also nice without too much sugar.  A few of the ladies inhaled the quenelle of Pu'er ice cream without realizing that it's made from tea and therefore will have caffeine...

Pandan chiffon cake - my dear friend L hand-carried this from Singapore, and it was delicious.  Slightly more dense and a lot more moist than the ones tourists keep buying from Bengawan Solo, and the best thing is that it came with a tub of gula melaka cream - which the kitchen helped us quenelle.  We couldn't finish the whole cake, and we decided to share half of it with Sato-san and his team.

Matcha - for once, I decided not to have the house herbal tea...

Walnut meringue - as the petits fours are paired with one's drink, tonight I got to have these walnut meringues.  My poor friend L did not want an after-dinner drink, so she got nothing...

My Favorite Cousin and I brought a few bottles for the evening...

2004 Inflorescence La Parcelle Côte de Béchalin, dégorgée en Avril 2011 - toasty and mineral.  Ripe and round on the palate.

2004 Kistler Chardonnay McCrea Vineyard - buttery nose with plenty of toast.  Wonderful ripeness and sweetness in the nose, and still pretty alcoholic.  Finish was a little bitter when the wine warmed up.

2006 La Spinetta Barolo Vürsù Vigneto Campè - nose was very sharp and alcoholic.  Lots of fruit and plenty of eucalyptus.  Still very, very young.

This was a really good evening.  I'm glad to have caught up with L and the other ladies, and so glad to have finally tried some of Sato-san's newer creations.  After my very first dinner here, I had boldly opined that Sato-san's cuisine would earn the restaurant two Michelin stars.  Well... they only got one in their first year, but were finally upgraded to two stars last year.  Sato-san remembered what I wrote, and reminded me when we ran into each other towards the end of last year.  Well, I think their two stars are well-deserved, and I'll need to come back more often this year!

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