August 5, 2017

A touch of silver oak

Pin It

Mrs. Tigger is back in town, and we haven't had a chance to enjoy a nice meal together for some time now.  She wanted to have some Japanese, and Hello Kitty and I thought we should check out Kashiwaya (柏屋) together.  This Hong Kong outpost of the venerable Osaka original picked up two Michelin stars in the first year they opened, so we figured there's gotta be something there...

Given this was our first time, we decided to take the cheapest of the three tasting menus on offer.  We thought this would be sufficient in terms of food, although we did add an extra dish to be shared.


Sakizuke : kuruma prawn, avocado, shiitake mushroom, caviar, winged bean, spagetti squash, walnuts paste, prawn broth jelly (先つけ : 車海老  アボカド  椎茸揚げ焼き  キャビア  四角豆  糸瓜  胡桃あん  エビゼリー) - the chilled prawns, prawn jelly, and crunchy winged beans and loofah made for pretty clean and refreshing flavors.  Unfortunately the rich walnut paste went in the other direction and detracted from what otherwise was a perfectly good start.

Kae : light fried pike conger, wasabi, plum soy sauce, ginko nuts (変え : 淡路産鱧生揚げ  山葵  赤梅肉醤油  銀杏素揚げ) - it's August, so pike conger (鱧) is in season and features prominently on kaiseki menus.  Here the pieces were surprisingly chewy.  Rather surprised about the wasabi (山葵), and the classic plum sauce seemed to have been infused with alcohol.

Herring fish wrapped with kelp, grilled shishito pepper (にしん昆布巻き  焼きししとう) - the herring was beautifully marinated, delivering tons of umami and good depth of flavors along with the marinated kelp. 

Babu became very enamored with the silver oak leaves on which this course was served on, and asked the staff about them.  Apparently these were custom-made for the restaurant, and not commercially available for purchase.  I joked that the staff would probably scan us with metal detectors on the way out, in case Babu decided to snag a couple of them...

Nimonowan : grilled eel, winter melon, water shield, lablab bean, grated ginger (煮物椀 : 静岡産うなぎ白焼き  冬瓜  蓴菜  三度豆  すり生姜) - rather surprised to see a piece of eel shirayaki (白焼き) in my bowl.  In this case the eel was first steamed, then grilled without the heavy sauce - delivering flavors which were more natural and pure.  A tiny dab of grated ginger helps give it a little kick in place of the usual sansho (山椒) pepper.  There was a piece of winter melon below, whose soft and clean flavors worked perfectly well with the delicate dashi (出汁).  The slippery watershield (蓴菜) always adds an interesting texture, while the yuzu rind provides the familiar fragrance.  Very nice.

Tsukuri : 3 kinds of selected sashimi (造り : 本日のお造り3種) -

Squid (烏賊) - finely scored to change the texture.
Filefish (皮剥)
Fan shell (平貝) - lightly grilled over an iron grid.

Hassun (八寸) : 
Sea eel in nikogori jelly, jade cucumber, pickled myoga ginger, plum soy sauce (淡路産穴子煮こごり  翡翠胡瓜  茗荷醋漬け  赤梅肉醤油) - the conger eel tasted nice with the jelly, and I liked the pickled myoga (茗荷).
Pepper leaf, Daitokuji wheat mochi, salmon wrapped with lotus root, ginko nuts, edamame, baby egg plant tempura in sweet sauce (葉唐辛子  大徳寺麩煮浸し  サーモン蓮根巻き  新銀杏素揚げ  枝豆  小切茄子シロップ煮衣揚げ) - I could swear that they sprinkled a little cinnamon on the eggplant tempura, so that I almost tasted like donuts or churros laced with cinnamon.  The salmon wrapped in pickled lotus root was OK, and I liked the small pieces of gluten (麩).  But I definitely avoided the peppers like a plague, having been told by the others that they were very spicy.

Sweet fish (滋賀県琵琶湖産鮎) - the sweetfish was delicious as expected, but the sauce was slightly on the acidic side.

Abalone steak (煮鮑ステーキ) - this was an extra dish we added.  The abalone was pretty tender, and the accompanying liver sauce was nice and tasty.  A little charred and crunchy on the edges.

Hachimono : sweet red skin pumpkin, Kaga cucumber, mini okura, small yam, black carrot, grated yuzu (鉢物 : 赤皮甘栗南瓜  加賀太胡瓜  ミニオクラ  小芋  黒人参  擦りゆず) - an interesting dish of vegetables.  The pumpkin was very sweet, and while I had seen carrots in different colors before, this was my first time having it in black.  The shaved yuzu rind added the expected fragrance here.

Shokuji : Grilled pick conger with sweet soy sauce in tea rice, oba leaf, crispy rice ball (ご飯 : 淡路産鱧タレ焼き茶漬け  大葉  ぶぶあられ) - one of the weaker dishes tonight.  Just didn't like the way this pike conger was grilled which left it tasting somewhat "ordinary"... inspite of the sansho pepper corns on top.  I'm normally a buyer of ochazuke (お茶漬け), but didn't care for the rice ball tonight where the rice felt a little mushy - having been squished together before being dunked in the bowl.

Pickles (漬物) on the side, with cucumber, eggplant, and kelp.

Okashi : mint flavor kuzu mochi, maccha (菓子 : ミント葛焼き 抹茶) - I don't think any of us liked this.  Yes, I could taste the mint, but the mildly sweet flavors were neither here nor there.  And the texture here was all wrong... I know kuzu mochi are meant to be sticky, but this had little, grainy, starchy clumps inside.  Just not pleasant.

Mizumono : fig paste, milk mousse, Pione grape, melon, Japanese prune (水物 : 無花果羹  ミルクあん  ピオーネ  メロン  すもも) - thankfully our meal ended with this dessert, which was wonderful.  The creamy milk mousse at the bottom worked very well with the sweet honey sauce that was covering the different fruits - and reminded me of the times I had yogurt with honey.  Needless to say the Japanese fruits were ripe and delicious.

Overall this was a pretty good meal, with just two of the dishes falling short of expectations.  Besides the food, there were a couple of things which detracted from our experience tonight.

The first was the interference from other tables.  We had chosen the most basic menu, so it was natural that other diners were getting dishes that we were not presented with.  One such dish filled the surroundings with smoke, and it was pretty distracting - especially when you're having dessert and started to smell heavy smoke.

But the real disappointment came in the form of the restaurant's wine list.  I very, very seldom order off a restaurant's wine list, but tonight I had mistakenly assumed that Babu and Mrs. Tigger weren't in the mood to drink, so I didn't bother bringing a bottle.  When I tried to pick a bottle from the restaurant's wine list, I found they only had around 8 selections for sake... and their selection of wine wasn't much better.  When my first choice wasn't available and I turned down their suggestion from the list, they offered me something that was "off menu"... and then I was offered a third choice by the manager - also off menu.  After I had settled on one of the substitutes, I was told that even that alternative was only available as a half-bottle serving, at which point I became somewhat exasperated.  Here's a restaurant with two Michelin stars with a crappy wine list... and they don't even have stock.

On any other night I might have been willing to take the Kokuryu Ryu (黒龍  龍) the staff suggested, but tonight it just felt a little "ordinary"... and I wasn't in the mood for ordinary.  I offered to go back to my office to pick up a really good bottle of sake from the office fridge - all of which would have been better than any of the offerings on the restaurant's list - but the ladies declined.  So I guess it just wasn't meant to be tonight.

No comments:


Related Posts with Thumbnails

TripAdvisor Travel Map