August 30, 2017

Korea Michelin tour day 6: GohGan

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During the nascent stages of planning for our Korean trip, when we had roughly settled on the dates, I saw a post come across my Instagram feed.  Gaggan Anand was announcing the next GohGan collaboration between himself and Fukuyama Goh (福山剛) of La Maison de la Nature Goh in Fukuoka (福岡市), and it would be around the tail end of our trip.  So I shamelessly raised my hand and asked Gaggan for 4 seats for tonight.  Thankfully I had asked early enough and they could accommodate us...

I had seen pictures and videos come across on Instagram showing the chefs shopping at the seafood market on Monday morning.  They looked like they were ordering up a storm, with all kinds of sea creatures not normally part of my diet.  It was looking very, very tantalizing...

While we were at Baekyangsa Temple (白羊寺) on Sunday, we got confirmation that Jeong Kwan (正寬) sunim would be coming to dinner tonight and join the second seating.  Originally our little group was meant to be at the earlier seating, which would mean that we wouldn't get to see Jeong Kwan sunim again - but thanks to some last-minute shuffling the organizers were able to fit us in for the last seating.

I caught up with Gaggan when I arrived, and he was definitely more than a little frazzled.  After all, this was the last of the four seatings.  But it was more than the stress of running a pop-up.  Apparently they didn't get most of the ingredients they had ordered two days ago.  Whether it was a language issue - or something more sinister - we do not know.  But the chefs had to scramble for substitute ingredients, and Gaggan was very pissed off.

We took our assigned seats, and OF COURSE there would be an emoji menu!  And apparently, there is a specific soundtrack, too... to go along with specific dishes.

The chefs - along with the organizer Jang Eunsil - delivered their opening remarks.  Gaggan asked us not to judge (harshly) the dishes presented tonight, which is understandable because of the pop-up nature as well as the disastrous lack of ingredients.  We kept our minds open for the rest of the evening.  At least I did...

Vladimir came over to pour the first glass of the wine pairing.  Knowing him, I should expect nothing but natural wines bong water tonight...

Jacques Lassaigne Les Vignes de Montgueux Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut - nice minerality, with good acidity but surprisingly rounded on the palate for this extra brut.  A hint of bitterness on the finish.

🍉 Watermelon (수박) - the shell was kinda sticky and chewy.  The kabosu (かぼす)-marinated watermelon came with savory flavors which slowly melded together with the sweetness.  Some yeasty and toasty flavors here with the pink elderflower emulsion on top.

👅 Lick It Up (릭잇업!) - knowing Gaggan's love for metal, it's not surprising that he would create a dish based on a song - in this case Kiss' classic "Lick It Up".  He felt that dining at restaurants had become so pretentious... and Gaggan has been making his diners eat with their hands for a few years now... that he wants to ensure that everyone who eats at his restaurant - "back, white, Chinese, red... every color, every continent they come from, whoever they are... they have to do this!  Billionaire, millionaire, hundred-dollar backpacker..."

So yes, this dish was served with no utensils, and everyone was instructed to pick up the plate, bring it to their faces, stick out their tongues and lick up the contents of the plate while listing to the song.  We all did it, including Jeong Kwan sunim.  There are videos floating around of the guests licking, but they're not for public consumption...

So you've got matsutake (松茸) mushroom purée with truffle shavings on top, with chili powder towards the bottom.  When licking upwards from the bottom, it is spicy at first... then sweeter in the middle and at the top.

2015 Didier Grappe Côtes du Jura Novelin - smooth on the palate, finish a little short, and almost a little bitter.

🍋 Yuzu Uni (유자 / 성게알) - can't go wrong with sea urchin, right? And yuja /yuzu (柚子) cream for fragrance.

🌸 Flower power (풀라워 파워) - the flower was made with rice powder, with some sweet potato and beetroot (!!!!!!) powder.  Served on cuttings from today's newspaper.

🍧 Abalone monaca (전복 모나카) - the abalone was cooked with Korean pine nuts that the chefs bought in the market, and the combination was made into ice cream and spread on top of a monaka (最中).  Then we have slices of abalone, sprinkled with seaweed powder.  This was very delicious.  One could taste the toasty flavors of pine nuts, but they weren't overpowering.  The seaweed flavors were also very, very lovely.

🐮 Beef tartare (육회) - the beef for the yukhoe (육회) comes from a triangular cut near the bottom of the inner thigh of the cow's hind legs that the Japanese call tomosankaku (友三角), which the Koreans do not use.  It's mixed with ice cream, wrapped in a leaf, then battered and deep-fried.  The purpose of the ice cream was to enable the chefs to control the temperature, so that they could deliver a combination of raw, barely-cooked, and cooked beef altogether.

I should have seen what happened with the others and just taken it in one big bite.  Instead, the ice cream dripped all over the place...

Le Coste Rosato, vintage unknown - a little pungent... was there sulfur?  Nose of red fruit.  A little better later showing more sweet fruit.

🐟 Fish granola (농어 그래놀라) - we were surprised when they started slapping these packages down on the table in front of us.  Tearing the wrappers open revealed a "granola" bar inside...

But there were no grains here - only fish, nuts, and berries.  There were dried sea bass flakes inside, which were very crunchy and savory... and the berries added sweet and sour flavors, together with spiciness.  I loved this dish.  Now... was it coincidence that ABBA's Mama Mia played while we ate this?

🐔 Nabe + tomyum + samgyetang ( 나베 + 똠얌 + 삼계탕) - so you've got Japanese + Thai + Korean in one dish.  The Japanese nabe (鍋) was made with ginseng, along with herbs for tom yum (ต้มยำ) - without the sweet, sour, nor spicy flavors.  The chicken was encased in aspic along with jujube and pine nuts, and served with chunks of rice crispies.  With the broth in the bowl, the contents were meant to become chicken porridge.  I guess this is a "deconstructed" samgyetang (삼계탕)...  I could taste the tom yum spices, but they were relatively mild.

2014 Yvon Métras Beaujolais - a very nice gamay. 

🦐 Cold smoked ebi (훈제 새우) - first we got the deep-fried shrimp heads which were, of course, very delicious.  As for the raw tails, they used the Japanese technique of kobujime (昆布締め) for an hour to add some flavor, then smoked with curry leaf oil.  A few drops of kabosu juice completes the flavors.  I could certainly taste the smokiness.

🍖 Byeokje beef (벽제 소고기) - the Chairman of Byeokje (벽제) was at our table, and proudly introduced his beef.  Unfortunately the chefs couldn't get enough of the cut they wanted, so they ended up with tomosankaku again... which the locals don't eat.  Marinated with 'Gaggan special spice' - whatever that is... and rubbed with Korean tea and salt.  Delicious.

🦆 Duck burrito + gujeolpan (오리 구절판) - these beautiful duck breasts came to us already cooked.

Then the chefs used a torch to smoke them with yuzu leaves, which added some pepper flavors.

Then the breasts were sliced up and presented on a gujeolpan (구절판), along with duck leg confit; yuzu sour cream; azuki beans made into rajma masala; salsa verde made from burnt eggplants and purple chilis; and cucumber.

Then we were each given one pancake and asked to make a burrito 'Korean-style'...  Very tasty, but I used the salsa verde sparingly...

2014 Domaine de Chassorney Bourgogne Hautes-Côtes de Beaune Puits de Chaux - kinda soft on the palate, with nice fruit and a little leather.

🦀 GohGan curry 6th - bibimbap (카리 비빔밥) - gohan (ご飯) at GohGan is a must, and tradition dictates that it needs to be crab curry rice.  So this time they've used Korean rice, Korean crab, and delivered a bibimbap (비빔밥).  This was offered in small, medium, and large.  Given my past history, of course I shouted out "DOUBLE XL" to Gaggan...

Soooo delicious.  There was a lot in my bowl, and the Korean rice seemed a little more sticky than expected, which added to the heaviness of the dish.

But I powered through and finished my bowl.  And took my empty bowl and showed it to Gaggan...

🥂 Riesling ice flakes - bingsoo (리즐링 빙수) - at the bottom of the bowl we had peach poached in pine syrup, riesling granité, and topped with Gorgonzola with Korean makgeolli cream.  Lots of fermentation going on here... rice wine, blue cheese, and wine.  There was certainly an interesting kick from the Gorgonzola, and I thought the peaches were wonderfully sweet.  Afterwards, though, Gaggan told me that the peaches they received were so poor that they had to pump up the flavors with syrup.  Yet another reason to be pissed off about getting screwed by the suppliers...

Boksoondoga Makgeolli (福順都家 손막걸리) - love this naturally sparkling makgeolli, since I like drinking slightly acidic, slightly milky drinks.

Minions love banana (미니언즈 바나나) - these were very soft lemon and banana meringue, with crushed nuts on the back.  Of course, we had to listen to the Minions sing The Village People's YMCA while eating these...

🍫 Candle in the Wind (초콜릿 캔들) - their version of After Eight, with fresh mint leaves, mint jelly, caramelized cocoa nibs, and chocolate ganache.  The 'wick' that they lit was actually an almond - which contained plenty of oil to burn up.  OF COURSE this was served while playing Elton John's Candle in the Wind.

At the end of the dinner, the entire team came out to a round of applause from us.  A job well done, especially given the unexpected challenges.

Even Jeong Kwan enjoyed herself and took pictures with the chefs.  She also came over to greet us, and mentioned that she remembered the Great One from the cooking class (but didn't remember Hello Kitty and I...)  But that didn't matter, because she wanted to take a picture with us again, and promised to invite us to her upcoming event in Hong Kong!

When most of the crowd had left, I asked Vladimir to bring out the special bottle of Korean liquor I had just received as a gift from my friend Rachel.  I didn't really know what it was, but figured it was a special and precious - therefore something I could share with Gaggan, Goh, and Vladimir.

Kooksoondang Songjeolju (국순당 송절주) - traditional Korean liquor brewed with pine needle joints, angelica, azalea, and other flowers.  A little sweet on the nose, with Manuka honey, and oxidized like vin jaune.  On the palate the pine and medicinal flavors were pretty heavy.  Definitely an acquired taste.

A great effort by the team.  Just imagine if they actually received all the ingredients that they had ordered...  What a dinner it would have been!

P.S.  The Great One and I thought that, since we were in a different country and not in Gaggan's home turf, we would finally be able to pay for dinner.  Nope.  Even on someone else's turf, he just wouldn't let us pull out our wallets.  Well... at least I brought along a little something to share.  Gotta be better prepared next time!

P.P.S.  Gaggan told me that all the ingredients they ordered finally showed up at 6pm the day after our dinner - which was a full 2 days late.

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