September 20, 2017

Seafood and sake

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The Locusts are swinging through town again, and like the devoted (but long-suffering) friend that I am, I arranged for a couple of meals so they could try out some of my favorite restaurants in town.  As I had enough sufficient notice this time around, I managed to get my act together and book ourselves seats at the Godenya (ごでんや) counter.

I noticed for the last couple of months that the restaurant has been posting on social media about their seat openings, so I was guessing that business seemed to have fallen off a little here... which isn't surprising given how fickle diners are in this town.  What it means for me, though, is that I would be able to come with much shorter notice - always a plus.

But we actually started with a bottle of wine in my office just before dinner.  Out of all the refreshments I offered, Mrs. Locust preferred wine.  The 2009 Doisy-Daëne Sec showed classic green apple on the nose, ripe with a little honey.

We moved to the hole-in-the-wall for dinner.  Once again I seated myself at the end of the counter - and in front of the water bath for sake.  I would be watching Goshima-san adjust the temperatures of the sake throughout the evening.

Japan figs (いちじくの前菜) - the sweet Japanese fig was placed in the freezer for one hour to deliver a texture that wasn't quite frozen and icy.  Nice and refreshing way to start on this warm night.  Topped with dill, tarragon, and edible flowers.

Raifuku Junmai Kjyosyu Nama (来福 純米貴醸酒生), 2017 - served at 10°C.  Supposedly with a sake meter value (日本酒度) of -50.  A kijoshu (貴醸酒) partly made with junmai sake instead of water. Fairly sweet on the palate, with nice fermented rice notes and a hint of acetone on the nose.  Very nice depth on the palate, with a hint of bitterness mid-palate.  Later on there was a hint of something unpleasant on the nose, almost similar to the mold/flor which I find in some aged Huadiao.  Taken with the fig, the fermented rice flavors became really obvious.

Isaki, ishikagegai, ceviche Japan style (いさきと石垣貝のセビーチェ) - the Bering Sea cockles (石垣貝) were very soft yet crunchy at the same time.  The chicken grunt (伊佐木) was good, and we've got some sea grapes (海葡萄) on top adding some flavors of the sea.  The herring roe in the crunchy 子持ち昆布 had a pretty powdery texture, which I didn't care for.

Yorokobigaijin Junmai Ginjyo Nama (悦凱陣 純米吟醸生), 2017 - served at 13°C.  With a seimaibuai (精米歩合) of 50% and a sake meter value of +9. Nice and fermented rice nose.  Soft and sweet on the attack but the finish was dry and slightly bitter.

Pumpkin, beets, century eggs (かぼちゃと皮蛋のブリュレ) - both Hello Kitty and I drew deep breaths at the mention of beets, but I kept an open mind.  In the end it wasn't as horrible as I had feared.  Yes, there was some of that earthiness, but I tasted mostly the sweetness - along with the rich and creamy pumpkin.  Of course, the caramelized top of the brûlée helped tremendously, to the point where I barely tasted the flavors of the century egg (皮蛋) at the bottom.

Akishika Yamahai Jyunmai Nama (秋鹿 山廃純米生), 2017 - served at 11°C.  With a seimaibuai of 70% and a sake meter value of -81, and only 8% alcohol.  Very savory on the palate, like koshu (古酒) or oxidized wines like vin jaune or Shaoxing (紹興).  Almost a little fizzy.  There's acidity and fruitiness here, almost like dunking a preserved plum (話梅) into Shaoxing.

Shirogai, ikura (焼き白貝と焼きイクラ) - removing the top shell revealed the diced pieces of clam, which came with clam juice and salmon roe (イクラ), garnished with chrysanthemum petals and yuzu (柚子) rind - the latter delivering its trademark fragrance.  The clam itself was very sweet, while the lightly cooked salmon roe was surprisingly alcoholic.

Furei Kimoto Jyunmai (冨玲 きもと純米), 2013 - served at 45°C.  With a seimaibuai of 60% and a sake meter value of +7.5.  Soft on the palate and savory like koshu, with a dry finish.

Abalone, rice (鮑のリゾット 肝ソース) - this was my favorite dish on my last visit, and in fact made it to the list of my best dishes of 2016.  This time around it was still very delicious, although probably less creamy and cheesy.  We still have diced zucchini, shiitake mushrooms, and toasted pine nuts inside, but we've also got a helluva lot of finely diced chives.  The abalone itself seemed a little more raw tonight.  As it was last time, the star of the dish was undoubtedly the abalone liver sauce.

Furousen Yamahai Jyunmai Ginjyo Nama (不老泉 山廃純米吟醸生), 2016 - served at 13°C.  With a seimaibuai of 55% and a sake meter value of +4.  Very good balance here - slightly sweet on the attack but gets dry mid-palate and ends with a very spicy finish.

Scampi, tom yam kung (赤座海老のトムヤムクン) - this featured a scampi-like crustacean known as "Japanese lobster".  The tail was still pretty raw.  The shell delivered pretty strong, smoky flavors thanks to the grilling.  Came with what looked like a mussel and a few straw mushrooms.  The tom yum (ต้มยำ) showed some lemongrass, although it was not the acidic version we are used to but was sweeter with more umami.  The spiciness was mild at first, but built up gradually.

Kotorinosaezuri Junmai Ginjyo (小鳥のさえずり 純米吟醸), 2010 - served at 28°C.  With a seimaibuai (精米歩合) of 50%.  Soft on the palate at first, but quickly turned dry.  Very powerful and lots of depth on the palate.

Sanma, liver (秋刀魚の炭火焼き) - definitely in season now, and I was very happy to have it tonight.  Grilling on charcoal transforms the fattiness of the fish, and this was very delicate.  Interestingly served with liver sauce, avocado dressed with shaved yuzu zest, and physalis (ほうずき).  Just beautiful.

Sogen Junmai Nama (宗玄 純米生), 2017 - served at 46°C.  With a seimaibuai (精米歩合) of 55%.  Very nice depth of flavors on the palate.

Udon, sudachi (すだち饂飩) - very interesting.  The udon came with slices of sudachi (すだち) lime, so that the clean and pure flavors of the dashi (出汁) were slightly overpowered by the acidity and the citrus flavors.

Ice, matcha, sake (バニラアイスと抹茶と酒) -  the vanilla ice cream came with some azuki bean paste, glutinous rice balls (白玉団子), and a matcha sauce made with Kinpo Shizenshu Nigorishu (金宝 自然酒 にごり酒), 2017.

This was a pretty good meal, and the Locusts were happy and satisfied. In the first couple of years after the restaurant opened, the pricing was so reasonable that I was worried that they were not making enough profit to survive.  It seems they have upped their prices significantly, and perhaps this was a reason they were no longer perennially full.  Personally I thought while the current pricing was no longer an incredible bargain, it was still reasonable - and necessary for the long-term survival of the restaurant.

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