April 30, 2018

Little birdy

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I'm meeting up with a visitor from overseas tonight, and one of the places she had wanted to hit while in town was Yardbird.  As it turns out - thanks to the no reservations policy - I have never been to Yardbird in all these years.  When I mentioned this to Matt Abergel a few months ago, he suggested that I drop by either right around their opening time of 6 p.m. or late in the evening.

So I made plans to meet up with my visitor just before the restaurant opened its doors.  There were about 15 of us at the door, and after the doors opened, the two of us found 2 well-lit spots at the bar.

We were given the drinks menus first, and we ordered glasses of a sake that was more sweet and elegant.

Yoshinosugi no Tarusake (吉杉野の樽酒) - seimaibuai (精米歩合) of 70% and Sake Meter Value of 0.  The nose showed fermented flavors, and actually delivered strong notes of lychees.  Slightly dry on the attack, but softened mid-palate to become mild and elegant.

We ordered a few skewers of what we thought were the popular items, along with some things we didn't want to pass up.

Sweet corn tempura, sea salt, pepper - I was a little surprised that this showed up first, but hey... nothing wrong with that since I love corn.  Corn fritters are just up my alley.

This was exactly what I wanted - kernels of sweet, crunchy corn, held together by batter that's been fried to golden brown.  A sprinkle of shichimi (七味) added some spice and brought out the sweetness of the corn.

(chicken) oyster, sea salt, lemon - I had just read The Great One's review of the restaurant, and knew that they have sot-l'y-laisse on the menu.  I love these things, but I had never been served them with skin on.  Of course, they were every bit as tender as I had hoped for... and the crispy skin on top was just icing on the cake.  Should have gotten more of this.

(chicken) wings, sea salt, shichimi - these were a lot drier than I had expected.  Nice and very crunchy, but perhaps I do prefer my wings a little more juicy.

(chicken) skin, sake, sea salt - these slices of chicken skin were so pretty... and perfectly grilled.  Crispy and satisfying.

(chicken) meatball, tare, egg yolk - very, very good... as I would expect.  Delicious texture with some cartilage (and leeks?) inside.  Of course this came with a delicious tare (たれ) and a raw egg yolk.  It was so good that we kept it to dip other bits of chicken in it.

(chicken) thyroid, sake, garlic - I figured these sweetbreads would probably be pretty good, and indeed they were.  Very springy and tasty.

(chicken) tail, sea salt, sake - unlike someone who shall remain unnamed, I don't go gaga over chicken ass.  But I gotta say... these are some of the finest asses I have ever seen.

Mentaiko udon - I've always liked the udon I had at Ronin, and figured this would be just a good.  The texture was still great, with lots of bite.  There was a good dose of acidity, but I still found the mentaiko (明太子) sauce to be a little too salty.

KFC, yuzu, chili, lime - our waiter recommended we take a half order of the "Korean fried cauliflower", and that turned out to be a good call.  The cauliflower was battered, deep-fried, and covered in a spicy and tangy sauce.  Very, very good.  I wish I had room for more.

Soba ice cream - the only dessert being served here.  Nice fragrance from the toasted buckwheat powder being sprinkled on top, but otherwise unremarkable.

Midway through dinner, someone was finally seated at the empty seat next to me. It was none other than Chef Daniel Calvert from Belon, who had just gotten himself a spot on Asia's 50 Best Restaurants.  He was stopping by before going on to dinner across the harbor.  Many of my friends have been raving about his cooking, but I have yet to visit the restaurant - for reasons that we are both aware of.  Being the kind person that he is, he proceeded to extend an olive branch and an invitation to visit him.

We were pretty full, but my visitor had expressed interest in trying out Cantonese desserts, so we walked to Yuen Kee Dessert (源記甜品專家).  The first generation had apparently started the business around 130 years ago, and this has been my go-to place to bring visitors.

Walnut cream (清香核桃露) - probably my dessert of choice when I'm here, as this is not as widely available as other options.

I had a pretty good evening, and we were both happy that we had finally visited Yardbird.  I'll just have to look for another partner in crime who can go with me early...

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