October 2, 2018

Birthday in the sky

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Hello Kitty's birthday is coming up, and as it also happens to be dad's birthday in the lunar calendar, we decided to a separate celebration.  I was somewhat surprised to hear a request for Tenku RyuGin (天空龍吟), but it has been a whole year since she was here, so I guess that kinda explains it.

I was running late tonight so Hello Kitty got there first, and she told me that we had been placed in the small private room.  This was a nice gesture from the restaurant, for which I was very grateful.  Even better was the fact that a Japanese menu had been slipped inside the envelope alongside the English one, without me having to ask for it like I always do.

Seki-san presented his October (神無月) menu:

Oyster, caviar, konbu jelly, almond milk (牡蠣  キャビア  昆布ジュレ  アーモンドミルク) - the Hokkaido oyster was gently poached, and came with some caviar, a layer of jelly made with Japanese dried kelp, some almond milk, and a few drops of Yamazaki 18 Years.  Well... I honestly didn't pick out the whisky.  The almond milk didn't add much flavor, but did add some creaminess texture-wise and balanced out the seaweed jelly, as well as toned down the saltiness of the caviar.  What really made the dish, though, were the shavings of yuzu zest on top - whose fragrance hit me immediately.

Foie gras egg custard with mushroom sauce (フォアグラの茶碗蒸し  キノコと鳩出汁の餡) - the layer of foie gras custard at the bottom was pretty mild in terms of the foie gras flavor, and came with stock made of French pigeons.  This was topped with different types of mushrooms including kakinokitake (柿の木茸), which are kinda similar to enoki mushrooms (えのき茸), as well as bamboo piths (竹笙) that provided some crunch.  We've also got some porcini powder, and there was a little bit of kick here somewhere.  I thought the foie, pigeon stock, and different types of mushrooms all worked harmoniously together.

Peach, ume plum, tofu paste (桃と梅の白和え) - I was kinda surprised that the white peach from Yamanashi Prefecture (山梨県) was still "seasonal" in October, but it was pretty nice.  This came covered in a thick paste made with tofu, white miso, and white sesame.  Topped with a sprinkling of plum powder and garnished with basil.  The basil was fantastic and the flavors really shone.  It was certainly the one non-traditional ingredient in the whole dish.

Kegani dumpling and matutake soup (毛ガニ進上と松茸のお椀) - there's always a course with the ichibandashi (一番出汁) made with kombu (昆布) from Rishiri (利尻) that has been aged for 2 years.  The dumpling (真薯) was made with Japanese horsehair crab (毛蟹) meat, and came with matsutake (松茸) from Yunnan Province (雲南省).  Apparently the chef felt that this season produced some very high quality matsutake from Yunnan, and based on my experience in the last 2 months, I would have to agree.  Of course, the bowl was made even more fragrant thanks to the yuzu zest shavings.

But there was a surprise inside the dumpling... crab tomalley (蟹味噌)!  This was so, soooo tasty!  This was one of my two favorite dishes tonight.

Cold soumen with abalone and siroebi shrimp (煮鮑と白エビの素麺) - and my other favorite dish tonight followed the first one.  The somen (素麺) from Hyogo Prefecture (兵庫県) was tossed with an abalone liver sauce, which actually wasn't as heavy-handed as I had expected... since it came with plenty of finely shredded/chiffonade of green spring onions.  There was also a pile of raw glass shrimp (白海老) from Toyama Prefecture (富山県), topped with plenty of sansho leaves (木の芽).

The star, of course, remains the steamed abalone from Chiba Prefecture (千葉県).  As usual this was scored to deliver a very tender texture.  Honestly, this was a fucking fantastic dish.  The chilled ingredients delivered a nice, refreshing sensation and cooled down the body after the hot soup.

Torched bonito (鰹のたたき) - I have always preferred a nice slice of bonito over any fatty tuna you can throw at me, and as Seki-san knows I don't want to have any bluefin tuna, he chose to simply serve me three slices of bonito instead.  I was surprised that we've got these elongated slices today, but they were really nicely torched on the top to deliver really smoky and crispy skin.  As usual the fish had been aged, so it was very, very tender.  Served on a bed of shredded myoga (茗荷) and perilla leaf chiffonade, and with a garlic and mustard sauce that I found unnecessary.

Steamed kinki and eggplant with grilled turtle bloth (キンキと茄子蒸し  焼きすっぽんの出汁) - the broadbanded thornyhead (喜知次) was torched to deliver that smoky and crispy skin, even after being put in a bowl of softshell turtle broth.  Curiously there was a chunk of steamed eggplant underneath the fish.  Honestly, even though I thought the broth was interesting, it wasn't distinctive enough for me to make out the flavors from the softshell turtle...

Muscat grape with wasabi jelly (シャインマスカットと山葵ジュレ) - I guess this was our palate cleanser... The Shine muscat from Okayama Prefecture (岡山県) was buried under a pile of jelly made with wasabi and nibandashi (二番出汁), and garnished with diced cucumber, lemon zest, white spring onions, and dill.  It sure cleared up my palate... and my sinuses, too!

Charcoal grilled smoked pigeon (鳩の炭火焼き) - I had this a few months ago and thought it was cooked perfectly back then.  Tonight the pigeon came from Bresse instead of Racan.

Just as it was last time, the doneness was perfect.  The skin was smoky and crispy, while the meat was amazingly soft and tender, with a degree of bounciness.  Incredibly, there were similarities in flavors between this pigeon and the almost milky flavors that I tasted in the Cantonese-style roast pigeons at Stellar House (星月居).

Steamed rice with hokki clam and hamaguri clam (北寄貝と蛤のごはん) - the koshihikari (こしひかり) rice was cooked with clam juice, dashi, and guanciale oil.  Then both types of clams - plus Chinese celery - were used as toppings in addition to the shaved yuzu zest.

Oh and some nori (海苔) was added on top when served in the bowl.

The pickled Japanese cucumbers were nice and crunchy, with finely shaved bonito flakes (鰹節).

The soup was made with both red and white miso, plus the usual yuba (湯葉) and kakinokitake (柿の木茸).

Kyoho grape candy (ぶどうの飴) - it's been a while since I had one of RyuGin's molecular desserts, and today was my first time having one made of Kyoho grapes (巨峰ぶどう).

Cracking open the candy shell gave one access to the flash frozen powder inside, made of Kyoho grapes, whipped cream, and Japanese lime.  There was also grape juice as well as hebesu (ヘベズ) juice in the bowl. 

Figs with fig flavored ice cream (無花果の葉のアイス) - interesting to see the combination of Japanese figs from Yamanashi Prefecture (山梨県) as well as Spanish figs (the ones on top with skin), with the former soaked in cherry liqueur.  Honestly, we were not fans of the ice cream as it was noticeably bitter - probably thanks to the use of fig skin.

This was an extra "サービス" from Seki-san, made by sandwiching dried persimmon around a layer of cream made with Japanese lanterns (鬼灯).  Nice to have a bit of acidity and creaminess in the middle to balance out the sweet, sugary persimmon.

This being a birthday celebration, I brought the same birth year wine as I did last year...

1982 Latour à Pomerol - served about 70 minutes after opening without decanting.  Initially not quite open and showing only some smoke.  Two hours after opening there was more acidity on the palate after 20 minutes in glass.  Showing better by now with tobacco notes and reasonable length on the palate.  A little more than two hours in and the nose was really fragrant, showing more wood notes.  Strangely showing metallic rust about 2½ hours in, and after 3 hours this became really fragrant, and showing some earthy notes.  Not quite as good as the bottle last year, but still very nice.

A very happy meal, and some of the dishes were truly memorable. Many thanks to Seki-san for the hospitality and for waiving the corkage for us. We'll be back again soon.

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