December 29, 2018

The cloud dragon

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A good friend was getting together with a few friends in Taipei, and very kindly invited us to join him at Shoun RyuGin (祥雲龍吟) for dinner tonight.  I've been a big fan of the Nihonryori RyuGin (日本料理 龍吟) franchise, but have never gotten around to visiting this particular location, so I was really looking forward to this.

We were seated inside the large private room, which kinda shielded the rest of the restaurant from the noise coming from our table.  That would be a good thing...

I had offered to bring along a bottle of Champagne, but our host had arranged a wine pairing from the restaurant, so I was curious to see what the sommelier had in mind.

The menu came in an envelope, but stamped and sealed like a real letter.

Persimmon, caviar (柿子 魚子醬) - the thin slices of persimmon from Taoyuan County (桃園縣) were wrapped around some goma tofu (胡麻豆腐), along with some sturgeon caviar from Nantou County (南投縣).  Served chilled, and I found that the savory caviar worked harmoniously with the creamy tofu, and that little bit of sweetness from the persimmon was just nice.

1995 Moët et Chandon Cuvée Dom Pérignon Œnothèque - nose was a little strange, maybe some sugarcane notes, with very strong marmalade and nice minerality along as well as a little toast.  Acidity was pretty high.

Choy sum, abalone, sea urchin (菜心 鮑魚 海膽) - translation fail... Those were actually mustard hearts (芥菜膽) and not choy sum (菜心), which was a nice substitute for turnip.  The abalone from Yilan (宜蘭) was nice, as was the Japanese green sea urchin (馬糞雲丹) from Hokkaido.  This was all smothered in a warm mixture/purée which included some aonori (青海苔), and finally garnished with nasturtium leaves.  Pretty nice dish for the winter.

2010 Louis Michel Chablis Grenouilles - lovely minerals, some flint, and stone fruits.  Decent acidity level was it was not too high.  Some ripeness and fragrance lingered in the mouth for a lovely finish.

Ox-tongue, crown daisy, radish (牛舌 茼蒿 蘿蔔) - in the clear broth made with dried fish bones and radish purée were thin slices of ox tongue which had been cooked at low temperature (sous vide?).  This of course meant the tongue was very, very tender... with a slight springy bite and oh-so-slippery soft.  The Japanese leeks were very sweet, and we've also got chrysanthemum greens and very thin slices of radish on top.  Very delicious.

1995 Comte de Vogüé Musigny Cuvée Vieilles Vignes - lots of leather in the nose.  Still hard with tannins, and turned acidic with aeration, but the tannins were still present.  Later on with further aeration acidity became really high.  Probably just not ready yet...

Then came a trio of sashimi (お造り):

Squid (烏賊) - very nicely scored on the thick cut.

Japanese tiger prawns (車海老) - substitute for me as I asked not to have the bluefin tuna from Donggang (東港).  Ever so lightly cooked on the outside, with pickled raw onions and spring onions on top.

Bonito (鰹魚) - nice and smoky.

Kokuryu Daiginjo Ryu (黒龍 大吟醸 龍), 30BY - seimaibuai (精米歩合) of 40%.  Nice flavors of fermented rice.

Butter fish, cabbage (刺鯧 高麗菜) - this was a very interesting dish inspired by a particular style of hotpot using pickled cabbage (酸菜白肉鍋).  The flesh of the butterfish was very tender and fine.  The sour broth with pickled cabbage from Kinmen (金門) - which is fermented with kaoliang liquor (高粱酒) - worked well with the fish.

Sohomare Kimotoshikomi Junmai Ginjo (惣誉 生酛仕込 純米吟醸), 30BY - seimaibuai (精米歩合) of 55%.  Nose showing some fermented rice flavors, with banana notes.  Drier on the palate but with good depth.

This sake was specifically paired with the butter fish because of the natural lactic acid present in the brewing process, which would match the acidity of the pickled cabbage.

Japanese lobster, bamboo, vegetable fern (龍蝦 綠竹筍 過貓) - the lobster apparently comes from the northern coast of Taiwan, and was steamed with sake and soy sauce.  The resulting juices was made into a broth with some sliced ginger and accented with a few drops of oil made from Sanxing scallions (三星蔥) from Yilan.  Served with fresh bamboo shoots, vegetable fern, and semi-dried tomatoes - the latter of which provided some acidity to the broth.

Spot crab, Chinese kale, mullet roe (花蟹 芥蘭 烏魚子) - the crab meat sat on top of a bed of kailan (芥蘭 ), and garnished with brunoise of pickled carrots and radish, along with a lemon-scented apple purée.  Of course, I was most happy about the two little pieces of cured mullet roe...

Juyondai Black Label, 29BYseimaibuai (精米歩合) is not disclosed for this bottling.  Nose was somewhat fermented, with some fermented rice notes.  Pretty sweet on the palate with a long finish.

Squab, rosemary (乳鴿 迷迭香) - so was this squab or pigeon, as there were differences between the English and Chinese on the menu?  Anyway, this was clearly smoked with rosemary, which isn't one of my favorite herbs.  In fact it temporarily killed my ability to taste and enjoy the wines, because there was so much smoke that filled the air.

The breast was very soft, with the texture that felt slippery (滑) and smooth... but the skin was too charred and tasted bitter.  Definitely strong and gamey flavors here.

Nice to see that the claw stilled retained all 4 toes instead of just one, so this bird wasn't giving us the finger...  This deep-fried leg was pretty tasty.

2010 Clos Rougeard Saumur Champigny - toasty, minty, leather notes.  Good acidity here.

Koshi-kikari rice, threadfin fish, sweet chili, ginger (越光米 午仔魚 糯米椒 薑) - two different types of chili peppers were used.

Pretty nice, but of course I would like anything that comes with fourfinger threadfin...

The pickles included Napa cabbage, Chinese yam (山藥), and diced green beans with baby sardines (吻仔魚).

Pomelo, Thai basil (柚子 九層塔) - sitting on top of the yogurt ice cream were two types of pomelo: peiyu (白柚) and 西施柚.  We've got little bits of meringue, real honeycomb, and a drizzle of Thai basil oil.  Pretty nice.

Vincent Fleith Crémant d'Alsace Brut Nature - flinty with stone fruits on the nose.

Sesame (芝麻) - a combination of lotus root powder, milk, and sesame was deep-fried.  While the exterior was crispy, the custard center had a texture that was approaching jelly.  Served with a sauce made of sesame and caramel, which I found bitter and not pleasant.

This was certainly a very interesting meal. I love that Chef Hieda Ryohei (稗田良平) insists on using local ingredients as much as possible - since Taiwan is a great source whether one is looking on land on in the ocean.  What also intrigued me was that the flavors here weren't necessarily that Japanese.

Many thanks to my friend for the generous treat.

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