February 15, 2019

Taiwanese and Japanese gathering

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The Compatriot is making a rare appearance back in town, and very kindly invited Hello Kitty and I to a dinner gathering of his friends.  He has grown very fond of Softbank Kitchen over the last few years, and he was making a stop there just before returning to Rosbifland.

When I asked the chef for a copy of the menu earlier in the day, I was pretty surprised to see my favorite snake soup among the dishes.  It is, after all, the 11th day of the lunar new year... and usually the chef would have stopped putting this on the menu.

Barbecued kurobuta pork (黑毛豬叉燒) - always happy to start with this.  The Japanese kurobuta (黒豚) is always delicious, with nice strips of fat.   Love how flavorful this is.

Baked stuffed crab shell (焗釀鮮蟹蓋) - a dish I see here only once in a while.  I called it korayaki (甲羅焼き), but we've got mostly crab meat here, with a layer of panko (パン粉) at the top.  The guests from Japan seemed impressed.

Stir-fried tripe with mixed vegetables (七彩炒肚尖) - I've always loved this dish, even though tonight the veggies seemed a little overcooked and slightly limp.  The springy texture of pig's stomach tip, together with the crunch of Indian almonds, sweet pickled mustard stems, as well as water chestnuts... It just makes each mouthful so interesting.

Traditional Buddha jumps over the wall (古法佛跳牆) - as I wasn't the organizer of this dinner, there was no request to remove the shark's fin from this dish.

However, the diligent service staff remembered that I prefer not to have any shark's fin, so my plate did not come with the offending ingredient.  What was left was a wonderful selection of braised goodies such as abalone, spiny sea cucumber, goose web, pork knuckle tendons, fish maw, pork belly, and bamboo shoots.

For the Taiwanese contingent who were coming here for the first time, everyone was surprised to find that this wasn't a soup the way it is in its traditional form in Taiwan (and of course Fujian).  There certainly weren't any chicken testicles here like the way Ming Fu Seafood (明福台菜海鮮) would serve it...

Imperial scholar's five-snake soup (太史五蛇羹) - unfortunately one of the Japanese guests had a mental block about eating snake - and as it turns out, he doesn't eat fish cum, either!  But the truth is that the snakes - as well as all other ingredients - were sliced so fine that there was no way one could identify this as snake.  Beautiful and full flavors as always, thanks to the "bone broth" made with snake bones, accented with dried tangerine peel, shiitake mushrooms, and more.

Steamed sole (清蒸海方利) - the usual.

Tea-smoked chicken (茶皇烟燻雞) - the smoky fragrance filled the air around us.  I do love this chicken for the amazing flavors in the skin.

Stir-fried pea shoots with crab roe (蟹皇扒豆苗) - another dish which the Japanese guests were impressed with.  I wondered if we were approaching the end of the season for pea shoots, as the ones tonight were young but no longer just the tips (豆杯).  But the fact that this was completely smothered in crab roe made it even better.

Fried glutinous rice with preserved meats (生炒糯米飯) - this was a little too wet and mushy for Hello Kitty, and doesn't feel like it's been stir-fried without steaming the rice first.  Nevertheless, I just love the flavors here... and the diced bits of preserved sausage.

Almond cream with lotus seeds and egg white (蓮子蛋白杏仁茶) - always a nice way to finish.

We had a ton of wine tonight - and in fact some bottles were left unopened.  The guests from Japan very generously shared a few bottles they acquired from the Napa and Sonoma auctions.

2003 Françoise Bedel L'Âme de la Terre, dégorgée en Août 2012 - ripe nose with sugarcane notes.  Good depth on the palate.

2016 Sonoma County Barrel Auction Gary Farrell Vineyards Pinot Noir Rochioli Vineyard - nice and fragrant nose, showing tea leaves and eucalyptus.  Served a little too warm.  Still very young.

2015 Premiere Napa Valley Gemstone Cabernet Sauvignon Winemaker's Special Selection - so very young.  Minty and ripe.

1996 Bruno Paillard Nec Plus Ultra, dégorgée en Janvier 2009 - nice and ripe, with straw notes.

1991 von Schubert Maximin Grünhäuser Herrenberg Spätlese - nice minerality, almost a little muscat, a little petrol.  Good sugar levels with acidity balance.

2000 Pierre Bourée Charmes-Chambertin - very lovely nose.  A little floral.

2016 Premiere Napa Valley Dakota Shy Cabernet Sauvignon Next Chapter - very ripe. Very rich.  Very jammy.  Lots of forest and very minty.   Still way too young, but more enjoyable than the Gemstone.

2001 Biondi-Santi Brunello di Montalcino Riserva - decanted for 2 hours prior to serving.  Nose still kinda muted, with high acidity on the palate.

Another fabulous and enjoyable dinner with old school dishes. Many thanks to the Compatriot for the invitation.

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