March 16, 2019

Tokyo hop March 2019: I'll have what Califa had, part 2

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After some much-needed sleep, which certainly was nowhere near enough, I got up to do some more sake shopping today.  We wanted a relaxing and easy day, so we strolled strolled around the moat by the Imperial Palace - catching a glimpse of the swans - on our way to Tokyo Station.

Hello Kitty didn't want a big lunch, so we simply popped into Takegami Ittetsu Soba (たけがみ 一轍そば) within the Kitchen Street part of Tokyo Station.  I saw something on the menu that I haven't had for a long, long time... so I jumped at the chance and ordered it.

Stewed herring soba (にしんそば) - I asked for some deep-fried tofu pouches (きつね) because I like having them in my noodles.  For some reason I just absolutely love the traditional kanroni (甘露煮) that makes for a sweet-tasting tender fish.  This was a simple yet very satisfying lunch.

We made a couple of stops in the afternoon, including a short but necessary visit to the Ritz-Carlton Tokyo to see my old friend Jeremy Evrard.  I haven't caught up with him since he left Hong Kong a couple of years ago, and I'm glad he's landed his new role in Tokyo.  He was, as usual, too generous and kind when he sent us away with some cake and chocolates...

But the highlight of the day had to be dinner at Shima (西洋料理  島).  I had long heard about - and seen pictures of - the steaks and steak sandwiches here.  There was never any doubt in my mind that Hello Kitty and I would come here one day, and we just wished we could have gotten here sooner.

I was a little surprised by the layout of the restaurant, and even more surprised by the very high percentage of foreign clientele.  In fact, locals probably made up less than one-quarter of the covers here tonight... and only tourists were seated at the counter the entire evening.

After being seated at the counter, we were greeted by the very affable Oshima-san, who asked where we had come from.  As I was asking whether he knew my friend The Hungry Tourist, Oshima-san turned around and asked me whether I knew Peter Lee - the elder son of Lee Shau-kee - who has been a customer for some 20 years.  Well, of course I know of Mr. Lee... but nobodies like ourselves would never actually know him...

We were shown a menu and also told some of the daily specials, and decided to order à la carte.

The bread was kinda cute and interesting.

White asparagus (ホワイトアスパラ) are in season so we figured we should try some.  Unfortunately they had been simmering in the pot for a little too long, and they kinda fell apart into strips while I was cutting them.  I did like the combination of the chopped egg yolk and the vinegar-based sauce - kinda like a deconstructed hollandaise, if you will.

Creamy crab croquettes (カニクリームコロッケ) - not bad lah... but we should have gone for the whole Japanese snow crab...

French onion soup (オニオングラタンスープ) - I haven't had traditional French onion soup in a while, and this was definitely enjoyable... with a slice of bread in the soup and a panko (パン粉) and cheese gratin on top.

Next came the main events: the steaks!  I didn't ask where the beef was coming from today, but we did specify medium-rare.  Oshima-san grilled these using binchotan (備長炭).

Sirloin steak (ロース肉のステーキ) - OF COURSE I went for the fattier sirloin.

Very tender. Just enough marbling, and love that satisfying, fatty flavor.

Tenderloin steak (テンダーロインのステーキ) - Hello Kitty knew I wanted sirloin, so she went for the tenderloin instead.

Even though this is a leaner cut, it's still very, very tender.

Our dessert came in the form of two quenelles of sorbet - mango and yogurt.

I knew that Hello Kitty would want to have a bottle of red with her steak, so I took this bottle of Monte Bello from the wine list as it was both reasonably-priced as well as having had sufficient time to mature.

2003 Ridge Monte Bello - decanted after opening.  Nose was very Cali but the palate was more acidic than I expected.  There was clearly plenty of sweetness and vanilla oak in the nose, while smokiness emerged half an hour after opening.  Also black fruits like plums.  Sweeter on the palate a little later, but the tannins were still here.

Of course, we wouldn't dream of leaving here without ordering up their famous steak sandwiches.  Per The Hungry Tourist's suggestion, I asked Oshima-san for the "Califa Special" - which uses a nice, big bloc of sirloin instead of a number of thin slices of tenderloin.  The special order also comes at a 60% price premium, and Oshima-san himself clearly thinks that the tenderloin is better...

We would take these babies home and enjoy them tomorrow... even though it would have been best to wolf them down while they were still warm!

It was time to settle our bill, and Oshima-san and his wife were kind enough to send us away with a cheesecake to take home - certainly VIP treatment due to our friendship with The Hungry Tourist.  They are such a nice and hospitable couple, and we'd love to see them again.

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