July 27, 2019

A shelter in concrete jungle

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Time to catch up again with the Film Buff after our last dinner a few months ago.  Since then they've had a little addition to their family, so we were very happy to see them out and about.  We thought we would check out a new restaurant which neither of us have been to, and as it happens, Arbor was kinda near the top of my hit list.  While I've heard a lot about Chef Eric Raty's cuisine, their restrictive corkage policy has served as a deterrent for me.

It's been a few years since I last saw Timothy, and I was glad to see him running the place.  He offered to have the chef put the menu together for us, and how is one to say 'no'?  Hello Kitty and I mentioned our dislike of beetroot, while Mrs Film Buff had a few birdies on her list of no-no's.  I wondered what the kitchen would do for us.

Mentaiko butter and laver butter - actually both tasted pretty good.


New potato - the first part the dish came as tuna tartare with wasabi and chives on rice cracker.  I also tasted some citrus zest.

I didn't tell them about bluefin tuna being a part of Hello Kitty's and my dietary restrictions, so we got a piece of very soft and tender Japanese tuna back (赤身) marinated in soy sauce and topped with a little spring onion and ginger.  This was laid on top of a chunk of very soft French new potato instead of a ball of shari (シャリ).  The whole thing sat in a puddle of potato and leek cream, which really reminded me of vichyssoise.  It was certainly very tasty and rich, with some umami in addition to being a little salty.

Caviar - on top of a bed of what may have been chilled fromage blanc, we had a layer of Kaluga caviar along with a ring of edamame (枝豆).  Garnished with chiffonade of kelp along with a few sansho leaves (木の芽).

This was very refreshing, and certainly seemed to be presenting flavors of spring, along with the obvious umami and flavors of the sea.

This was accompanied by edamame with dried perilla (紫蘇) powder and soy sauce powder.

Ayu - I don't think I've ever had sweetfish (鮎) served as a fillet like this... in this case it was lightly torched.  Honestly this was a little underwhelming, as I didn't get the sweetness I normally taste from the fish.  The dill, okra, and Okinawan sea grapes (海葡萄) didn't really help.  Neither did a couple of drops of juice from the flat lemon (シークヮーサー) on the side.

There was also some sort of aïoli made of abalone liver and green tea, but I'm not sure I tasted any of it.  In the middle of the bowl was a combination of crème fraîche made with cream from Fukuoka, dashi (出汁), and green tea (again!).  Not sure that this worked with the fish.  We've also got some julienned Japanese cucumber that were supposedly lightly torched and wrapped in slices of kohlrabi, but there was no hint of smokiness. 

Red prawn - the char-grilled carabinero was big and very tasty, with smoky flavors.  Came with a slice of fruit tomato from Fukuoka, as well as some candied kelp cooked with Guinness, Okinawan dark sugar, and cassis.  We've also got tomato vinaigrette with some toasted seaweed oil, with a nice hint of smokiness together with good dose of acidity.  A very good dish.

Very nicely done.

Truffle - the springy mochi barley (もち麦) was cooked with barley tea (麦茶), and came topped with crunchy, deep-fried barley along with Parmesan crumble.  We've also got maitake (舞茸) and shiitake (椎茸), and finally topped with shaved Australian winter truffle.  A great combination of contrasting textures, and of course we have plenty of shroomy flavors.

Wagyu beef A4 - at the risk of sounding like an ingrate (since we weren't charged the supplemental cost for this), I wish we had been allowed to choose the meat course for ourselves.  I most definitely would have picked the pigeon.

The Kumamoto A4 wagyu was marinated in black mirin (黒味醂) and sake before being pan-fried.  Garnished with a baby eggplant on the side and smoked eggplant purée, as well as some hollandaise mixed with white miso, and finally some beef jus accented with some sansho (山椒) pepper.

I gotta say that the beef was very, very, very tender and almost cottony.  Not too fat, and in fact it was some of the softest beef I've ever had.

On the side we had a plate of pickles - yuzu-flavored radish, burdock, and myoga (茗荷).  There was also a thin strip of cold ox tongue that was cooked until it was very, very soft... so tender it almost disintegrated in the mouth.

Blackcurrant - interesting that we had two skinless Pione (ピオーネ) grapes in a blackcurrant dessert... even more interesting that we were told these were white grapes...  There were certainly a few blackcurrants, and the first one I bit into was so, so sour that I winced.  Also came with a white chocolate bon bon and a quenelle of sorbet made with perilla and tonic water.  Garnished with perilla leaf and some flowers.

Soy milk - the tofu ice cream sat on top of a bed of crumble made of white chocolate and salted egg yolk, and topped with some crispy yuba (湯葉) flavored with honey.  This was pretty good, as I definitely tasted the soy flavors in the ice cream... and the crumble was actually pretty sweet.  The black soy beans (黒豆) were apparently marinated in soy sauce from the Kowloon Soy Company (九龍醬園) as well as Okinawan dark sugar.

Lime zest madeleines - these certainly did not meet the high standards of Mrs Film Buff, who used to sell these from her baking business.  Actually, they didn't meet my standards, either... The inside was too spongy and the air bubbles were too big.  They really tasted more like Chinese brown sugar sponge cakes (馬拉糕)...

Given the restaurant's strict BYO policy, we ended up opening just two bottles. This was OK, I guess...

2015 Keller Dalsheim Hubacker Riesling Trocken Großes Gewächs - nice acidity, with notes of lemon, flint, and petrol.

1981 Chateau Montelena - served some 50 minutes after decanting.  Smoky, stewed fruit, a little leather, eucalyptus, and later some savory notes.  After 100 minutes in decanter the wine was still going strong.  After 2 hours we started to get some brett.

This was a good first introduction, and thankfully there weren't many misses.  Will try to schedule another visit with friends one of these days.

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