September 21, 2019

No gold for me, again

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Farmer Chris is back in town after his months-long stint in the Big Apple, and was making his rounds catching up with people.  We had initially tried to get into a couple of restaurants I haven't been to, but much to my surprise, these places were actually busy on a Saturday night.  Maybe the F and B industry isn't hit as badly as we've heard...

We ended up at HAKU, of all places.  For a guy who was initially pretty critical of the kind of dishes seemingly created primarily to be Instagrammable, I have certainly come around and nowadays willingly step through the doors without much coercion.  The flavors of the food are strong enough to speak for themselves, and there are now fewer things on offer that I consider "form over substance".

Caviar / somen - well, speaking of "Instagrammable dishes"... we actually kicked off with one.  This has been all over social media over the last couple of months ever since it was introduced in the restaurant's summer menu.  A nice dollop of Kaviari Kristal caviar on a pinch of somen (素麺), which has been flavored with plankton powder and Spanish olive oil.  Of course, we can't forget those pretty perilla flowers to get an extra few "likes" on IG...

We were instructed to mix it all together before tasting.  I, on the other hand, seriously contemplated either bending down to the plate, or lifting the plate up to my mouth so that I could just suck it all up in one big bite...  But obviously I didn't end up doing it...

Oyster / sudachi - this was a refreshing dish I really enjoyed on my last visit.  The raw oyster from Fukuoka was served as halves on top of asparagus chiffonade, with a sauce made of oyster water, yogurt, sake, and ponzu (ポン酢).  Drops of olive oil infused with aonori (青海苔), flowers, and shavings of sudachi (酢橘) zest to bring some aromatics.  A nice combination of umami, creaminess, and acidity.

Dashi / carabinero - a few minutes before this bowl showed up in front of me, I started to hear a rhythmic sound which made me wonder whether the background music had changed its beat.  Well, it turned out to be Goldfinger shaving the katsuobushi (鰹節) for the dashi (出汁)...

I was kinda surprised at the presence of a bloc of tofu... which came with a few strips of eringi julienne.  A pan-seared carabinero sat on top, which was smoky and delicious but again a surprise for me to see inside the bowl.  The mitsuba (三つ葉) and generous shavings of green yuzu zest really delivered the fragrance.

Sashimi - the team actually spends a decent amount of time to make the hassun (八寸) pretty with all the flowers.
Olive flounder (鮃) - the slices of flounder were rolled around a bundle of scallion sprouts (芽ねぎ), and came with some white soy sauce and some crispy bits made of Spanish pork belly.  This was pretty damn salty

Yellow tail (鰤) - definitely liked the crunchy texture, and while the spicy kick of the yuzukosho (柚子胡椒) was front and center, I could still take the umami of the aonori.

Sweet shrimp (甘海老) - our substitution for the akami (赤身).  With smoked soy sauce, akegarashi (あけがらし), and myoga (茗荷).

We were given a shot of shochu that has been infused with wasabi.  Definitely tasted "green", and not really a fan...

We've got a collection of tomatoes along with tamarillo and tomatillo.

Vegetables / tofu - buried under the pile of organic veggies and flowers from the local farm was a pile of soft yuba (湯葉).  The salad dressing was made with tamarillo and tomatillo water.  Interesting to see ice plant here.

Lobster / olives - I jokingly complained about not getting the usual quenelle of caviar on top, but in reality I was happy that Goldfinger had decided to switch things up and try something different.  We've got purée of cauliflower cooked in kombu (昆布), and very flavorful lobster sauce.  On top, in lieu of the usual caviar, we had a chunk of paste made of fermented Spanish black olives and salt-dried kelp (塩昆布) to provide the salty flavor profile.  And very salty it was.

Of course, there were also chunks of lobster in the mix...  Overall the dish was as it has been - very rich, creamy, thick, and lots of shellfish flavors.

Bacalao / clam - the bacalao definitely showed a nice, slightly firm texture which differentiated it from a piece of regular cod.  Interesting "toppings" of shaved bottarga (唐墨), strips of sun-dried tomatoes, chunks of razor clams, pearl onions, salicornia, and oyster leaves.  The sauce was a combination of razor clam jus, garlic, lemon, and cream... along with seaweed-infused oil.  I could definitely taste the acidity of the lemon along with some bitterness from the lemon rind.

Wagyu / carrot - the A4-grade wagyu came from Kumamoto Prefecture (熊本県).  The complicated sauce starts with roasted bones and tendons, then red pepper juice is caramelized before being mixed together with the beef sauce.  We've got a purée of carrots with Mimolette, some girolles, along with some perilla flowers and leaves.

Honestly, these days I find a lot of Japanese wagyu too fatty for my taste.  Increasingly I find it akin to chomping on semi-congealed lard...

Rice / abalone - still one of my favorite dishes here... Goldfinger's take on his granny's arroz caldoso is always just so tasty and comforting.  It's a solid, honest-to-goodness dish that Goldfinger no longer bothers to explain to me... Still loving that kick from the chorizo de la vera.  Oh yeah... I scooped up every last drop.

Persimmon / milk - we've got orange zest, persimmon jam, cream cheese, Hokkaido milk ice cream, a tiny bit of finger lime caviar, and alyssum flowers as garnish.

Cherry / sake - a dessert I really enjoyed from my last visit.  Slices of cherries from Yamagata Prefecture (山形県) along with Malaga cherries cooked in syrup. The sake kasu (酒粕) ice cream was pretty tasty, and we've also got some crumble made with almonds and cocoa nibs for texture and additional flavors.

Wagashi, peanut nougat

Matcha and white chocolate - still got that really interesting combination of bitterness from the matcha powder bringing out the savory middle.

After the first glass of Champagne, I chose not to go with the suggested wine pairing, but brought a bottle of riesling and also picked out a spätburgunder from the wine list.

Stroebel Triptyque - flinty, mineral, a bit ripe and bitter on the palate but there is some acidity on the back end.

1989 von Schubert Maximin Grünhauser Herrenberg Kabinett - nice and flinty, with green apple and muscat grape.  Some sweetness nicely balanced with acidity.

2007 Freiherr von Gleichenstein Baron Philipp Spätburgunder Oberrotweiler Eichberg trocken - initially pungent, but very big nose full of toast, along with leather and animal notes.  Also nice with sweet fruit, floral and fragrant, with some coffee and chocolate.  Unfortunately the wine doesn't last in the glass, and with more aeration the palate became bitter and less pleasant.

We had a good time tonight.  Just when I was joking with Goldfinger that I was considering not coming back after not having had any gold for the second meal in a row, this showed up in front of me...

And wouldn't you know it, once again they took it away before I had a chance to nibble on that bling...

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