November 23, 2019

The continuous journey

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The Great One was missing Sato-san dishes at Ta Vie 旅 and wanted to go back.  I have been remiss this year, and have only visited my friend Sato-san once. So I didn’t hesitate to say “Yes” when asked. Besides, times have been tough for people in the F and B industry over the last few months, and I was more than happy to provide a tiny amount of help.

We always start with one of my favorite breads in town, along with homemade condiments. Tonight, though, there was a new addition.

Nukazuke bread - made with nukazuke (糠漬け). If I had a bottomless stomach, I would easily devour 3 to 4 of these. Nowadays, though, we are kept to just one as Sato-san has been baking other types of bread.

Homemade butter - the butter has been made in-house for the last 4 years. Always delicious.

Homemade sake kazu butter - tonight we also have a new type of butter… made with sake lees (酒粕). The flavors here were pretty strong, and it was certainly sweeter, and tasted of a little fermentation, along with a big of acidity, along with a hint of bitterness at the end from the alcohol.

Homemade ricotta with olive oil - starting from last year, Sato-san has also been making ricotta in-house. Very nice with some olive oil.

Kegani crab / cucumber / shiso - the Japanese horsehair crab (毛蟹) came wedged inside sections of crunchy cucumber, along with cubes of avocado, croûtons, and diced red capsicum. The gazpacho mayonnaise on the side was interesting.

Roasted whole chicken broth "chawanmushi" with Hokkaido "bafun" uni, chanterelle mushrooms - the steamed egg custard was made with broth from a whole roasted chicken. This was topped with sweet-tasting sea urchin, chanterelles, and yam leaves.

This was totally a comfort dish for many of us, as I grew up with both Chinese-style steamed egg custard as well as Japanese chawanmushi (茶碗蒸し). The chicken flavors in the egg custard were really lovely, and these were enhanced by the chanterelles.

Sourdough pain de campagne "Akikaze"

Simmered "aka" abalone from Boso Peninsula 房総半島 cooked with 20 years aged Shaoxing wine and kombu - I was fortunate enough to have been offered a taste of the simmered abalone while it was still in the experimental stage a few months ago, and we offered our feedback to Sato-san so that he could perfect the dish. I’m no expert on abalone, but these two slices in front of me were pretty close to perfection. Simmered with 20-year old Shaoxing wine (紹興酒), mirin (味醂), and kelp (昆布). The texture was so tender yet also springy, yielding easily to one’s teeth without being flabby and limp. Soooo good. Soooo perfect.

Monkfish liver "sea foie gras", Japanese soft leeks with mustard dressing - The monkfish liver (鮟肝) came topped with green apple, mustard leaves, radicchio, and caramelized walnuts.

There was a lovely yuzu (柚子) fragrance here, but the star was clearly the blocs of liver… which were wonderfully fluffy and ethereal, and just about melted in the mouth. No wonder Sato-san has taken to call it “sea foie gras”. This was so beautiful I began to wonder whether this or the one served at Sushi Saito (鮨 さいとう) was my favorite…

"Head to fin, scales to bone" pan seared "kinme-dai" with crispy scales, "acqua pazza" sauce - I’ve had this once before, and the splendid alfonsino (金目鯛) has been seared till the skin was wonderfully crispy and lightly charred. The texture of the fish was beautiful, too. Nice acidity from the acqua pazza sauce and capers to go with the tender and fatty fish.

French black pork "Noir de Bigorre" with Chinese cabbage "choucroute" served with white truffle - OK, so I’ve had Noir de Bigorre a number of times, including at Neighborhood. This was seared, then cooked in oil at relatively low temperature, and finally roasted to achieve the amazingly soft and tender texture. The jus was made with the meat, bones, pig trotters, and some Cognac. A few slices of white truffle on top don’t hurt…. On the side there was choucroutte made with baby Chinese cabbage (娃娃菜), topped with crispy pork fat.

I just gotta say… O.M.G. The fatty part of the pork came a little charred, so it was crispy and incredibly fragrant. What a beautiful piece of meat!

"Duck ramen" - We know Sato-san has been trying to make his own Peking duck, and one of the by-products is his duck ramen. Everything in the bowl was made in-house, including the noodles. The broth has an underlying sweetness along with umami, which was the result of having some abalone jus being added.

I was, for some reason, getting kinda full halfway through the meal, so I asked for a small bowl of this – much to Sato-san’s and Takano-san’s surprise. This meant that we only got the duck leg and not the breast meat. The meat was pretty sweet and didn’t taste much like Peking duck, and Sato-san explained that after finishing as Peking duck, the meat was soaked in tare (たれ) so that it was more akin to Japanese-style charsiu (叉燒).

Roselle tea

Shine muscat ball: Shine muscat /aloe vera / shiso flower - I remember how much I enjoyed this dessert when I had it the last time, and the new presentation looked just as beautiful. The Shine muscat (シャインマスカット) was, of course, delicious as always… and the gewürztraminer gelée was interesting. The perilla flowers always add a wonderful fragrance, while the Calpis Soda foam was not surprisingly fizzy and acidic.

"Les feuilles mortes": fresh chesnuts Mont-Blanc with Pu'er tea ice cream - this has become a signature dessert here, with the combination of Mont Blanc and Puer (普洱) tea ice cream, decorated with “fallen leaves”. Always enjoyable.

Goji berry sando - these looked like the Marusei butter sandwiches (マルセイバターサンド), except the raisins have been replaced with dried wolfberries (枸杞).

Crown melon - always ripe and delicious.

I finished with a cup of my favorite herbal tea, and the lovely pandan and mint fragrance filled my nostrils.

2012 Billiot Brut, dégorgée le 14 Mai 2018 - good depth of flavors.

This was a fantastic dinner. I love Sato-san's passion, and he keeps spending time, effort, and resources to come up with new dishes - wishing pushing new boundaries all the time.  He's definitely one of my favorite chefs in the world, and I really need to visit him a little more than I have been doing...

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