December 22, 2019

Pre-holiday FUK day 3: Chinese Island

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Our only meal at a Michelin-starred restaurant on this trip was dinner tonight.  Sushi Karashima (鮨 唐島) has been open for a little more than a year and a half, and already grabbed a coveted Michelin star shortly after opening.   This was all the more impressive because, while Karashima-san has been cooking for a few years, his experience with a sushiya started relatively recently.

Tilefish dashi chawanmushi (甘鯛出汁茶碗蒸し) - made with dashi (出汁) from tilefish (甘鯛) and a specific type of egg from Ukiha City (うちは市), which has a more white-ish yolk.  Served with some shaved yuzu (柚子) zest for fragrance.

Karashima-san started prepping the shari (シャリ), and I could really smell the vinegar in the rice... and it was very similar to the black Chinkiang vinegar (鎮江醋) I grew up with.

Bonito flakes mixed egg rice (鰹節と卵の掛けご飯) - the eggs for this came from Kumamoto Prefecture (熊本県), and the bonito flakes were very smoky.  Very nice.

Oyster (牡蠣) - the oyster came from Iroha Island (いろは島) and had been cooked in the broth of the oyster, with a few drops of citrus juice added just before serving.  Very creamy and still a little briny.

Swordfish teriyaki (鮙照り焼き) - this came in a very thick chunk, and was kinda chewy but still very juicy and beautiful.  Plenty of sansho (山椒) pepper here.

Grilled black skipjack tuna (焼きヤイトガツオ) - grilled over charcoal to get the skin crispy, but really soft and cold in the middle.  Served with red vinegar (赤酢) and soy sauce together, which was perfect with the minced ginger and spring onions on top.

Grilled gray mullet (焼き鰡のへそ) - the mullet gizzard was grilled and served with grated radish (おろし) flavored with yuzukosho (柚子胡椒).  Love the crunchy texture.

Sea cucumber cooked in tea (茶ぶりなまこ) - cooked at low temperature in bancha (番茶).  Seasoned with ponzu (ポン酢) and yuzukosho.  Very hard and required some effort to chew.

Grilled barracuda (焼き梭子魚) - with straw from Miyazaki Prefecture (宮崎県), which made the fish very smoky.  The texture was very tender and lovely, but there was a bit too much wasabi on top.

Mozuku (水雲) - always love the acidity from the ponzu.

Monkfish liver with narazuke (鮟肝と奈良漬け) - this came with very strong fermented flavors, and almost a little alcoholic.  The little black cubes of pickled watermelon were very interesting.

The nigiri (握り) portion of our dinner came next:

Spanish mackerel (鰆) - the shari temperature was very high, higher than other sushiyas, and there was a good temperature contrast between the shari and neta (ネタ).  The acidity of the shari was also high, and there was almost a hint of sharpness from the wasabi on the nose but not on the tongue.

Spear squid (槍烏賊) - beautifully scored.  Very soft.  Shari was very firm on this one.

Sardine (鰯) - very surprised that this was not one large piece of sardine but several smaller pieces stacked together.  This was a big mistake, in my mind, because the fattiness of the fish meant the pieces were very slippery, and the result was that when I tried to pick it up with my fingers, it fell apart.

Flavors were very strong here, both from the soy sauce as well as the vinegar.

Lean tuna (赤身) - from Aomori Prefecture (青森県).  Definitely tasted wasabi in this piece.

Fatty tuna (トロ) - also marinated like lean tuna.  Well-marbled and the fat melted in the mouth thanks to the temperature.  There were some chewy tendons.

Gizzard shad (小肌) - very lovely texture, more raw and tender than most other sushiyas' versions.  Great acidity balance.

Japanese green sea urchin roll (馬糞雲丹巻き) - this 田舎者 has never had sea urchin served in a roll...  The sea urchin from Hokkaido was very thick and creamy, and balanced nicely with the soy sauce with good depth of flavors.

Scallop (帆立貝) - simmered, served with a sweet tare (たれ) and powdered yuzu zest.

Mackerel bozushi (鯖棒寿司) - the mackerel was very tender, and came with a piece of marinated kombu (昆布) on top providing a good dose of sweetness.  The thick cut delivered a very satisfying experience.

Japanese tiger prawn (車海老) - when it comes to shrimps and prawns, I generally prefer smaller specimens for their tenderness.  I really liked that Karashima-san chose to serve smaller prawns.  Very sweet.

Conger eel (穴子) - basically melted and liquefied in the mouth.

Kanpyo roll (干瓢巻き)

At this point, Karashima-san announced that the savory portion of the standard menu has come to an end.  He mentioned that a few other items were available as extras, and asked whether we would like to taste them.  I ended up choosing two extra pieces:

Mackerel belly (鯖トロ) - marinated with vinegar.  Very fatty and marbled for a thin slice.

Marinated yellowtail (鰤漬け), aged 8 days - not quite the same as the piece I had at Sushi Kimura (すし 喜邑) that was aged for 2 months, but this very thin slice had no crunch at all... just soft and tender.

This soup was made with the bones of all the fish we had tonight, with a soy sauce base and two different types of miso.  Really sweet and beautiful.

Marinated tuna roll (漬けトロ巻き) - offered by Karashima-san as a special treat, and featured both lean tuna and tuna belly.

Finally we see Karashima-san cut up pieces of the egg (卵焼き).

Egg (卵焼き) - this was made in the style of a soufflé, and the texture was certainly very similar.  The top half was like foam... very airy, while the bottom half had a firmer texture.

This was a pretty interesting meal.  I definitely think that the nigiri portion has room for improvement - especially in terms of the formation of the rice ball - but the flavors and textures of the neta were good.

We bid farewell to our friends from Kyoto who were taking the train back home, and continued to our next destination for drinks...

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