March 16, 2020

Supporting chef friends: the smiling chef

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It's been a couple of months since the Peanut Gang gathered for a meal, and we were looking for another restaurant to support.  PR8 decided that he would want to go back to Neighborhood with me - which seems to be how at least half of my friends feel - so he went over a couple of weeks ago to make a booking in person.

Fried padron pepper - always good to start with these.

Basque saucisson "Noire de Bigorre", culatello di zibello "Massimo Spigaroli" - and these tasty morsels are even better.  I am amazed that The Man in White T-shirt gets so much culatello from Massimo Spigaroli, as I was told that the production isn't large.

Sea bream crudo / homemade bottarga / radish - so... after serving us a different crudo the last couple of times, the boss man switched to sea bream tonight, and paired it with the classic combination of bottarga and radish.  Still got the watercress and hazelnuts.

Mochida tomato / strawberry / roasted pepper / sakura blossom - the tomatoes from the Japanese farm returns, and this time it was paired not just with sweet and ripe strawberries but also roasted peppers - all soaked in a diced onion vinaigrette and garnished with cherry blossoms.  Very, very nice.

Deep-fried sillago / tartar sauce - what's not to love about a plate of deep-fried fish?  In this case, sillago (沙追魚) that I'm used to seeing deep-fried.  I honestly couldn't stop myself from grabbing these one after another, and probably ended up eating the largest share.  Simply irresistable.

Squid / arugula pesto - this came to the table piping hot, with the hot pan still sizzling and smoke still rising.  That got all of us very excited.  I would have been happier with firefly squid, but any fresh squid would make me happy.  That arugula pesto was pretty tasty.

Cauliflower / mussel / shirako / mimolette gratin - I was ever so glad that The Man in White T-shirt decided to leave fish cum out of this.  We've got big chunks of thick, white asparagus, purple cauliflower, mussels, lardon, and much to my surprise - butterbur buds (蕗の薹) for that bitter flavor.  I made sure to get my veg intake.

Handmade capellini / pork jowl / anchovy - I was surprised that this was on our menu, but it turned out to be a godsend.  I was already drooling at the sight of the guanciale, but the real kicker was the anchovy sauce, which turned out to be amazingly sweet - perhaps thanks to the presence of diced onions.  I would be happy to just come in, take down 2 portions of this, and go home.

Bouillabaisse for 12 - (queue voice over from Luke Skywalker in Star Wars, Episode IV) LOOK AT THE SIZE OF THAT THING!  My eyes always open wide whenever this pan comes out from the kitchen...

Tonight it's got a ton of stuff inside!  There's the head of a sea bream in the middle, plus different rock fish, sea ruffe (石狗公), pike eel, lobsters, rock crabs of different sizes, along with a few potatoes.  How in the hell would the 4 of us - minus PR8 who had to bail on us - come close to making a dent in this?!  So I quickly called in reinforcements and asked Hello Kitty to hop over.

The soup, as always, was viscous and full of goodies.  Strained consommé or Canto-style double-boiled soup, it is not.  I wasted no time in draining my bowl, then offered a bowl that was piping hot when Hello Kitty arrived.

Honestly, I didn't think we needed the seafood rice.  But I did take a spoonful before The Man in White T-shirt eventually dumped half the pot into the bouillabaisse...

I didn't have room for dessert... or so I thought.  I ended up nibbling on a couple of chunks of the French toast but left the chocolate palette alone.  Of course, there were the canelés...

We did bring along a few bottles to help the evening along, although I harbored no illusions about the disinfectant aspect of what we were drinking...

Pommery Brut Royal - nice and easy to drink.

2010 Clos Floridene Blanc - flinty with green apple.  There is ripeness on the palate.  Fergie's last bottle from the case he bought with me.

2010 Arietta On the White Keys, from 500ml - very strong nose of flint and pipi de chat.

2010 San Filippo Brunello di Montalcino Le Lucére - ripe on the palate, smoky, could smell the acidity, kinda reminded me of Amarone made with dried grapes.

2005 Pax Syrah Kobler Family Vineyard - after almost 3 hours in the decanter, this was no longer sharp on the nose.  Ripe on the palate but with good acidity, and some violet notes.

We were all very, very happy... and stuffed to the brim. Of course, the happiest person tonight had to have been the guy in the white T-shirt...

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