July 4, 2020

Drunken onion, Hong Kong edition

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A few of us are fans of the sakes from Isojiman (磯自慢), and some of us have tasted a range of the good shit at Sake Tamanegiya (酒たまねぎや) in Tokyo.  Heck, a few of us have even gone wild and did verticals tastings - which is tough to do at most places.  So when DaRC asked if I wanted to join a tasting while none of us are able to travel to Japan for the near future, I was only too happy to accept the invitation.

The eight of us converged on Nikushou, and RAW Bro Yeah also joined us as a participant as he (mostly) ignored his clientele.  We would each bring a bottle, which I kinda felt was a little much when it comes to sake... but then again I've always been the lightweight.

Chilled Japanese snow crab, edamame mousse, Amela tomato - the Japanese snow crab (ズワイ蟹) from Hokkaido had very rich flavors and tasted of the ocean - very savory.  The edamame (枝豆) mousse was rich and creamy, and added a little sweetness along with light, green, vegetal flavors.  The Amela tomato (アメーラトマト) came with some ripeness along with acidity, and finally the ponzu (ポン酢) gelée delivered enough acidity to balance out the ocean from the crab.  Aromatics from perilla flowers for that final touch.  A great start to our evening.

Aomori-style simmered abalone with sea urchin - the ichigo-ni (いちご煮) was made with slices of South African abalone topped with sea urchin, along with some taro stem (芋茎), watershield (蓴菜), shredded myoga (茗荷) and perilla leaves.  This was nice and offered a good contrast with the previous dish in terms of temperature and more subtle flavors, but I would agree with DaRC that it was just a little too busy.  We didn't need both myoga and perilla for the aromatics, and either the watershield or the taro stem would suffice in terms of added texture.

Crispy grilled eel with sansho sauce - I think the execution tonight was far, far better than before.  The slabs of eel were reasonably thick, which enabled the kitchen to achieve very crunchy skin while retaining moisture in the middle.  There was more kick to the sansho (山椒) peppercorns, but I still wish they were less marinated.

Pink sea urchin (赤雲丹) - from Karatsu (唐津). Taken with a tiny pinch of salt to bring out the sweetness.

Monkfish liver - very, very tender as expected.  The sweetness from the sauce was nicely balanced by the savory notes from the diced pickled watermelon skin (西瓜奈良漬け).

Hida beef chateaubriand with white asparagus - the German white asparagus was fairly juicy, but initially I thought it was a little too fibrous.  The batter seemed to have a tendency to slip off the asparagus like a used condom, though...

The beef katsu (カツ) from Hida (飛驒) was fairly marbled.

While waiting for other stuff to show up, RAW Yeah asked the staff to bring us a couple of snacks to go with our sake.  There was marinated cod roe (明太子)...

... and grilled dried firefly squid.  Nice and smoky.

Next came horse mackerel (鯵) served two ways.  Not just any horse mackerel, but Donchichi Aji (どんちっちあじ) from Hamada (浜田) in Shimane Prefecture (島根県).  Whereas "regular" horse mackerel has about 3.5% body fat, apparently these are in the range of 10 to 15% fat - depending on season.

These fillets were definitely fatty...

Then we've got tataki (タタキ) with vinegared rice.  The scallion shoots (芽ねぎ), spring onions, and myoga brought all the aromatics.

Japanese snow crab with winter melon and taro stem (ズワイ蟹 冬瓜 芋茎 煮物) - it would seem that I got one of the claws, which was pretty sweet!  The kick from ginger was certainly noticeable.

Chateaubriand and clay pot rice with corn and edamame - I was really looking forward to this.  The beef came from a "local" (read: Chinese) steer instead of some fancy schmancy imported Japanese beef with more marbling.

While we thought the beef was slightly more cooked than we would prefer, it was still pretty tasty.  And the rice!  All that sweet corn and edamame... I ended up with two servings.

Kumamoto sirloin (熊本県産サーロイン) - as usual, we finished with the "Nikushou special" tonight.

Of course it gets the usual treatment with the egg sauce over rice, except today it ain't plain old steamed rice, but the delicious version with corn and edamame.  On top of that, we got slices of black truffle.  Can't complain!

A little fruit never hurt nobody... especially when the melon was so ripe.

We also had the sea salt milk ice cream with matcha jelly and azuki beans.  This is always good.

But tonight was all about the sake!

Isojiman Nakatori Junmai Daiginjo 35 (磯自慢 中取り 純米大吟醸 35), 2014 - initially nose was not very open, a little spicy, not quite green.  Very smooth on the palate, soft and almost a little viscous.  Second pour was colder, around 10°C.  More banana notes.  Sharper on the palate, and really nice.  Later on this was more like koshu (古酒).

Isojiman Nakatori Junmai Daiginjo 35 (磯自慢 中取り 純米大吟醸 35), 2015 - nose was more open and showy, with more fermented rice, more elegant.  Much bigger banana and tropical notes.  Still very smooth on the palate.  Beautiful, and my favorite of the evening.

Isojiman Nakatori Junmai Daiginjo 35 (磯自慢 中取り 純米大吟醸 35), 2016 - more closed initially, a little more spicy on the nose, almost green pepper.  More dry on the palate.

Isojiman Nakatori Junmai Daiginjo 35 (磯自慢 中取り 純米大吟醸 35), 2017 - banana and fermented rice notes. So nice.

Isojiman Nakatori Junmai Daiginjo 35 (磯自慢 中取り 純米大吟醸 35), 2018 - more depth on the palate, with fermented notes.  Sweet on the attack, dry mid-palate, then sweet and long finish.

Isojiman Nakatori Junmai Daiginjo 35 (磯自慢 中取り 純米大吟醸 35), 2019 - banana and fermented rice.  Sweet but also a little dry on the palate.

Isojiman Daiginjo 28 Nobilemente (磯自慢 大吟醸 ノビルメンテ 28), 2016 - more mature on the palate, with some koshu feel.  Very viscous and clean on the palate.  More spicy and fermented notes.

Isojiman Daiginjo 28 Nobilemente (磯自慢 大吟醸 ノビルメンテ 28), 2018 - more muted compared to the Nakadori as well as the 2016.  More elegant but clearly less complex.

Zaku Concentration H (作  凝縮H) - very fermented, salty and mineral.

What an evening! It's not easy to put together a 6-vintage vertical of Nakadori 35, and we even got to compare 2 of these with the Noblimente 28. Now we just need to figure out a time to do that "La" tasting...

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