August 7, 2020

4-star day: char siu and ramen

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It has been much too long since I last enjoyed a leisurely lunch on a weekday, and after all that's happened lately I thought I should take a little break.  Today's lunch was meant to have taken place a week ago, but thanks to the sudden ban - which was quickly reversed 2 days later - of all dine-in services, we ended up not showing up at the doors of Ta Vie 旅.

Thankfully we found time for lunch today, and the dish DaRC and I most wanted to have was still available.

We started with some cold-brew tea, which happened to have been sourced by DaRC.  This was, apparently, "green" Iron Buddha (綠鐵觀音).  Just so floral and fragrant, such elegance!

Sweet corn puffed mousse with aburi botan shrimp in shrimp broth jelly - we had a choice for our first course, and I just couldn't pass up the chance to have this again.  Sato-san's first signature dish since the very beginning of the restaurant that we love so much...  That ring of fluffy, ethereal sweet corn mousse, the center which held diced sections of barely-torched botan shrimp (牡丹海老), diced chives, sections of grilled sweet corn, crunchy chips made of tapioca and corn, drizzle of olive oil, and topped with a layer of shrimp consommé gelée.

At once sweet and savory - especially with that beautiful olive oil - and the umami from the gelée.  That combination of textures, too!  I've really missed this.

As usual the bread made with nukazuke (糠漬け).  One of those amazing things made in-house that I can never get enough of.

Homemade butter

Homemade ricotta

Japanese octopus "madako" from "佐島" 三浦半島 in octopus bouillon - the octopus had clearly been cooked for some time so that it is very, very tender.  The small suckers at the ends of the tentacles have almost been liquefied.  The bouillon was delicious and accented with beautiful olive oil.  The capers added a hint of acidity.

Sato-san brought out the smoking piece of char siu, which was a nice presentation.  I guess he realized that for this market, a dramatic presentation is important... or at least can't hurt.

Charcoal grilled Iberico pork "char siu" glazed with "Pedro Ximénez" sherry, smoked with grape vine, black truffle - the Iberico pork was, of course, very nice and tender.  And delivered great flavors, without the need for the shaved black truffle.  The caramelized cashews were nice, and I even thought the little dot of beetroot mustard was interesting...

Duck ramen no.2 thick white broth, yuzu koshou - having tasted an earlier version of the Peking duck ramen late last year, it was interesting to try a very different version today.  I'm sure Sato-san has been improving his roast Peking duck since then, and the slices of duck definitely tasted on the sweet side - just like before.

But now the broth is duck paitan (白湯), which is perhaps inspired by the chicken paitan ramen in Japan.  In reality, though, DaRC and I found similarities with the duck soup served by some Peking duck specialists in Beijing.  Loved the milky broth, with a little bit of acidity to balance the fat.  Of course the noodles have been made in-house, as it has always been.  Delicious and satisfying.  And surprisingly filling.  We were offered additional noodles (替玉), but we just couldn't...

Roselle tea - always really refreshing.

Almond tofu with peach compote, fresh lychee and oolong tea jelly - BABY, THIS IS WHAT YOU CAME FOR...  And we did!  I always have to remind DaRC how he shamelessly asked Sato-san for a second serving of this dessert on our very first visit here... and all five of us got a second serving.

And it's a glorious dessert.  On top of the almond tofu (杏仁豆腐) sitting at the bottom were slices of Japanese peach compote, the last lychees of the season, Oolong tea gelée, a quenelle of peach sorbet, and a little bit of rose petals to add to the aromatics.

I gotta say, though, that I wish we got a little bit more lychee... because they were so floral and so fantastic.  Oh well... I'll have to wait till next year.

Brittany classic "far breton" with "南華李" seasonal local plum - we didn't get to have these when I did the take out a few weeks ago, and I'm very happy to taste this again.  It's been a year since I last had Sato-san's far breton, and I was pretty happy.

Monkey Picked Iron Buddha tea (馬騮搣鐵觀音)

Walnut meringue - probably the best batch I've had over the last 5 years.

This was a really nice and relaxing lunch, and I'm glad I got the opportunity to take a small break after all the stress lately.

I'm a little sad, though, that the restaurant isn't more busy.  I suppose not many people are able to have a long lunch on a weekday, or able/willing to spend money on a quality lunch when many restaurants are trying to drum up business by offering more economical alternatives.  I wish there were more fans of Ta Vie 旅 in the city, because it would be difficult to find another restaurant in town where the chef is more focused on delivering with quality ingredients with precision and control.  It's always been one of my favorite restaurants in town, and I'm so happy that it's here.

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