November 10, 2020

Getting creative with hairy crab

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This Arrogant Prick has never been popular with PRs, so I very seldom receive invitations to tastings.  But a couple of weeks ago, I received an email which seemed to have strayed into my inbox by accident.  Someone I don't know wanted to invite me to taste the seasonal menu at Sushiyoshi (寿し芳).  Are they out of their minds?  Do they know who I am?  As it turns out, one of the bosses does know who I am and is well aware of my reputation.  I took a quick look at the kind of stuff that this Osaka import turns out, and decided that I was intrigued enough to give it a try.

The restaurant apparently is serving a seasonal menu featuring Shanghainese hairy crab (大閘蟹).  This was certainly interesting, and I really wanted to see if chef Sugawara Ryohei (菅原良平) could deliver the flavors in sushi form.

There are 20 courses on the menu, which is a little daunting because that's a lot of food.  Twenty pieces of nigiri from Sukiyabashi Jiro (すきやばし  次郎) is pretty filling, and here some of the courses would be bigger than a standard nigiri.  I was in for an interesting evening.

We started with some Laurent-Perrier La Cuvée, which went down pretty easily.

Akagai sashimi with seaweed, passion fruit foam - I'm normally not a great fan of the ark shell (赤貝) due to its strong iodine flavors, but tonight the fruity and acidity flavors in the vinegar and passion fruit foam helped to neutralize the iodine.  Kudos to the chef!  The cucumber and the chrysanthemum from Yamagata Prefecture (山形県) were nice, but it was the iwa mozuku (岩もずく) from Okinawa that was the most interesting.  The "normal" mozuku is usually limp, but this was pretty crunchy.  A pretty good start to the meal.

Pacific saury with shiitake - nice and smoky flavors from the fatty Pacific saury.  Interesting that the chef chose to use diced shiitake (椎茸) instead of rice as the shari (シャリ), but it works.

Hairy crab with sake and millet wine gelatine - looks creative, but the flavors of the hairy crab were a little muted.  I certainly didn't taste the Chinese yellow wine in either the crab, the crab roe, or the gelatin on top.  There were some nice orange flavors there, though.

Wild eel with kinome and Grana Padano - it's so rare to see wild eel in Hong Kong, and this came from Ibaraki Prefecture (茨城県).  It had fattened up for the winter, and grilled so that the bottom was crispy and tasted a little bitter from the charring.  The sansho leaf (木の芽) and vinegar sauce was a little light, and the egg yolk sauce was OK.

Botan shrimp carpaccio with creamy hairy crab uni "crystal ball" - lovely presentation, not traditional Japanese at all.  The ball contained a hairy crab cream sauce which, to be honest, didn't taste much like hairy crab but more like a stronger hollandaise.  I did taste the sea urchin flavors in the powder, however.  Overall though, this was a nice dish.

Shiro-ebi Hokkaido Konbumori uni sushi - the first hand roll of the evening came with a combination of Japanese glass shrimp (白海老) and saltwater sea urchin (塩水雲丹) from Konbumori (昆布森) in Hokkaido.  Very nice and sweet.

Kinmedai sushi - first real nigiri.  Interesting to note the relatively mild acidity in the shari, and that the temperature is relatively low.

Sumi ika sushi - the squid (墨烏賊) came from Nagasaki (長崎).  Good thickness in the shari and still firm in terms of texture, with only a thin layer at the top having been slightly liquefied - although I think the word I heard used was "gooey".  Always nice to have a sprinkle of yuzu (柚子) zest shavings on top, in addition to the salt.

Kuromutsu sushi - the Japanese bluefish (黒睦) came from Kōzu Island (神津島).  This was very tender, to the point of almost cotton-like.  With a dab of spicy miso on top.

Slow cooked lobster with hairy crab roe - NOW WE'RE TALKIN'!  So we've got a chunk of French homard bleu that has been slow-cooked with shrimp roe and yuzu rind, and the citrus fragrance certainly showed.  But that dollop of hairy crab roe on top... FINALLY, the full, unadulterated version... the purity and intensity of the flavors!  This made me so happy.  

And I even found the little wafer of pressed caviar interesting, as it added just the right amount of salt and savory notes.

Saba bozushi - I'm a huuuge (or is it "yuuuuge"?) fan of 鯖棒鮨, and I was really, really happy to have gotten this big piece with that nice chunk of marinated mackerel.  Sugawara-san carefully laid a wafer-thin slice of marinated kelp on top.

Hairy crab roe temaki sushi - I was thinking of doing an Austin Power rendition of "YEAH, BABY, YEAH!" when I saw this.  Served with a dab of nikiri shoyu (煮切り醬油) and of course some Chekiang black vinegar.  I could have used another 3 of these.

Sujiko sushi - we were first shown the whole batch of sujiko (筋子) from a salmon caught off Hokkaido.  When this was served as a gunkanmaki (軍艦巻き), the membranes joining the eggs together had been removed, although the eggs remained very lightly marinated so they tasted like slightly salted egg yolks, with that creamy and viscous texture.  Very nice.

Hokkigai sushi - cooked on a hot stone as ishiyaki (石焼).  Still got some of that iodine flavor.  Very interesting mix of textures between that chewiness and springiness, while staying very tender on the underside.

Blacklip abalone and uni - the blacklip abalone was steamed for 6 hours.  We were given pretty big chunks of it, and asked to bite off the top before putting it back down.  The abalone was just bursting with flavor, very 鮮.  Sugawara-san then laid down a few tongues of chilled, sweet sea urchin on top.  How good is that?!  The sea urchin came from Kaneyo Kamomeyo Suisan (カネヨ鴎洋水産) in Nemuro (根室), Hokkaido.

Abalone jus - the remnants after steaming.  Beautiful and pure.

Shima aji sushi - my replacement piece for not taking tuna.  Nice and marbled, very tender p>
Hairy crab ravioli with white truffle - made with two seasonal ingredients - Shanghainese hairy crab and Italian white truffle.  Garnished with a nasturtium leaf.

This just reminded me of crab ravioli I had tasted elsewhere because, well, that's what it was.  The stuffing was made of crab meat, and the sauce was made with crab meat and crab roe.  Textures and flavors were all familiar, albeit somewhat heavier.  

Toro maki roll - I watched as Sugawara-san meticulously cut up strips of tuna from different parts - chutoro (中トロ), toro (トロ), grilled toro, aged toro, and even some swordfish (メカジキ).  This was rolled up into an incredible-looking futomaki (太巻き), and believe me, if you were to choose a futomaki to eat, this would definitely be the one.  
But of course, I had chosen not to eat any tuna - a choice I explained to Sugawara-san and something which he understood.  So I didn't get to taste it.  When he asked whether I wanted something else, I thought about all the food I had already enjoyed, and declined his kind offer.

Hairy crab miso cappuccino - made by simmering crab shells and hairy crab roe, this delicious concoction tasted a lot like lobster bisque but not as heavy with cream.

Hairy crab roe mochi - how interesting to have a savory dessert!  The stuffing was made with salted egg yolk, hairy crab roe, hairy crab meat, and narazuke (奈良漬け).  I definitely detected the subtle crunch of the tiny bits of pickles.

Mandarin jelly with lemon ginger sorbet - a drizzle of lemon olive oil.  Tradition calls for ginger tea at the end of a crab feast so that the heat from ginger could balance out the cold from the crab.  So here we go.
I was glad I accepted this kind invitation from the restaurant, as the meal was certainly delicious and interesting.  I haven't made it back to Osaka in more than 10 years, but I guess I would try to check out the honten (本店) the next time I'm in town.

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