March 21, 2021

Supporting chef friends: rare and funky

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It was a few months ago that a couple of wine geeks got together to taste some interesting and relatively rare stuff, and we figured it was time for some of us to emerge from our cocoons.  When our original plan to return to a recent favorite hit a snag, Ta Vie 旅 became a sensible option.  The Film Buff and I have always been fans of Sato-san's cuisine, and we looked forward to trying whatever new that he was gonna throw our way.

We always start with the homemade nukazuke (糠漬け) bread, whose warmth and crispy crust brings a smile to my face without fail.

Butter and ricotta - of course these are also homemade.  

Dried figs and foie gras terrine with crispy buckwheat crêpe - so... a pretty classic combination of flavors, with a nice presentation.  I had to make sure to squeeze the galettes tightly while I grabbed this, or else the bottom layer of foie gras would remain stuck on the plate and detach from the rest.

Very smooth foie gras, as expected.  The sweetness from dried figs was always going to work well with the fat, and the crispy galettes together with the grains of buckwheat provided crunch.

"Soft-shell oyster": poached Japanese oyster from Nagasaki Konagai, beurre blanc sauce with ossetra caviar, celeriac - the oyster from Konagai (小長井) was gently poached, and came with "soft shell" made of slices of celeriac, spinach, and mushroom.

There was a good amount of acidity in the beurre blanc sauce, and integrated well with the creamy and slightly briny oyster, as well as the salty, oily oscietra caviar.  Very happy with this dish.

Grilled hokki clam, and spring vegetables with hokki juice - the surf clams (北寄貝) came with asparagus, broccolini, kai lan (芥蘭), and rapeseed flowers.  The marinière sauce brought a nice dash of acidity.

Simmered "Ezo" abalone, with barley risotto, fresh morel mushroom from Yunnan - the abalone from Ezo (蝦夷) is always very tender, and paired really well with the morels.  Pearl barley also works well in lieu of rice.

"Ebi-imo" / black truffle / chicken - not a fan.  To be sure, the chicken was very tender and actually tasted like chicken - which isn't something I take for granted these days.  However, I decided shrimp taro (海老芋) isn't something I would like to eat cold, as I prefer the texture to be silky and soft.  The flavors of the taro - along with the chicken - were also a little too bland, and became easily overwhelmed by the black truffle and cracked black pepper.  I wish there was a little something more in terms of seasoning that could have enhanced the natural flavors of the ingredients.

Cassoulet "à la maison": duck confit and Aveyron baby lamb spare ribs - Sato-san asked whether I was interested in having cassoulet, and I was secretly thinking : "DUH?!"  It's not exactly something I get to have often even though I love it.  In fact, the last time I had it was probably nearly 10 years ago... at Paul Pairet's Mr. and Mrs. Bund in Shanghai.

It was FUCKING FANTASTIC!  It's been a little while since I last had duck confit - of course, all the while I've been dreaming about chomping on CC's thighs - and this was very, very satisfying.  Those spare ribs from Aveyron baby lamb were so fatty and lamby... simply divine!  I couldn't be happier.

Roselle tea - this was always wonderful, with the fragrance of osmanthus and orange peel infused with roselle.  So refreshing.

Black cherry with chocolate sabayon, "tonka beans" ice cream - really, really tasty.  Chocolate and cherries are a classic combo, and the tonka bean in the ice cream brought their distinctive aromas.  

"Kinkan" Japanese kumquat compote with crêpe, cream cheese ice cream, osmanthus powder - very happy to be having kumquat here again.  They leave such a beautiful fragrance lingering in the mouth, and of course osmanthus, too.

Chocolate mousse - I couldn't leave here without having my favorite chocolate mousse in the world, and it is just the perfect way to end a meal here.  That fragrance from kaffir lime leaves is just beautiful.

When a few wine geeks get together, you're bound to see some interesting stuff. Apparently tonight's theme was "rare and funky", although the Film Buff didn't seem to have gotten the memo.

Jacques Selosse Initial, dégorgée le 22 mai 2014 - very yeasty nose, really floral and fragrant.  Great depth on palate.

2015 Gantenbein Riesling - white flowers, a little tropical stone fruit, and flint.  Riper on the palate than expected.  With more aeration, petrol notes became more prominent. 

2008 Petitjean Montrachet - what a surprise!  The nose was soooo fruity and tropical like pineapples and peaches, with some acetone.  I couldn't believe this was a chardonnay.

2013 Kusuda Pinot Noir - lovely nose with plenty of sweet fruit.  Very clean, cool fruit.  Eucalyptus and roses, very floral.

The Film Buff and I were both very happy to be back at one of our favorite restaurants, and I'm grateful that the Candidate was also able to join us.  Looking forward to our next gathering in a few weeks!

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