August 6, 2021

No sushi Friday

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One of the phenomena which has happened in Hong Kong during 2021 under the pandemic is the (somewhat limited) resurgence of the dining scene.  The whole food and beverage industry is, of course, still hurting from the prolonged period of social distancing measures imposed by the government, and some have been hurting since the mass protests of 2019.  However, due to the inability of many diners to travel elsewhere to satisfy their food cravings, the resulting pent-up demand has been redirected to a number of restaurants in town - and this is especially evident towards the higher end.  Certain restaurants are now so popular that a number of them no longer have availability within the 2021 calendar year, and others fill up their available slots as soon as they are offered out to the public, often a few months in advance.

One of these is my beloved Godenya (ごでんや), where bookings open for an entire 1 to 2 month period a few months in advance, and generally fill out within the first day or two. I have gotten into the habit of booking seats in advance just so I can lock-in a date that works for me, and subsequently syndicating out extra seats to friends. I booked tonight's dinner 3 months ago, but somehow I forgot to ask anyone to join us until about 2 weeks ago. Thankfully Fat Donkey and company are available, and it's been a while since this group last got together.

Botan-ebi, shiro-ebi, peach, sea asparagus, shiso-flower (牡丹海老  白海老  白桃  シーアスパラガス) - both botan shrimp from Hokkaido along with its green roe, and glass shrimp (白海老) from Toyama Prefecture (富山県) were sweet as expected. The salicornia and sauce made with shrimp tomalley provided some salt and umami, while the Japanese white peach was really cold and refreshing, with nice sugary, fruity flavors.

Iseno Shiroki Junmai Nama Sparkling (伊勢の白酒  純米生活性), 2020-21 - served at 10°C. Seimaibuai (精米歩合) of 65%. Lovely sweetness, so fruity. A little lactic acid at the start along with the effervescence. So refreshing to start the meal with this.

Ishikage-kai, hoya, junsai, soba (いしかげ貝  ホヤ  蓴菜  蕎麦) - while Japanese chefs like using Bering Sea cockles (石垣貝) - these were from Iwate Prefecture (岩手県) - because they're big and tasty, but sea squirt (ホヤ) isn't something that shows up a lot around here. These weren't from Jeju Island but Miyagi Prefecture (宮城県). The use of watershield (蓴菜) from their slippery texture was interesting, but I have to say that the dish was really just too bland. It needs something to bring out the natural flavors of all the ingredients a little more, otherwise it tasted completely flat and boring.

Kozaemon Junmai Daiginjo (小左衛門  純米大吟醸  赤磐雄町), 2020-21 - served at 12°C. Seimaibuai of 47%. Also on the sweet and fruity side, but a little dry on the finish.

Uni, kamo-nasu, konbu (殼雲丹  賀茂茄子  昆布) - well... this was always gonna be a crowd-pleaser. Whose eyes don't light up at the sight of a sea urchin shell filled to the brim?!

It seemed like the tongues of the sea urchin - coming from Iwate Prefecture - were left on the shell for us to scrape off. We've also got some mashed glutinous rice and big chunks of Kamo eggplant, with some konbu (昆布) sauce on top. I thought everything worked together pretty well.

Yuho Junmai Ginjo Nama (遊穂  純米吟醸  生原酒), 2020-21 - served at 17°C. Seimaibuai of 55%. A little more dry on the palate with some acidity.

Anago, turnip, sansyo (穴子  蕪  山椒) - the conger eel (穴子) from Nagasaki Prefecture (長崎県) came in two different styles - with traditional sauce as well as shirayaki (白焼き). I gotta say that I didn't care for the shirayaki tonight as there wasn't enough salt to season it. Instead of the standard sansho (山椒) powder I find so fragrant, we've got marinated sansho peppercorns - whose flavors become more dull after marinating.

We've got the veggies underneath. Overall, though, I was rather disappointed.

Hoken Junmai Daijinjo (宝剣  純米大吟醸  中汲み), 2020-21 - served at 12°C. Seimaibuai of 40%. Rich and viscous on the palate. Sweet on the attack which turned drier afterwards.

Ayu, shiso-leaf, Manganji pepper, taro stem (鮎  大葉  万願寺唐辛子  芋茎) - I love it when they serve sweetfish (鮎) as it's always whole, and tonight these came from Aichi Prefecture (愛知県). This time, though, they've removed the bone and deep-fried it as a crispy chip... which was totally delicious. The fish came immersed in broth, with some Manganji pepper (万願寺唐辛子), taro stem, and shredded perilla leaves. We've also got a mash made with glutinous rice buried at the bottom. The Japanese like to eat their fishies with guts intact, so there's a reasonable amount of bitterness here that needs to be offset by the broth as well as the vegetables.

Mukyutenon Kimoto Junmai Ginjo Sake (無窮天穏  生酛  純米吟醸  斎香), 2019-20 - served at 42°C.  Seimaibuai of 60%. Good balance between sweetness and acidity, with nice fermented flavors.

Awabi, awabi liver, pine nut, rice (鮑  鮑肝  松の実  米) - the perennial favorite, and always a welcome sight. Tonight, though, there seemed to be a little bit less abalone liver sauce than usual, which was a shame. However, the combination of the sliced abalone from Miyagi Prefecture (宮城県), diced zucchini, morels, risotto, and perilla leaves was still a winner.

Shiragiku Junmai Nigori (白菊  純米にごり), 2020-21 - served at 11°C. Seimaibuai of 55%. Good acidity and fruity notes.

Kinki-fish, fruit tomato, okura flower, summer yuzu (キンキ  フルーツトマト  花オクラ  青柚子) - the grilled broadbanded thornyhead (喜知次) from Hokkaido, which was succulent as expected - came with summer vegetables such as okra flower, finely diced okra, fruit tomato, corn, and a beautiful fish broth.

Hikomago Junmai Ginjo (ひこ孫 純米吟醸), 2006-07 - served at 47°C. Seimaibuai of 50%. Pretty fermented notes, definitely a little savory, and a little dry on the finish.

Somen, sudachi (素麺  酢橘) - always happy to end the savory part of the meal with some noodles. The combination of sudachi (酢橘) with smoky dashi (出汁) was nice.

Almond, ice, warabi-mochi, melon, matcha, sake (アーモンドアイス  わらび餅  メロン  抹茶  酒) - the sauce here was made by adding matcha (抹茶) to a nigori sake (にごり酒) from Nida Shizensyu (にいだしぜんしゅ).  This was very nice.  As Sankala can't have caffeine at this hour, Goshima-san very kindly poured some umeshu (梅酒) on top of her portion, then proceeded to offer us a taste of the very same umeshu.

Yamagata Masamune Torotoro Umeshu (山形正宗  とろとろ梅酒) - very thick with the pulp purée. So interesting to have this viscous version.

This was a pretty fun evening. Maybe due to the presence of alcohol, I definitely felt that we had instances of "overshare" which made for a few good laughs. Looking forward to getting together with this group more often, even if we don't get served sushi by Goshima-san...

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