March 31, 2022

Saying sayonara with flowers

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Every year around this time, I try to book myself 2 or 3 meals at Godenya (ごでんや) to make sure I get to taste a couple of my favorite seasonal ingredients. Not only is spring the season for firefly squid (蛍烏賊), but there are tiny little flowers whose season only lasts a few short weeks. Timing the reservation - which is usually made months in advance - wrong by a few days would mean missing out on that incredible fragrance. As I would find out from Goshima-san, the all-important shipment only came in hours before we arrived, and The Great One actually missed out on tasting it a few days ago by mere hours.

Today Sankala and I are bidding farewell to a few friends who are leaving town for a while. After months of social distancing, dining bans, and travel restrictions, more and more of my friends have decided to escape so that they can roam around the rest of the world. DaRC will fly off to Silicon Valley for some work before doing some traveling, and Fat Donkey will visit family Down Under. This would be the last chance for us to meet up for the next 3 months at least... so I was pretty happy that we could come here for a nice meal.

Sakura-trout, torigai, sansho-leaf, bracken (桜鱒  鳥貝  山椒の葉  蕨) - the cherry salmon from Aomori Prefecture (青森県) was slow-cooked and smoked, and came with tender cockle (鳥貝) from Osaka (大阪), along with a miso made with sansho (山椒), topped with sansho leaves (木の芽), sansho flowers (花山椒), and fern. Love the fragrance of the sansho, which was of course why we are here!

Beau Michelle Snow Fantasy (ボー・ミッシェル スノーファンタジー うすにごり生原酒), 2021-22 - served at 9°C. Seimaibuai (精米歩合) of 60%. Sweet and fruity with some light lactic acid.

Monkfish liver, scallop, wasabi stem, wakame (鮟肝  帆立  花山葵  新若芽) - this was pretty nice. The scallops from Iwate Prefecture (岩手県) were, of course, fresh and tender. The Yoichi (余市) monkfish liver is always creamy and tasty, and the wasabi stems lent their distinctive flavors to the mix.

Hirotogawa Junmai Daiginjo Nama (廣戸川  純米大吟醸  生), 2021-22 - served at 12°C.  Seimaibuai of 45%. A little more dry. Some sweetness here but definitely got that long and dry finish.

Soba, dried mullet roe, shirauo-fish, shiso-flower (蕎麦  唐墨  白魚  花穂) - OK... so this was an improvement on previous versions as we now have more of the dried mullet roe for more salt and more flavors. But the ice fish (白魚) from Shimane Prefecture (島根県) were still not delivering enough flavors to go with the bland soba.

Kaiun Unfiltered Junmai Nama (開運  無濾過  純米生), 2021-22 - served at 16°C. Seimaibuai of 55%. Tasted much sweeter together with the salty dried mullet roe, and much richer on the palate. Sweet on the attack but some dryness in the long finish.

Scampi, white asparagus, broad bean, sansyo-flower (赤座海老  ホワイトアスパラガス  空豆  花山椒) - the Japanese lobster (赤座海老) from Kanagawa Prefecture (神奈川県) was served up with its own blue roe, along with white asparagus from Hokkaido, some miso, broad beans, and most importantly, those beautiful sansho flowers. These definitely left that tingling, numbing feeling on the tip of my tongue. Just what I wanted.

Jyuji Asahi Junmai Ginjo Genshu (十旭日  純米吟醸原酒), 2009-10 - served at 23°C. Seimaibuai of 55%. Fermented flavors like Chinese salty plum thanks to the aging. Sweet and so interesting.

Amadai-fish, hamaguri-clam, hotaru-ika, mugwort, chawan-mushi (甘鯛  蛤  蛍烏賊  蓬  茶碗蒸し) - the bowl of steamed egg custard looked deceptively simple... but this was no ordinary chawanmushi (茶碗蒸し).

But we've got delicious firefly squid from Toyama Prefecture (富山県), a succulent piece of tilefish (甘鯛) from Yamaguchi Prefecture (山口県), clam from Chiba Prefecture (千葉県), together with the jus of the tilefish. Very, very good.

Takesuzume Yamahai Junmai Ginjo Unfiltered Nama (竹雀  山廃純米吟醸  無濾過生), 2016-17 - served at 45°C. Seimaibuai of 50%. Very, very fermented notes, also with some Chinese salted plum. The warmth of the high serving temperature is nice.

Abalone, bambooshoot, rice (鮑  鮑肝  筍  米) - the signature dish, featuring abalone from Miyagi Prefecture (宮城県) and crunchy bamboo shoots, also came with some pen shell (平貝) today. The pine nuts added more crunchy as usual, and of course the abalone liver sauce was indidpensable.

Fumotoi Junmai Ginjo Nama (麓井  純米吟醸  生), 2021-22 - served at 12°C. Seimaibuai of 55%. This tasted pretty bland, like some rice water, and dry on the palate. Meh.

Kinki-fish, fish-roe, onion, fuki, ostrich fern, canola flower, sansho-flower (吉次  鯛子  新玉葱  蕗  こごみ  菜の花  花山椒) - the beautiful piece of broadbanded thornyhead (喜知次) was perfectly grilled to give a little smoky flavor and crispy skin while retaining the moisture of the flesh. In the bowl we also had sea bream roe, young onions from Awaji Island (淡路島), ostrich fern (こごみ), canola flowers, and of course, more sansho flowers! What a beautiful dish!

Hikomago Junmai Ginjo (ひこ孫  純米吟醸), 2009-10 - served at 50°C. Seimaibuai of 50%. Good balance between acidity and sweetness, with fermented notes thanks to the aging.

Duck, somen (鴨  煮麺) - always love a simple bowl of noodles with some smoky duck and broth, along with sweet-tasting leeks.

Earl Grey, ice, strawberry, aged sake 1968 (アールグレイ  アイス  苺  古酒1968) - love the crème brûlée, especially those almond flakes.

Eikun Daikoshu Kohaku (英君 古酒こはく), 1968 - made in S43BY and aged for 10 years. Poured onto the dessert.

I was very, very happy to be dining out today. I got my first taste of those precious sansho flowers this season, and overall the dishes were very, very good. I'm hoping that my next booking in 4 weeks - for dinner this time - will still feature these flowers.

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