April 29, 2022

The Kitchen Nazi and the Lonely Gourmet

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Sankala was doing a girls' night at home, and I figured I'd get out of their way and dine out by myself. Rather than trying to book myself a table of one at some fancy shmancy place, I figured this would be the perfect opportunity for me to play out the part of Norm sitting across from Sam, since Neighborhood has always felt like that kind of place for some of us. I arrived at the restaurant - now with new counter and table tops along with new chairs - to the sight of a lone table setting at the bar. That's where I'd be spending the next three hours.

Little did I know that I would end up spending the night sitting across from the Kitchen Nazi. I had specifically told Shirley that I didn't want the Man in White T-shirt to do his usual thing and send me his specials. There were specific dishes that I wanted to order, some of which he never sends out anymore. And I wanted to make sure that the food wouldn't clash with the bottle of wine that I was bringing. But... no. I was not allowed to order one single dish of my own choosing. The Kitchen Nazi knows best.

Deep-fried Hokkaido wild spring garlic / escargot / caviar - this was off-menu, and I watched the Kitchen Nazi prepare it in front of me without knowing that this was for me. After all, there were 6 of these and just one of me. As I watched him carefully spoon the N25 caviar on top, I began to suspect that this may, in fact, be my first dish. The suspicion was confirmed when he yelled out into the kitchen asking where they had put the pack of gold foil.

Alas, the kitchen never found their gold foil, but that didn't detract from the beauty of the dish. Beauty, that is, when it came to the flavors. Of course the escargot would work with garlic, and naturally the caviar with sour cream, but putting the two combinations together was pure genius.

Hiroshima Kajiya Farm salad / sea bream - once again, I saw the boss toss the salad in front of me without knowing it was for me. After all, no one would make a salad this size just for one person, right? Especially when he joked about how I should complain about chefs who insist on putting little herbs and flowers in their food. Well... the salad stopped being vegan when he added the slices of sea bream quickly marinated in olive oil and shaved some of the bottarga on top.

When I complained about the size of this salad, the Kitchen Nazi told me that I should "eat more greens". I tried to finish, but chose to save some room for the multitude of dishes still to come. I gotta say I did a pretty good job, though, because I think less than 15% of the greens remained on the plate when I asked for it to be taken away.

French Aquitaine beef tartare / South African abalone / hanasansho - OK... so I would have ordered this dish anyway, just for the seasonal sansho flowers (花山椒) I love so much. This was just a very pretty dish.

As always, I love the hand-chopped beef which has a nice bite, which has also been seasoned to delivered plenty of flavors. The slices of South African abalone were very crunchy. Of course, those little flowers added a lovely fragrance while tickling the tongue with that tingling, numbing sensation. The sansho leaves (木の芽) also added more fragrance.

Charcoal grilled baby squid / Hokkaido wild spring garlic - I've been bowled over by previous versions of squid being served up in sizzling hot pans, and while these came plated, the wonderfully smoky flavors meshed so well with the diced and pan-fried spring garlic. I love, love chipirones, but where are those firefly squids (蛍烏賊) that are on the menu but I wasn't allowed to order?!

Sisteron lamb saddle / eggplant / tomato - I got a cut of this from the big piece that was roasted. While this was very lamby and tasty, unfortunately it was also a little difficult to chew... and damn fatty, too... and you don't hear me complain about fat very often. The eggplants and tomato on the side were very, very tasty.

Tarte tatin / ice cream - I really didn't have room for dessert but... did I have a choice?? Very delicious as always.

Canelés - MY PRECIOUS...

I brought along a bottle of wine that I wanted to try out, and I knew that I could just sip slowly over dinner. I did, of course, share some with the Kitchen Nazi and Shirley. It's nothing fancy, but from a relatively rare plot of land where there are only a few producers. One of those producers is highly sought-after nowadays, and that particular bottling is currently priced at some 50 times the price of this bottle... So this is about all I can afford.

2017 Sylvain Pataille Bourgogne Le Chapitre - notes of leather, a little animal, and black cherries. Tannins are still here for sure. Showing more sweetness after 30 minutes. After 1½ hours definitely more open, showing more dried herbs and perhaps a little stem. More tannic at this point and also more complex. Sometime before the 2½-hour mark the wine just "died" on the palate and tasted horrible, but the nose was still perfectly fine.

I loved playing the loney gourmet tonight - just sitting at the bar by myself, chatting with the boss and the staff while enjoying the food and my bottle of wine at a leisurely pace. Now if only I could be allowed to actually eat what I want...

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