October 10, 2022

Surviving a second year

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It was two years ago that Four Sheets and I had our Covid wedding, with just four of us around the chef's table at Caprice. We wanted to make it a tradition of returning to the restaurant for each anniversary, and that's what we did last year. This year, however, saw our anniversary fall on a Monday - a day where the restaurant is closed. So we had to look for an alternative plan. Thankfully, our second-favorite French restaurant Ta Vie 旅 is on a different schedule and is able to accommodate us.

We start, as usual, with the house-made butter and ricotta.

And their signature nukazuke (糠漬け) bread. I happily devoured this while it was still piping hot, which helped to melt the butter.

Hokkaido "毛蟹" crab and jalapeño salad between slices of cucumber and broccoli terrines - we've seen this on social media and finally had a chance to taste it for ourselves. We love these vegetable terrines, as they're just so refreshing. Here we have two of these "wedges" making a sandwich of sorts... or a taco. The wedges were made with cucumbers, celery, broccoli, and avocado. In the middle we have Japanese horsehair crab (毛蟹), some shredded red radish, and fennel fronds. We've also got the crab claw on the side, along with some jalapeño gazpacho. Really clean and refreshing flavors from the vegetables, plus flavors of the sea from the crab, along with a tiny little kick from the sauce.

I was informed later that there was actually some gold foil hidden on the inside of the vegetable wedges, but I didn't notice it. Oh well...

Takano-san laid down the bowl with tortellini for our next course. The emerald green comes from spinach that has been used in the dough. We've got some lemon zest shavings as well as horseradish on top.

Then she came over with the bowl, and lifted the lid to remove lots of marinated salmon roe (イクラ). But wait... there's gold foil in here!

"Tortellini stuffed with smoked salmon rillettes served with house marinated "ikura" salmon roes" with horseradish, lemon zest, and cauliflower cream - so the salmon roe was spooned on top of the tortellini to complete the dish. Of course Takano-san made sure that we got the gold foil...

The filling was smoked rillettes of wild autumn salmon (秋鮭), and the smokiness definitely stood out. The horseradish was surprisingly mild. It all worked very well with the salmon roe, putting this dish in the category of oyako (親子).

The next dish came with a side of clam soup with matsutake (松茸). We've clearly got the clean and pure flavors of the clam, but the fragrance was all shroom.

Grilled "miru" geoduck clam and matsutake salad, toss with pesto genovese - the grilled Japanese geoduck (海松貝) was very crunchy, and I loved the addition of pesto genovese which managed to neutralize the unpleasant iodine usually found in the clam. The matsutake was, of course, wonderful, and I also liked the haricots verts. The little ginkgo nuts (銀杏) were deep-fried, and mine came with more gold foil...

Sourdough pain de campagne - although the nukazuke bread has been my favorite since the restaurant opened, I really, really love this bread. The thin yet really crunchy crust is just incredibly addictive,

Charcoal grilled kamasu stuffed with eggplant topped with oscietra caviar - the barracuda has been grilled over charcoal, delivering pretty smoky flavors. The middle of the roll was stuffed with eggplant grilled with rosemary, while a layer of diced bell pepper and tomato was spread on top of the fish. We then had a quenelle of Kaviari Kristal caviar on top, whose flavors were pretty strong but that was needed to work with the acidity and the smoke. The dish would certainly be Instagrammable thanks to the caviar, but its presence didn't feel gratuitous at all.

Pan-sseared fresh Brittany blue-lobster with pied blue mushroom, "tubu clam"-Japanese whelk, and "gobo" burdock - Four Sheets was disappointed at not getting the "ebi fry" again, but I would have no complaints about this homard bleu! The Japanese whelk (つぶ貝) was so, soooo tender. The burdock brought a light, earthy touch to the dish, and that sauce was just really beautiful with the buttery flavors. Yes, I can live without the "ebi fry"...

Roasted French black pork "Noir de Bigorre", celeriac and chestnut purée, Japanese chestnuts beignet, with white truffle from Italy - the Noir de Bigorre was really, really tender and tasty... lots of flavor for pork. The white truffle season has started, and it's always nice to get the aromatics. We have Brussels sprouts on the side along with chestnut beignet, but unfortunately the chesnuts were much, much too dry. The purée on the side was a combination of celeriac and chestnut, plus some horseradish.

Roselle tea - I have always loved the palate-cleanser here, and this orange-infused roselle tea is still as refreshing as ever. I would have wanted to drink a whole pot of it.

"Kyoho" grape and red shiso mousse with jelly, Calpis and grape soda - this made me so, so happy! Kyoho (巨峰) grapes have been a favorite since childhood, and I love the intensity of their flavors as well as the high sugar content. In the middle we have the Kyoho grapes from Nagano (長野) embedded in a grape jelly, surrounded by two types of foam made with Calpis Soda (カルピスソーダ) as well as grape soda - the latter enveloping brunoise of Japanese pear. The fizzy foam tingled and tickled the tongue, its acidity helping to balance the very ripe and sweet grapes.

The grape and red perilla mousse at the bottom brought an additional texture, and the perilla flowers on top brought their aromatics into the mix. What a beautiful dessert!

"Classic French baba, Ta Vie style", golden peach compote with vanilla ice cream, brioche soaked in osmanthus syrup - the brioche had been soaked in osmanthus syrup as well as Grand Marnier. The peach compote was very, very nice.

I chose to take the Simple Kaffa Tano Batak Mandheling coffee because I wanted, no, NEEDED, to have what comes with it...

Chocolate pudding - I will not get tired of having this beautiful chocolate pudding that has been infused with kaffir lime. Not until the day I die.

I brought along a simple bottle of wine that was appropriate for the occasion:

2020 Ygrec - nose was very fragrant from the get go, with fresh lemons, very floral. On the palate it was a little more rounded than expected, pretty ripe on the palate, a little bitter on the finish and I could feel the alcohol burning as it goes down. On the nose there was tropical fruit like candied pineapple. Delicious.

We leave with smiles plastered on our faces every time we come to this restaurant, but our visits this year have been spectacular. I really think that the kitchen has "levelled up", and while I would be the last person to have a clue, I think the Rubberman should think seriously about that third macaron...


Anonymous said...

Growing Boy,
I'm so glad after all these years you're still writing about your culinary adventures. So many have taken the easy way and just post it on IG without any context so thank you !!

Peech said...

Thank you so much! I guess I am just stubborn in that sense. It is, after all, my diary... and I do it to preserve all these memories for myself.


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