February 25, 2023

Hello from the other side

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After the banquet with family last night, the four of us are doing a more intimate dinner on mom's birthday. The original plan was to have a casual meal at the club in the neighborhood, but dad decided a couple of days ago that it wasn't gonna be good enough for such a big day. For the second time in about a month, I was forced to find a suitable restaurant on very short notice - this time with mom's dietary restrictions in mind.

And so it was that 33 days after our first visit, in spite of some unpleasantness that came to pass, we found ourselves back at the Ukai Taipei - this time on the side of the restaurant serving kappo (割烹) instead of teppanyaki (鉄板焼).

As usual, the chef came out to introduce the ingredients they would be using for the meal. I must applaud the Japanese chef and our server for their Mandarin abilities, and apologize for having difficulty understanding them not because of their accents, but my own unfamiliarity with ingredient names in Chinese...

Chargrilled prawn with pumpkin soup - the prawn from Penghu (澎湖) was very smoky thanks to the charcoal, and the pumpkin soup came with shellfish stock.

The platter came bearing a few small dishes:

The "rabbit" is made of mashed potatoes with minced Iberico pork and diced onions inside, and the eyes were pink peppercorns.

Herring (鯡) is cooked with bonito flakes and honey. Tasted familiar like 甘露煮, which is something I really love. Served with a little rice and spinach.

Shinodamaki (信田巻き) - made with tofu.

Datemaki and myoga (伊達巻  茗荷)

Ox tongue (牛タン) - double-boiled and so, soooo tender that it practically melted in the mouth. Served with a tiny dab of yellow mustard, with onion and broccolini on the side.

Raw fish (お造り) - olive flounder (平目) was tender but still had some crunch on th edges. The medium-fatty tuna (中トロ) was very tender and soft, like cotton balls.

Japanese snow crab (松葉蟹) - after complaining about the tiny amount of snow crab at our last meal, mom finally got a decent amount of Japanese snow crab from Hokkaido with this bowl. The broth was made with sake lees (酒粕) and I could definitely taste both the sweetness and the alcohol, as well as the starchy texture. Also came with some shimeji (しめじ) mushrooms.

The shinjo (真薯) was made with crab meat and cod.

Our main course is next, featuring Japanese beef.

Chargrilled filet mignon - unlike our last visit, the beef tonight came from Miyazaki (宮崎). Served with a sauce made with beef bones and vegetables. Just like buttah...

The roll consisted of a thin slice of red radish wrapped around a stick of Japanese yam.

Clay pot rice (釜飯) - obviously a big enough pot that would be difficult for the four of us to finish. However, the restaurant does not allow the customers to take leftovers home, which they claim is "traditional" in Japan. This was news to me, since places like Kikunoi (菊乃井) certainly did, and Yukimura (幸村) even made the rice into onigiri (おにぎり) for me.

The rice with Hokkaido scallops and turnips was very, very delicious. Loved the clean and light flavors here, especially from the crunchy diced radish and the radish greens. Since they wouldn't let us take the leftovers home, mom asked our server to pick out the remaining pieces of scallops so she could eat them. I'm grateful he accommodated her.

Grape jelly - the jelly was made with German riesling, along with Kyoho (巨峰) grapes, grape granité, and topped with a mousse made with sugar-free yogurt.

Crème caramel - this was MY dessert, but knowing how much mom loves this, I offered her some of mine even though she already has her own portion. Well, she said she would have "a bite". I excused myself to go to the toilet, and when I returned, this was completely gone...

Of course a big birthday deserves a big bottle of wine:

1943 Haut-Brion, rebouché en 2011, Sotheby's ex-château auction 4 October 2013 - served without decanting. Definitely smoky with tobacco notes, still got the fruit. Condition is very, very good and still very much alive. Around 30 minutes in there was almost a hint of metallic notes. Still OK at about 45 minutes in, with a hint of green bell peppers. The wine lasted more than an hour, which was a testament to its condition.

While there was nothing wrong with the dishes from the teppanyaki side last time, it was clear that the Parental Units were much happier with their experience tonight. Service was, in particular, very good. Mom was also happy with her bottle of wine and felt vindicated in her decision to not pop this bottle at dinner last night. As for me... my only concern was about making the Parental Units happy, and it looks like I achieved that goal.

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