April 18, 2023

Japan Michelin tour 2023 day 4: Goh(Gan)

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The reason why we are back in Japan, and in Fukuoka in parsticular, just a few weeks after our last trip was to come to dinner tonight. Gaggan had mentioned to me in Singapore that they are doing GohGan again this month, but the dates were only finalized a couple of weeks ago. Gaggan asked us to come a couple of days early so we can hang out together.

When Foursheets and I came to Fukuoka last month, we chose to dine at Goh because we wanted to try Goh-san's cuisine. We also chose to not dine at GohGan since we knew we would return one day for a proper GohGan collaboration. So here we are tonight.

But Gaggan did not come. There's a family emergency the likes of which takes priority over everything else in life. And all of us told him over the last 2 days that he shouldn't come, so in the end he didn't board his scheduled flight. His absence would be explained to the diners, and they would understand. Well... in his absence at least we can pose for a selfie with this puppet, which cost Goh-san an arm and a leg to custom make.

The format tonight was completely different from the past. While the team has come up with a number of special dishes for this event over the last few days, it's no longer a fixed tasting menu. Diners are free to choose any dish not only from this list of new dishes but also from the restaurant's "regular" menu, à la carte. Suddenly it doesn't feel so special as it had been in the past... but we picked mostly from the special menu.

Pani puri - always nice to start off with something like this, although it's different from previous versions and seems more classic.

Ceviche mixto - with raw greater amberjack (関八), fried squid, citrus, Kyushu carrot, dill, and pickled cucumber. Nice citrus flavors here.

Butabara - grilled pork belly with pineapple chutney. Loved this as it was very fatty with lots of pork flavors.

Shirasu and egg tostada - this was the only dish I ordered off the "regular" menu, but the minute I saw the words "white bait" I knew I had to order it. Just look at the pile of whitebait!

Served with scrambled eggs, seaweed, and salsa verde. Sooooo happy!

Kerala fried fish - this didn't work for me. While the red snapper had been blacked and one could taste some black pepper through the bitter charring, the fish itself was very under-seasoned. The watercress on the side was also bitter, and the umeboshi (梅干) sauce on top only helped a little.

Okara vada with shrimpl - this didn't work out how I imagined. While I loved the flavors of sakura shrimp (桜海老), the use of okara (おから) made the whole thing very grainy... and I didn't care for the texture.

Beef cheek khichdi - the Kyushu beef cheek was very nice, as it was crispy on the outside while still very tender inside. Khichdi made with Kumamoto rice was OK.

GohGan seafood curry - this was a total disappointment. It was so mild there was almost no heat at all. It was just a creamy blob with crab, clams, Japanese tiger prawns, squid, and snapper. It did get a little better with a few more spoonfuls, but it's a far cry even from the curry I had at Goh last month.

Poi bread and baguette - for some reason the kitchen had run out of steamed rice, so they gave us bread instead for the curry.

Mountain curry udon - this was MUCH better than the seafood curry. I love mountain vegetables (山菜) and they had bamboo shoots and ostrich fern (こごみ). The addition of sour cream meant there was enough acidity to make this interesting.

Gyoza 3M: methi, mushroom, malai - these reminded me of momo I had at the GohGanDen popup 5 years ago. The black garlic and mushroom flavors were really tasty. Served with green peas and fenugreek beurre blanc.

CC - when there's a dessert named "CC", how could I resist ordering it?! This was a chocolate tart with caviar, which was OK.

I have to say that without Gaggan, this just wasn't the same. Speaking with the boys, it was obvious that Rydo and Bijeesh were holding back and weren't ballsy enough to push the limits in terms of flavors. I delivered my feedback in the hopes that the team can make adjustments for tomorrow.

There was quite the lineup of VIPs tonight, including Amano-san from Tenzushi Kyomachiten (天寿し 京町店), the boss of Hakata Daruma (博多だるま), and Ice from Sorn in Bangkok - who ended up seated next to me when the first round guests from Hong Kong left.

Tonight was, of course, the time when Vlad pulled out all the stops and showed us the bongwater he had collected over the last few days.

2013 Vodopivec Vitovska Origine - decanted for 3 hours prior to serving. Eventually opened up and showing nice toasty and coffee notes. After another hour in there was more sweetness on the nose with coconut notes.

2017 Fontedicto Promise - a little woodsy on the nose.

The next bottle was one I had carried from Hong Kong to share with him. When I received this wine as a gift, I knew only one person in the world who would be happy to drink this. And since I wasn't given the chance to open this at dinner 2 nights ago, this was the perfect time to drink it.

2020 Frédéric Cossard Skin-Contact "Rafling" - not bad at all! Some flint and lemon citrus. Some 3 hours later this was kinda floral and reminded me of Hoegaarden.

2018 Cható Pqta - fragrant and sweet nose with red fruits, light-bodied but slightly grippy. Also a little leather on the nose.

2021 Funky Château Funky Rouge - not too sweet, almost a tad savory.

2021 Noëlla Morantin Côt à Côt - a little funky, savory on the nose, almost like Pu'er tea or tea eggs, also game meats.

2020 Jean-Yves Péron Côtillon des Dames - very floral with some exotic spices.

I stuck around for a while after dinner and kept drinking with Vlad and Ice. As I'm not a world-famous KOL and have only been to Sorn once - although I did see him at Noma Kyoto and at a breakfast gathering in Singapore - Ice doesn't recognize me or really know who I am. At one point Vlad poured him the Cossard I brought and said "This wine is from Peter." At which point Ice asked: "WHO THE FUCK IS PETER?!"

And that's how it should be.

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