December 30, 2023

Last dance for Steve

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I got pinged by Giona a couple of weeks ago, asking if we were interested in joining dinner at Hansik Goo tonight. Chef Steve Lee is leaving the restaurant for greener pastures, and tonight would be his last "regular" service. Foursheets and I haven't been back at the restaurant since receiving terrible service at our last meal, and I figured we could join the gang for another taste. The restaurant was right to put us in the big private room at the back, since we would be pretty loud.

The menu said "Steve's Last Dance", which is reminiscent of the documentary elBulliLastWaltz...

Korean starters: a three-part course.

Korean pinenut juk (죽), poached abalone, snow crab and caviar - I gotta say I really liked the pinenut flavors of the porridge. The thin slices of abalone was nice and tender with a good springiness, so much so that I thought it was something else entirely... The crab and caviar provided a nice combination of flavors from the sea, which contrasted well with the mild sweetness of the porridge.

Bugak (부각) - taken with the juk, as usual.

Crispy eel, sancho salad - the sweet and sour sauce on the deep-fried eel was pretty nice.

Ssam (쌈), pork collar, barely, water chestnut - I guess there's an ingredient that is "barely" there... We had diced pork collar inside along with ssamjang (쌈장) to deliver a slightly spicy kick. Nice.

Moduem hweh (회): not sure what "moduem" means... This came with three different types of seafood.

Cuttlefish - with chogochujang (초고추장) at the bottom and some pickled plum in the middle of the roll.

Geoduck - seasoned with sancho pepper, this was really tasty.

Amberjack - with deonjang (된장), which tasted surprisingly similar to the 2-year-old kimchi next to it.

Galbi mandutang (만두탕): Korean beef radish consommé, hand-made mandu, short rib and sea cucumber - both the mandu (만두) and the morel were stuffed with a mixture of beef, pork, tofu, and kimchi. I did think the wrapper for the mandu was a little too soggy for my liking, but it was still tasty. The slices of beef short ribs on the side were nice, as was the sea cucumber. In fact, the whole dish - especially the consommé - was really tasty. The nice, warm temperature also gave me that warm and fuzzy feeling.

Fish maw jorim (조림): braised fish maw, cod milt and crispy rice ball - we didn't tell the restaurant that I don't eat fish cum, so I ended up giving my piece to my neighbor. The fish maw was braised with Korean fish broth along with some Chinese ham. The sauce was pretty tasty, with just a hint of heat.

Samgye-tang (삼계탕) two way: Korean egg jjim (찜) with dry abalone - the egg custard was very smooth in texture, and there was a ton of ginseng flavor there. The 14-head dried abalone was, to be honest, unnecessary... In fact, most of us thought it was shiitake mushroom when we looked at it.

Samgye-tang (삼계탕) two way: Deep fried stuffed chicken wing - this, however, was fantastic. The chicken wing was stuffed with glutinous rice flavored with ginseng and black truffle, and I loved how crispy the skin was.

Korean feast: this came in three parts.

Grilled Hanwoo - the beef tasted nice, but the problem was that it came tepid... and that's never OK when you're serving a premium piece of beef.

Dry aged duck breast - also tepid.

Confit duck neung I- (능이) rice - the rice came with some shredded duck confit and neungi (능이) mushroom. Not really comparable to the rice stuffed inside the chicken wing.

The daily banchan (반찬) included this fresh kimchi as well as pickled kimchi.

Janchi guksu (잔치국수): Korean festive so-myun (소면), anchovy broth and squid - this looked pretty simple, but looks can be deceiving. The flavors were actually pretty nice.

Korean herb : Korean sesame leaf sorbet with strawberry tea - very refreshing and I loved the fragrance from the perilla leaf.

Dae-pa (대파) ice cream : roasted leek ice cream wth rice crisp and beluga caviar - the ice cream was definitely pretty interesting, and I gotta say these beluga caviar were pretty small... similar in size to the ones I bought from Kazakhstan all those years ago.

I still love these thin rice crisps which were meant to go with the ice cream.

Dagwa (다과): two small bites to finish.

Yinjeolmi (인절미) tiramisu - this was pretty interesting thanks to the bouncy and sticky bits of yinjeolmi on top.

Deonjang Timtam - a nice twist on the classic.

We actually opened fewer bottles than I had expected for this crowd...

Juyondai Daiginjo Kuronawa (十四代 大吟醸 黒縄), 2022, from isshobin - very sweet on the nose, really rich rice flavors, and big on the palate. Very sweet on the palate, with almost a hint of bitterness on the back end.

2020 Le Petit Cheval Blanc - a really classic Bordeaux Blanc, pretty fragrant nose but with that pipi de chat, too, in addition to the green apple.

Emmanuel Brochet Rosé de Saignée - really dark red in color, really big on the palate as well as big on the nose, with lots of cranberries.

Isojiman Nakatori Junmai Daiginjo 35 (磯自慢 中取り 純米大吟醸35), 2020 – very rich now that there's some age on it. Sweet on the palate, but nicely balanced.

2020 Jean-Marie Bouzereau Meursault - better acidity here than I had expected, but still got some of that ripeness. Nice and toasty nose.

This was a very fun evening, and I enjoyed both the food as well as the nice bottles we had. Very happy to see Steve again tonight, and best wishes to him on his next adventure.

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