March 1, 2024

It Doesn't Have to Be

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We haven't seen Mr. and Mrs. Birdiegolf in a while, and figured we need to meet up for our first meal in the Year of the Dragon. Somehow when I asked about where we should meet up, the (almost) immediate response came back to be "Neighborhood". Which was just as well, since it's been quite a few months since I last found myself there.

I knew that the Man in White T-Shirt had recently returned from his holiday, and when Shirley didn't bother to call me about any dishes I wanted to pre-order, I knew that once again the boss had already set the menu for us.

Whiskered velvet shrimp - these 赤米蝦 are a real delicacy, and very much favored by not just us but also each of our dogs at home.

So, sooo tender and tasty with a sauce that tasted of saffron.

Baby balylonia - this wouldn't be the first time we've been served babylonia (東風螺) here, but it IS the first time any of us have seen them in this size.

These were so small that I had sometimes trouble poking with the bamboo skewer to try to get the flesh out from the shell. Kinda reminds me of that time I ordered bigorneau in Paris and took forever to go through 2/3 of the plate...

Dried persimmon / bottarga - it's been a while since I last got to taste this. I love bottarga and these were cured in-house, and the sweetness of the dried persimmon really balanced out the light salinity of the dried roe.

Mackerel / horseradish - the fatty mackerel had wonderful smoky flavors.

Whenever I'm here, I have this urge to put a lot of the food on the beautiful sourdough bread that they serve us, and so I immediately put the mackerel on and added some of the horseradish sauce on top.

Lentil salad / egg / caviar - I think the Man in White T-shirt has gotten tired of me asking him where the gold is, so he now has gold flakes ready within arm's reach. I caught him sprinkling it on the caviar...

This is something that I ALWAYS put on sourdough, and I gotta say that the runny egg, and the caviar (but maybe not the lentils so much) are just a natural fit with bread.

Razor clams "pil pil" / pigsfeet - this dish is new to me. Once I was able to take out the bits of broken shell, the razor clams tasted fine in the pil pil sauce with fennel. I didn't notice the presence of bits of pigs' feet at first until I re-read the printed menu, but they were there.

Baby squid - I love it every time I've had squid come out from this kitchen on a sizzling hot pan, but tonight it was even better... since these were baby squid!

OF COURSE it took me no time to put some on sourdough. YUM!

Handmade garganelli / soft shell king crab - WOW! THIS WAS AMAZING! It was introduced as "soft shell crab"... and indeed the pan contained mostly the baked soft shells of a small king crab.

In reality, though, this is actually a serving of garganelli pasta! With a small amount of king crab meat and done au gratin. I was so, so happy.

The best part of the dish, though, were the soft shells of the crab. Although king crab shells are spicy, these were thin enough that, after being roasted, became crunchy enough to chomp on... as one would crab-flavored "chips". I loved this so much that I kept eating these shells!

Spring lamb giblets / morels / rice - yes, it's the season for spring lamb from France, and here we have a collection of liver, kidneys, other giblets like chicken hearts along with morels and herbs. The familiar cream sauce makes the rice taste so good.

Spring lamb neck / asparagus - ....aaand if the last dish weren't enough, we also have the neck of the lamb together with spears of asparagus, garnished with black truffle. Damn tasty lamb, as always.

Much to my surprise, someone had been cutting down on their alcohol intake lately... so this was a pretty modest selection tonight:

Eric Rodez Cuvée des Grands Vintages - very yeasty nose with a little brioche. Good acidity balance on the palate, but later on the acidity got more prominent.

Krug Grande Cuvée, (160ème Édition), ID 111005 - nice and caramelized nose by now, but still got the acidity on the palate. Drinking nicely.

2021 Aubert Chardonnay Lauren Vineyard - drank about 45 minutes after opening. The nose was so buttery with lovely caramelization. A little flinty and metallic notes like pear, along with some vanilla oak. Still got a decent amount of acidity on the finish, though, as it's still young.

1996 Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select - served about 2 hours after decanting. There was more green capsicum on the nose than I had expected, but otherwise the nose was very smoky. There was still some ripe fruit here but no longer front-and-center, while black peppercorns were now more obvious. The wine was showing pretty elegantly after about 2½ hours in the decanter, about the same time that my last bottle reached its peak.

Unfortunately, as tasty as the food was tonight, the evening ended very badly... so Foursheets and I went home early and didn't partake in dessert. Sigh.

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