Sunday, February 19, 2023

Seasonal Get-Together

Felt like we are now doing dinner at Ryota at least once every season - thank to our host C who made the effort to organize - and this time with their winter menu on deck a few weeks ago. We were the only group of diners in that evening so we had the whole place to ourselves with undivided attention from their staff front and back. Chef Ryota was not in that night but I didn't see any change in quality of their dishes in spite of his absence, which is a good thing.  

We began with the salivating appetizer dish of hirame (turbot) and ankimo (monkfish liver). The fish was cut into thin strips and served raw, mixed with the fatty and rich liver and served with the bright ponzu jelly on top. The sharp acidity worked well with the creamy, fatty texture. Yurine Manjo, or Lily Bulb "Dumpling", is the classic kaiseki winter dish and served here as our Futamono course. It's beautifully done with the soft mixture of grated yamaimo (yam), egg white and raw lily bulbs formed into a bun-shaped dumpling, steamed and served with the the seasonal hairy crab sauce thickened with kuzu (arrowroot starch). Love the soft, airy texture and the clean hearty flavor combined in this crafty dish. 

I had a bit of expectation of the suppon-nabe when I first saw the menu but turned out to be a bit disappointing. Suppon, or Japanese soft-shell turtles, was supposed to be the main ingredient of the dish but it was hardly noticeable. The dashi, the heart of the dish, was mild and lacked flavor too. The shirako, or cod sperm milt, was poached then torched before placing into the soup, along with the soft egg custard tofu. Both were okay. 

Next was the seasonal sashimi course. First it was Tarako (herring roes), Ika (cuttlefish) and three pieces of tuna in different cuts served with grated black truffles. Probably not the most usual way to serve tuna with black truffles, but thought it worked well with the oozy egg yolk sauce underneath. The ika was excellent, nicely carved and served with a dab of charcoal salt and a gentle squeeze of sudachi. Ankimo was served in the most classic way with the simple ponzu sauce, and karasumi (dried mullet roes) served like a mini sandwich in between two thin slices of daikon. Then it was saba oshizushi, with a piece of cured mackerel rolled with sushi rice and served warm with dried nori on the side. Last was the signature "Bowl of Wonders" with equal portion of chopped toro (fatty tuna), uni (sea urchins) and caviar in a glass bowl with rice underneath. The shiso flowers on top balanced the overall flavor nicely with a small dab of grated wasabi. 

The next course was described in a Kanji word meaning "Fragrant" with the cooking method known as "Yuko-mushi" (steamed with yuzu) A few types of seafood - clams, kuro awabi (black abalone) and grouper was steamed with dashi and sake in a large wakame leaf with slices of yuzu sandwiched in between. The broth which served as part of the dish took in all the seafood umami flavor plus the hint of fragrance from the yuzu. 

We moved onto a couple meat courses. Following the theme of "fragrance" from the previous course, we moved on to another type of smell, this time, the one of smoke, with French pigeon cooked 3 ways and served 2 ways. By that I meant the pigeon breast was brined, cooked in sous-vide, smoked then grilled, with the leg deep-fried and served whole. The sansho pepper seasoning gave the dish a slight kick and more aroma along with grilled vegetables on the side. Next was a bowl of somen noodle served in a rich dashi broth, and on top, a thin piece of wagyu. A particular breed of black-haired female cow known as Kyoto Himeushi was used for the beef and taken from the Zabuton cut (medium chuck roll) known for its balanced texture. The raw beef was cooked in the hot broth in the bowl just prior to serving, similar to how the traditional Yunnan noodles was prepared, so by the time the bowl was served, the meat was perfectly cooked.  

We all enjoyed the passionfruit sorbet served in between the two main courses as palate cleanser, and then the quartet of desserts which were served after. The slice of musk melon was super sweet; the black truffle pudding was soft, wobbly and rich in flavor, and the warabi mochi had the perfect texture and dusted with soy powder on top. 

And oh, by the way, the sake and wine. We started with a nice bottle of Burgundy white (a "warm up" bottle, we were told), then a series of rare sake all of the current vintage so we got the rare chance of a horizontal tasting of sake of roughly the same (ex-brewery) age. My favorite this time was the Juyondai Junmai Daiginjo - amazing aroma and almost buttery body made this a perfect match with the fatty tuna and other seafood courses. 

More photos here:

When? February 4 2023
Where? Ryota Kappou Modern, Level 21, 18 On Lan Street, Central
Menu Highlights? Smoked French Pigeon, Orange, Sansho Pepper
2017 Domaine Rapet Pere et Fils Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru
Kokuryu Hachi-jyu-Hachi-go Daiginjo (BY 2021) – Kokuryu Shuzo, Fukui Prefecture
黒龍 八十八号⼤吟醸 - 福井県黒龍酒造
Juyondai Tatsu no Otoshigo Junmai Daiginjo – Takagi Shuzo, Yamagata Prefecture
十四代 龍の落とし子 大極上 生 純米大吟醸 - 山形県 高木酒造
Tendorigawa Mangekyo Junmai Daiginjo, Yoshida Sake Brewery, Ishigawa Prefecture 
手取川 万華鏡 純米大吟醸 - 石川県 吉田酒造
Dassai “Beyond”, Asahi Shuzo, Yamaguchi Prefecture
獺祭 磨き その先へ - 山口県 旭酒造
Juyondai Soko Daiginjo – Takagi Shuzo, Yamagata Prefecture
十四代双虹七垂二十貫 - - 山形県 高木酒造
Zankyo Super 7 Junmai Daiginjo - Niizawa Jozoten, Miyagi Prefecture (BY 2021)
残響 Super 7 超特選 純米大吟醸 - 宮城県新澤醸造店
Kikuhime Kukurihime Daiginjo - Kikuhime Goshigaisha, Ishikawa Prefecture
菊姬 菊理媛大吟醸 - 石川県 菊姫合資会社
2006 Torbreck Runrig, Barossa Valley, Australia

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