Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Kaoshiung Kisetsu Ryori

We quickly settled in our room at Silks Club Kaoshiung before having lunch at Ukai-tei restaurant downstairs. While Teppanyaki is their specialty, either at this restaurant or their main branch in Ginza (the Kaoshiung one is their first overseas outpost), we were served a seasonal omakase menu prepared by Chef Shimpei Hirose and his team. 

I love how Chef Hirose-san combined seasonal ingredients from both Taiwan and Japan to create a menu that had good characters of terroir. We began with a simple appetizers of Kamo-nasu (Kyoto eggplant) deepfried with yuba and myoga (young ginger), followed by Ganmodoki (雁擬き tofu dumplings, sometimes known as Hiryozu) served with dashi, picked flower crab meat and nameko mushrooms. I like the rich, comforting flavor with the crabs which are in season. 

The Hassun course was served with a few nicely arranged, beautiful ceramics plates – Hirame sashimi was served in thin slices with daikon for a slight kick, a small portion of cauliflower potage was served in a small cup on the side, ox tongue was braised and served with a dab of spicy miso on top, then there’s sweet potatoes done two ways – sliced and deep-fried and also as a slightly sweet castella cake, and last but not least, a piece of unagi (freshwater eel) grilled over charcoal fire with just salt as seasoning. The ox tongue was the one I like most, tender texture and the spicy miso sauce worked well with the meat. 

Renkon Manju (蓮根饅頭 lotus root dumpling) was another classic dish in autumn kaiseki cuisine, and here it’s served with seared scallops and a think gravy sauce on the shell. The renkon manju was flavorful and I like the mix of gingko and crispy lotus root for the extra textures. Hobayaki is the traditional way of cooking in Gifu Prefecture (near Nagoya), for which meat or seafood or vegetables was cooked in open fire on top of a piece of dried Magnolia leaf. Here, Kuroge Wagyu tenderloin and zucchini was used, and the burning leaf left the ingredients with a hint of smoky, nutty flavor. 

We saw the Kamameshi (rice casserole) being prepared in the open kitchen near the entrance, and I was happy that one of those was served as our final savory course. Ingredients change from season to season, and the time we went, it’s the anago (sea eel) with a gentle brush of kare sauce and sansho pepper. It’s perfectly cooked with the flavorful rice and the slightly bouncy pieces of sea eel. We moved upstairs and enjoyed our dessert at the top floor Jade Lounge, and it’s the matcha pudding with roasted chestnut and red bean paste – again I love the touch of autumn. 

We sometimes opted for Japanese food while travelling in Taiwan and often surprised by the quality of those and how well they captured the essence of kisetsu ryori, or the art of cooking based on seasonal ingredients. I will definitely add this to the list of Japanese restaurant I like in Taiwan. 

When? October 14 2023
Where? Ukai-tei Kaoshiung, 2-3/F 199 Zhongshan Second Road, Qianzhen District, Kaohsiung City, Taiwan
Menu Highlights? Renkon Manju, Lotus Roots, Scallops

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