Archive | December, 2015

Impressions from the road: foie from Black Forest (Germany)

31 Dec

There are a couple of foods, which when very fresh, become qualitatively different in texture. These are the grace notes of haute cuisine: you find them only once in a while, even at the top restaurants.

In recent memory, I’ve had two such experiences with familiar ingredients that become different. The first were live and hand-dived scallops at Hedone (London), which took on a crunchy texture when they had just been killed.

The second is foie from the Black Forest in Germany at a pair of 3-starred restaurants in Baiersbronn (Bareiss and Schwarzwaldstube). What I find irresistible is the membranous texture present in their fried-foie, which has a spongey, springy texture. Their preparations are simply some of the best I’ve tried.

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Variation of goose foie gras with Williams Pear soaked in red wine and wintery spicy punch

BAREISS

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Terrine de foie gras marinée et grillée,
dans une gelée au Jurancon,
avec coulis des kumquats,
vinaigrette aux pignons de pins

Terrine of foie gras and toast,
in a Jurancon jelly,
with kumquats,
vinaigrette and pine nuts

SCHWARZWALDSTUBE


 

Due to a snafu (my leaving my photos-processing computer back at home), full reviews of restaurants on my trip will be postponed until after the New Years.

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Sushi Hashiguchi in Tokyo (Jan ’15): “one-man operation imposes stylistic constraints”

15 Dec
  • Rating: 16/20
  • One-line review: About 11 months ago, I found myself at the counter of husband-and-wife operation, Sushi Hashiguchi. The rain was pouring, and we weaved our way through a mix of low-intensity work buildings and 3-4 storey residential buildings. It seemed we had lost our way, because there were no storefronts or nearby restaurants. After turning on Google maps, we finally caught a glimpse of a lantern, and made our way up the steps into an elegant room.Sushi Hashiguchi, at that time, was the second-rated sushi house on Tabelog, the Japanese restaurant review site. It is especially famous for the “dancing” sushi, where the chef folds an air pocket between neta (topping) and shari (rice). The topping collapses slightly into the rice and thus provides an impression of dancing. In reality, this motion is microscopic and almost unnoticeable, unless you pay a lot of attention. If I was not looking out for it, I might have missed it completelyThe sushi at Hashiguchi is comforting food. The rice is lightly vinegared, warm and disintegrates easily into the mouth. The pristine flavors can either be a drawback or a blessing, depending on whether you think it is boring or enlightened that Hashiguchi does not heavily modify or touch up his ingredients (a necessity of his working practices, I might add, because Hashiguchi has no apprentices – all the prep work is done by himself, while his wife tends front of house). I found it boring, but your mileage will vary. Certainly there is room to apply a religious sensibility and delight in the joy of simple sushi.

    A sumi-ika dish mixed the best starchy textures of spear-squid with broken uni, and was probably the most distinctive dish here. We probably committed a bit of a mistake by sequencing three consecutive big meals together – this was the last of a 1.5 days sequence beginning with Seizan, Noma in Tokyo, and finally this restaurant. As they say in Osaka, “kuidaore”!

  • Best dishes: Mirugai sashimi,, sumi ika and uni, kohada, otoro, anago sushi from Kyush

(no photography)

Sashimi

  1. Hirame or sole. The texture was softer than Mizutani’s (3.75/5). I find pure hirame (not engawa, which is the outer part of the fin and delicious either by itself or torched aburi-style) an acquired taste. At its best it is somewhat tasteless, similar to kawahagi (filefish) in being a filler fish.
  2. Mirugai or geoduck. (4.75/5) Texture was crunchy yet soft past the first chew. The best piece probably here
  3. Hotate (a big scallop) brushed with soy, wrapped in crisp nori (hotate shoyuyaki). Sweet and moist (4.5/5)
  4. Sayori with shreeded shiso leaves (4.25/5). Fantastic and firm texture, though taste was a little flat
  5. Shreeded radish and shiso, salty seaweed
  6. Boiled kuruma ebi (tiger prawn), with head and guts. (4/5) The sweetness is telling of a first-class specimen, but the starchy texture of kuruma ebi is something I don’t like. It is I believe unavoidable, I have had first class examples from Saito and Hashiguchi – but there is no eliminating the feeling of eating an oversized piece of sea-insect. The problem is that Kuruma ebi prawn flesh may be sweet, but anodyne and one-dimensional. I believe the Chinese way of cooking is preferable, since it introduces variation by aromatic accompaniments
  7. Sumi ika and uni with wasabi (4.5/5) A specialty here, this was an extremely rich broth of Hokkaido bafun uni (broken with chopsticks), soy, wasabi and creamy sumi ika.
  8. Kaibashira (small scallops with mustard greens) (3.75/5)
  9. Seaweed

Sushi

  1. Whitefish (Hirame) (3.75/5)
  2. Redfish “Izuki” (sic) (4/5)
  3. Sumi ika – smooth, strong wasabi, firm rice (4/5)
  4. Kohada – what we needed, a smooth fish with strong vinegar taste (4.75/5)
  5. Akagai (4.5/5) sweet
  6. Chutoro (4.75/5)
  7. Otoro (5/5)
  8. Mackerel (“himesa” sic) (4.5/5)
  9. Aoyagi 4/5
  10. Kaibashira
  11. Hamaguri (4/5)
  12. Bafun uni 4.5/5
  13. Sumi-ika. Cooked squid (4.5/5)
  14. Anago from Kyushu (5/5)
  15. Tamago. Cold custard

Fu 1088 in Shanghai (Nov ’15)

3 Dec

 

  • Rating: 4.25/5
  • Number of visits: 1 (Nov ’15)
  • One-line review: Set in a colonial mansion, Fu1088 is the older sibling of the other Fu’s set up by celebrity chef Tony Lu and is the original restaurant. When it was originally set up, it was one of Asia’s hottest restaurants and reservations there were hard to come by. It is considerably easier to book a table now as its lustre has gone to its more expensive siblings, but the setting remains distinctive, with each table being set in a different room with antique furniture. The restaurant serves refined versions of Shanghainese classics such as fried fish and braised pork. Shanghai cooking is characterized by sweet sauces and fried textures. The versions I had there were excellent. Since I came during Shanghai hairy crab season, I tried the hairy crab legs with asparagus. The star there was the sweet-sour sauce that came from dipping. Service is excellent, and staff do not try to upsell.
  • Memorable dishes: Shanghai fried fish, braised pork.

Dishes I had

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  • Braised pork (hongshaorou) (4.5/5) – sweet and fatty, highly indulgent

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  • Shanghai fried fish (4/5)– sweet, had a few bones inside which I didn’t quite like.

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  • Asparagus with hairy crab legs (deshelled) (4/5) – served with a sour sauce that cleansed the palate after each crab leg. My one and only encounter with Shanghai hairy crab

2015-11-13 21.20.53

  • Fried noodles.

Protected: Michelin Singapore predictions

1 Dec

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