kikkō — Chicago (3/2020)

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Underneath a Japanese-style bar called Kumiko, there is a small 8-seat restaurant called kikkō.  Both are from the same group that runs  Oriole (just down the street).  Having only opened in May 2019, kikkō wasted very little time and earned a Michelin star for its tasting menu experience.  Bookings are done through OpenTable.  There are either 2 or 3 seatings per night, depending upon the day of the week.

Since kikkō is below a bar, it is not surprising they have an eclectic offering of cocktails.  In addition to a wine pairing, they have a sake pairing available, as well as a sake and wine pairing option.  They also have a spirit-free pairing done by the same beverage creator at Oriole.  I selected the spirit-free beverages for my dinner.

The first beverage was amazake (rice, water and koji unfermented) and hydrangea leaf tea.

The opening presentation was some lightly-poached Nova Scotia scallops served with Platinum osetra caviar, finger limes, puffed rice and yuzu kōshō on a puffed beef cracker.  This was a nice textural and flavor way to start off. Platinum caviar is a higher, limited grade of caviar based on the hue, size and flavor.

The next dish was Ora King salmon sashimi with a buckwheat and sesame crumble, puffed skin, sea grapes, and housemade togarashi spice (powder of dried chili peppers, orange peel, sesame seeds, Japanese pepper, ginger and seaweed).  The togarashi gave it some spiciness towards the end.

For the upcoming nigiri dishes, they provided some ginger pickled with smoked soy sauce and mustard seed for a palate cleanser.

The beverage pairing for the nigiri was cold-brewed hoshinomura sencha tea. Cold-steeping was used to keep the amount of extracted tannins low.

The first nigiri presented was Hawaiian kampachi (amberjack). This was brushed with white soy and topped with a fermented shishito relish.

Next up was torched madai (sea bream) with smoky rice. It’s sometimes called Japanese red snapper, but it is not part of the snapper family.  It was brushed with shio koji and topped with some fresh wasabi.

For the full write-up, click here.

Nouri 4th Visit — SIngapore (2/2020)

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Even though it was Valentine’s Day, Nouri did not have a special or set menu.  They still offered the three options of a short, long, and Omakase menu.  Some of the dishes will be found across all of the menu choices.  As usual, I went with the omakase menu, where I don’t know exactly what I will be served.

To start off with a beverage, I went with green tea.

The meal starts as it always does with rye bread, silken cheese (in the style of silken tofu, but made with whole milk mixed with a little egg to form a panna cotta or chawanmushi), Spanish olive oil, and balsamic and vegetable broth (made from 7 local-sourced vegetables from their farm) on the side.  This celebrates the gathering together of friends and family to share a meal.

The next course had two parts.  First was a Chinese bitter gourd salad with fermented black bean sauce, mint oil, fresh mint, and cocoa nibs that was spicy and bitter and then slightly sweet.  Next to it was kimchi with Asian pear and tiger abalone with daikon granita, which was tart, cold and refreshing.  The range of flavors served to awaken the palate very well.

The next dish was hamachi (yellowtail amberjack) with ponzu, wasabi oil, and osetra caviar.  A chilled onion consommé was poured at the table.

The next dish featured raw Japanese sweet prawn with pickled fennel flower, pickled rose, mala oil (as spicy Szechuan oil),mint oil, citron oil and herbaceous oil. Puffed grains for crunch also garnished the dish.

For the full write-up, click here.

Restaurant Story 3rd Visit — London (12/2019)

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It had been about four years since my second and last visit.  About a year or so ago, I had heard it was time to go back.  I had a free Sunday evening while in London, and they were going to be open for service that evening, so I booked a reservation.  The restaurant uses OpenTable for its bookings. Restaurant Story continues to be a recipient of one Michelin star.

For my opening beverage, I ordered a Seedlip (non-alcoholic English distilled spirit and Pedrino tonic (which actually has alcohol in it from sherry).

The first bite was crispy cod skin and cod emulsion with individual carrot tops.  Gin botanicals were sprinkled to finish. This was on the menu before.

The next bite was also on the menu before.  It  was a “Storyeo”, made with a burnt hay biscuit, Somerset goat cheese mousse, and malt vinegar powder on top forming the “S”.

The next snack was a sandwich of sea buckthorn meringue filled with chestnut cream, toasted pumpkin seeds, sorrel leaf, and pumpkin powder.

This was followed soon by a rabbit sandwich, with rabbit leg rolled and compressed in polenta and lightly fried.  On top were some mushrooms and pickled carrots.  This was served very warm, which made it very nice.

Another warm snack followed.  This was a crab gougère made with brown crabmeat and Old Winchester cheese (also know as Old Smales and is often used in place of hard Italian table cheeses).

For my next beverage, I took advantage of the ability to have a glass of a 2009 Kistler Chardonnay.

The next dish featured Scottish langoustine tail that was barbequed on Japanese grill and served with black garlic mayonnaise and spirulina.  This was very tasty.

The next course was cooked oyster with a blood orange sabayon mousse.  This was topped with  platinum caviar (from hybrid osetra and Siberian sturgeon) and spring onions.

For the full write-up, click here.

The Kitchen — Sacramento (11/2019)

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Michelin recently expanded its guide to cover the entire state of California.  Located in the state capital of Sacramento is a Michelin one-star restaurant called The Kitchen.  It’s part of a family-owned group of restaurants in the area, and it has been a local favorite for many years.  It’s newfound notoriety due to the Michelin rating put it on my list, as well as the fact that a friend from college lives in Sacramento – the combination prompted the effort to secure a reservation.  It is a tasting menu restaurant with one seating daily.  Seats are either at a counter around the kitchen area or at tables.  Reservations are taken up to six months in advance by phone, with limited seats made available through OpenTable.com. The meal experience takes 3 ½-4 hours.

The evening proceeds through a series of Acts as represented by the menu.  They offer two levels of wine pairings (House and Reserve), as well as a “half” version of either (with only the opening glass of champagne being a full portion).  I had not seen this kind of offering before, so I went with the Half Reserve Pairing.

After being shown to our counter seats and making our pre-menu drinks and wine selections, we were encouraged to roam the restaurant.

This was an important activity, as our first course (essentially the “snacks” dishes) were spread throughout the kitchen.  It also gave us a chance to chat with the chefs and staff working on dish preparations.

Food offerings included Tomales Bay oysters, sushi and sashimi, and various other finger foods.  There were no written descriptions.  One just could ask the staff at the station what was being served.  Upon returning to my seat, the champagne was served – it was a multi-vintage Brut Champagne.

One final snack was served at my seat.  It was cucumber with crème fraiche and prosciutto.  Subsequently, we were also brought bread with butter.

Before the meal continued, the Executive Chef came out and did an extensive introduction to the evening.  It was a bit like a stand-up comedy act with narrative about the menu and audience interaction as he talked about the restaurant and what was to come.  He also said that he wanted to make sure that everyone got food that they liked and enough of it, offering to swap out a dish for something else if the served dish didn’t set well or to provide additional servings of something well-liked.  During the evening, we were encouraged to get up, walk around, talk to the chefs, even during the non-designated times roaming.  We were reminded many times that everyone was there for us – we only need to ask.

Our seating had us at one end of the counter, directly in front of the main staging area.  Our location also mean we were, for the most part, the last of the 62 diners to be served any given course at the counter.

The reserve wine to go with the first dish was a 2017 Russian River Chardonnay.

The first dish was Hawaiian walu, pan roasted, butter-basted and served with creamy polenta, a ragout of Pacific clams, leeks, fennel and sumac.  It was garnished on top with fennel pollen.  Walu is sometimes known as butterfish (because of its rich, oily texture) or escolar.  It had a nice flavor and texture, being firm and moist.

For the full write-up, click here.

The Clove Club 9th Visit — London (7/2019)

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It had only been a couple of months since my last visit, but I was now back to lunch with this visit.  Being in the heart of summer, I was looking to see some great summer ingredients with some nice flavors.

They post the short menu outside.  I don’t always get a look at the menus, so I wanted to document when I can their full offerings.  The wine list changes regularly.

To start off, they offered a 2009 English sparkling Chardonnay that they were going to open for by-the-glass pourings.  It was very nice, with the age providing a mellowness to the flavor.

The opening snack was trout Nigiri.  This was served deconstructed, with nori on the bottom with some crème fraiche and rice kernels and a rice and rye cake.  Smoked trout belly topped it all off.

Next up were three regularly seen snacks:  Crab and elderflower tart, buttermilk fried chicken with pine salt, and warm mushroom haggis bun

The next snack was the melon gazpacho granita with charcoal cream and Ibérico ham gelée.

This last snack was almond blancmange (mousse) with Ossetra caviar and scallop roe dashi jelly.  This was a nice cool temperature dish to finish the opening bites.

For this meal, they offered to do a blend of soft/hard pairings, picking the alcoholic beverages when best matched with a dish.  I start with a sake dashi.

The main part of the menu started with flamed bonito, lightly cured in soy and served with green onion purée, lemon mayonnaise and lemon bits and crushed cherry tomatoes.

The next beverage was Fujian white peony tea.

The next dish continued with fish.  It was a Cornish sea bass sashimi with English peas, gooseberry Aguachile, and cucumber.  The fish was salted and brined for a little bit before slicing.  There was a little spice heat, along with tartness and salt flavor.

The next beverage was roasted buckwheat (brewed slowly and long) and chervil tea, served chilled.

The next course featured Hen of the Woods mushrooms (maitake), served with a Spenwood cheese cream (British hard cheese similar to a Pecorino).  This was a very tasty dish, with lots of flavor and mushrooms with a very pleasantly juicy texture.

For the full write-up, click here.

Rich Table 3rd Visit — San Francisco (7/2019)

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I hadn’t been to Rich Table in 5 years. Back then, it was a Michelin Gourmand recommended restaurant. Since then, it has been awarded a Michelin star (in 2018 and 2019). It remains a casual, neighborhood establishment. I managed to secure a reservation on a Monday night through Resy. One can also show up right at opening to try and secure a seat at the bar. Otherwise, without advanced planning, it can be difficult to book a prime-time seat for dinner.
Their format remains the same, with several small bites and a la carte items available. They offer a Chef’s Picks tasting menu as well, which must be taken by the whole table if selected. Since I was dining solo, it was an easy choice to go with the tasting menu.

They have added Seedlip non-alcoholic cocktails to their line-up. To start, I ordered Seedlip No. 1, which used Garden Seedlip, shiso, and lime.
As before, for the start of the meal, they bring out a selection of small bites. However, instead of bringing out individual plates for each, they arranged them for me on one large platter: sardine fish and chip with horseradish crème fraîche; warm heirloom tomato with cod, Caesar dressing and aged Parmesan cheese; caviar with Pommes (potato) Dauphine and crème fraiche; buttermilk panna cotta with pomegranate purée (just slightly sweet), sesame seeds and soy oil; dried porcini dusted doughnut with raclette; and Grassy Bar (CA) oyster with a porcini mignonette.

One bite was brought to the table separately: Oliver’s beef dumpling with yogurt, chive oil and chives. The dough seemed a bit too thick and chewy, but the filling was tasty.
I ordered the second Seedlip cocktail. Seedlip Spice, with Earl Grey and soda.

The first course after all the small bites was a halibut tostada. Unfortunately, I forgot to take the photo. It was topped with Serrano cheese, salsa verde, guacamole, and a melon Pico de Gallo. It was a nice combination of sweet, spicy, creamy and crunchy.
The next dish was the scallion pancake, served with corn, pole beans, soy dressing and a side of corn gratin (cheesy and slightly spicy).
The pasta course was the tonnarelli pasta with sea urchin in the sauce and kombu. This was prepared perfectly and was full of umami.

The final savory course from the menu was the 21-day old rib-eye, served with Padrón pepper and crispy potatoes on top.

Before dessert came, I wanted to order the duck confit steamed bun as an additional request. It was served with cucumber and hoisin plum sauce. I was slightly disappointed in the texture of the duck, as it looked more like a hash than what confit traditionally looks like.

For the full write-up, click here.

The Musket Room — New York City (6/2019)

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The Musket Room is a restaurant that I ran across in a newsletter listing of ‘must try’ places in New York City. It is located just off of Spring St., in the NoHo/Little Italy areas. The restaurant uses Resy for booking services and has been awarded one Michelin star. The theme for the cuisine is New Zealand, and they offer a short story and long story versions of tasting menus. They describe themselves as a modern take on homestyle New Zealand cooking. The opening page of the menu introduces their concept, and the subsequent pages show the current seasonally-based short and long menu options, as well as a shorter 3-course, diner’s choice option.

I chose the long story (of course). I also talked to the sommelier about a glass of wine. Since the “Man O’ War” did not specify a grape, I had to ask (plus, it had some age to it, which always interests me, particularly for whites). She described it as a uniquely flavored blend of 70% Sauvignon Blanc and 30% Semillon. That was good enough for me.

Powhiri (Welcome)
The long story starts out with a few small bites . From the right: pea with lemon aioli, white and green asparagus tart, corned beef croquette topped with smoked cheese. This was a tasty start for the palate.

Kaimoana (Fruit of the Sea)
The next presentation was raw East Coast oysters with yuzu mignonette and trout roe. There was a little dry ice or liquid nitrogen for effect and to keep things cold.

The next dish featured raw diver scallops with a dashi gel, aged soy sauce, and Asian pears. This was finished with horseradish yogurt snow at the table (and more dry ice or liquid nitrogen for effect).

This Kaluga caviar tart was filled with layers of confit egg jam, chives, Greek yogurt, and shallots, and topped with gold leaf. The tart shell was thin but firm. The flavors were very nice together, very much mimicking the flavors of having caviar the traditional way (except for no toast points).
They provided a rehydrated towelette to help with finger cleanup.

The last Kaimoana dish was freshwater crayfish (koura), pickled ramps, fresh watercress and finished with warm watercress soup at the table. The flavors didn’t come forward much for me, and there was a strange saltiness to it.

Papatùànuku (Fruit of the Land)
The bread was a smoked Hangi sourdough. Hangi is the Màori term for cooking in a pit with hot rocks or other material. To go with the bread, I was served a house-made tiki-shaped cultured butter with sea salt, smoked ricotta cheese with citrus olive oil, and chicken liver mousse with fried rosemary. This was all very good.

For the full write-up, click here.

Restaurant Labyrinth — Singapore (11/2018)

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Restaurant Labyrinth is a 1-star Michelin establishment that takes the traditional local flavors of traditional Singapore cuisine and present them in new and modern ways. Reservations can be made up to 30 days in advance and can be done with the Chope reservation website/app. They only offer a multi-course tasting menu for dinner, and they feature locally-sourced ingredients (Singapore and the nearby regions that contribute to Singaporean flavors). They do ask about allergies and dietary restrictions beforehand. They have their wine list on a tablet for review.

As part of the introduction, they bring to the table a display of many of the ingredients that will be featured on the evening’s menu.
The first presentation was not listed on the menu and was a oolong tea-smoked quail egg with a runny yolk inside.

With the quail egg, we were brought some kombucha (aged 5 weeks) infused with rosella (hibiscus).
The menu presentations began with three platters. The waffle triangles were served with chicken liver paté, goji berry jam and pandan juice sprinkled on top. Next to it were the homemade lapcheong (like Chinese sausage) with barley, diced chicken, crispy rice, and pickled bok choy in a burnt rice “nori” (or crêpe). On the far right were the small bites (“nasi lemak” cheong fun) made from egg yolk gel and ikan bilis sambal (dried anchovy chili paste sauce) wrapped in rice pastry skin and topped with deep-fried black chicken skin, cucumbers, and fried anchovies.

For the complete write-up, click here.

The Clove Club 5th Visit — London (6/2018)

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For this visit, I had mentioned when making the reservation that this was a birthday visit. Normally, for lunch, the present two tasting menus from which to choose (one is shorter than the other). For this lunch, they did not present me with the menu choices, partly because they knew I probably would select the long menu (based on prior history). It turned out they had a slightly different menu planned for me. This was going to be a blind tasting menu experience. For some of my prior lunches, I have opted for the tea beverage pairings. For this one, I selected the overall non-alcoholic pairings.

The beverage pairing for the snacks was Royal Flush Real Kombucha. The first snack was an Ogleshield cheese gougère.

Soon after, the next snacks were served. There was a tart with green beans, ewe’s milk ricotta and hazelnuts. This was followed by the spider crab tart with brown hollandaise and deviled spices.

For the full write up, click here.

 

Kitchen Table 20th Visit — London (6/2018)

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For my 20th visit to Kitchen Table, I had a slightly different experience. Dinner was served as part of a private event. Intead of dining as part of one of two seatings, there was only one seating of 13 people. To accommodate dietary restrictions, there was an ovo-lacto vegetarian menu used in parallel with the planned regular menu when needed. An enhanced wine pairings option was offered. As with a normal dinner experience, we only had a listing of the featured ingredient for each course on the chalkboard as we began.
Although I don’t have any photos of the vegetarian options (since I only had the regular courses), I have provided in brackets the ingredients as described. In some cases, the overall course was the same except for substitutions as needed.

The opening beverage for the first few courses was a champagne: Cédric Bouchard, Roses de Jeanne, ‘Cote de Val Vilaine’ 2015.

The dinner began with a Colchester oyster served raw with an elderflower vinegar glaze and garnished with diced Granny Smith apple, herbs and fresh pink and white elderflowers. The combined tartness/sweetness complemented the freshness of the oyster very nicely. The diced apple provided a good texture contrast.[Elderflower pickled baby carrots, crème fraiche, olive oil, herbs (sorrel, lemon balm, orange flowers, lemon jam]

For the full write up, click here.