July 12, 2007

I can check that one off the list...

I've made a resolution to catch up on my posting, so I'll be attempting to fulfill my Japan-listy-review goals. Let's start with something tasty :P

Just in case anyone didn't know, I am obsessed with Iron Chef. So, it only follows that I'd be a bit obsessed with Iron Chef restaurants, gimmicky though they might occasionally be. And just to clarify, I'm talking original Japanese Iron Chef - RYORI NO TETSUJIN, bell pepper-crunchin' and all (I don't despise Iron Chef America, and Alton Brown is one of my favorite foodie icons ever, but it just isn't the same).

I've been to Morimoto in Philly a few times (and lurve it lots), but have yet to make a call upon the New York incarnation, which is totally on the list. But, my recent excursion in the Land of the Rising Sun gave me the chance to drop by La Rochelle, Chef Hiroyuki Sakai's lovely restaurant in Shibuya, Tokyo. And good lord, it was delicious.

I've not had the pleasure of a coursed meal without being on my parents' dime before, so I can't say that I knew what to expect. I was pretty concerned about being a totally gauche American and getting my forks confused, but I'm pretty happy to say that the experience was excellent enough it didn't even occur to me to think about it. So without further ado, the food:

Aaron and I chose the Histoire Prix Fixe set menu (Chef Sakai's Grand Traditional Menu, 15000 yen/person, approx. 130 dollars), having no idea what else to do, and really feeling up to a splurge on our last week in Japan.

1. Three small appetizers together: Seafood consomme jelly, served with mini skewers of turtle and prawn, above an asparagus salad with sea urchin, lobster, and creamy dressing.

2. Large champignon mushroom, stuffed with foie gras. Topped with sabayon, two slices of strawberry, and served on a bed of asparagus in a marsala sauce.

3. Light salad: Japanese turnip (kabu) sliced thinly, layered with lobster and ripe mango. Served with a Prosecco and lemon dressing. AND might I add, the parsley on it was gold-leafed!

4. Steamed abalone and shark's fin, accompanied by fava beans, bok choy, and starches in a truffle sauce.

5. Bordeaux (I can't remember the name...Santa Marrillion?) Sherbet.

6. Wagyu prime rib, served with grilled seasonal vegetables, in a yuzu sauce.

7. Fresh strawberries, served with a lime cream and (yuzu?) chilled yogurt.

Mmm, foodgasm. Everything was beautifully flavored and very seasonally appropriate but if I had to pick favorites, I'd definitely go for the kabu salad and the wagyu prime rib. The salad had this fantastic mix of textures and flavors, crunch and light and sweet and tart and mmm, I really need to see if I can hack duplicating it. Even a pale imitation would probably taste pretty good :P. The prime rib was incredibly buttery, without leaving the cloying feeling of coating your soft palate with fat.

Minor caveats: I hadn't ever had shark's fin or turtle before, and while both were pleasant, I have vague moral concerns about the acquisition of shark's fin which weren't dispelled by any sense of overwhelming deliciousness. I was also uncertain about the idea of a Bordeaux sorbet, as I'm terrible with wines (pass the Belvedere, please), but it was really very delicate and refreshing.

I've only got the one crappy picture, as it feels verrrrry strange to be trying to surreptitiously photograph your food in a nice French restaurant, but hopefully, it'll give you a sense of the lovely plating. If you look at the top of the salad, you can just make out the gold-leafing on the parsley (warm lighting + turning off the flash to be sneakier = poor detail >_<). The next time I'm in Japan, I'll definitely be going back. I might read up on fork etiquette first, though...


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