This is completely untimely being 11months away but forgot to post…
Before the film crew came out for my second degustation dinner, for my first degustation dinner, I had drafted a scenario of what I wanted to explain with each drink and dish. Considering the flow of the evening and mindful of food getting cold etc., I wasn’t able to explain fully all the information behind the dishes, drinks and food pairing, so where else to talk about it to my heart’s content other than this blog!
December 8, 2012 Degustation at Taro’s $80 / $150 including matching drinks
I always equate properly made ramen to Haute Cuisine. The amount of science, effort and hours put in each component amounts to the same. The charsiu cooked to a perfect internal temperature of 65, each single organic free range egg weighed and cooked to an exact second and marinated for over 24 hours, the noodles calculated to create the most gluten bonding for the best aldente bite, the stock skimmed and reduced for 3days.
Today, my theme is to dissect each of the components to create a full course degustation to prove my point that my ramen is actually a fine dining experience in a single bowl. Of course, plus lots more like matching drinks and enhancing to make it a special experience, hopefully!
1 Starter – Edamame, Memma & Tamago / Orion Tap Beer
The memma is a salted fermented bamboo shoot which we soak in fresh water for over 2 nights to desalt and then season in mirin and soy. Today we have splashed some balsamic to make it a palate teaser. The tamago as explained in my intro has a dash of truffle oil. The edamame soybeans in pod, we have simply sprinkled himalayan rock salt.
The matched drink is our Orion tap beer. Japanese are crazy about nama-biiru. Every where you go, they have tap beer servers to create this creamy head served in a chilled mug. The nama biiru is to be enjoyed for its throat feel. Refreshing and thirst quenching are the key words. Tech info, Orion is a Lager Beer. Pilsner type. Creamy head, clean crisp texture, mild bitterness.
2 Organic Yose Tofu Kizakura / Nigorisake
Mr Yoshikawa of the Gold Coast (healthypulse tofu) approached us to stock his handmade tofu. I liked what he was doing so we decided to include it in the dinner and as a limited monthly menu. This creamy tofu is so rich because their yield of tofu is much lower than that of commercial manufacturers. Seasoned with our signature chilli oil.
Nigorisake. Kizakura is a sake maker in Kyoto, one of the larger ones. It has not been strained so you can enjoy the umami of the rice along with a milky texture. Sake score -35, means sweet but it is a well balanced light sake with lower alcohol and nice acidity.
3 Seared Sashimi Crystal Bay Prawns / Plantagenet Riesling
(Blow Torch cooking demo in front of customer)
This dish seems unrelated to ramen but the prawn was our feature ingredient in the Prawn Bisque Ramen I did recently. The searing gets any of the fishy smells out and adds a lovely char taste. Dip in yuzu pepper paste soy sauce. Also the head is where the flavour is, japanese usually use good use of it as I did with the bisque ramen. Today we have deep fried it so the shell is crunchy and edible as a snack.
Paired with a favourite Riesling from Mt Barker. Really fruity but the texture is mellow and not too talc-ey.
4 Soft Shell Crab / Kozaemon Junmai Daiginjo Yamadanishiki
Flash fried soft shell crab with our home made ponzu. Citrus soy with dashi, our secret recipe is sharp and not too sweet like the commercial ones used in many many restaurants.
Kozaemon Junmai Daiginjo Yamadanishiki. A big Junmai Daiginjo. I came across this sake in Sake Restaurant in Eagle St Pier. They are affiliated with Kozaemon Brewery and Mr. Kozaemon the 14th came out to promote this sake in a dinner and I was blown away with the fruity ginjo aroma that smelled across the table. A good match with delicate crab.
5 Chicken Karaage / Tengumai Junmai
A crowd favourite, our karaage is twice fried. Cook it once and rest and then finish it off. The resting period is the key to cooking through but retaining the juiciness. The tengumai’s rich body and nice acidity is a unique feature in sake and goes particularly well with this fried chicken with mayonaisse.
6 Gyoza / Yebisu Beer
The golden combination. Gyoza and beer. I have experimented countless times before putting gyoza on my menu. The recipe is top secret but the key point is to make it as juicy as possible yet retaining a meaty plumpness rather than soggy veggie texture. The Yebisu is the beer to have enough robustness to cleanse the meaty palate.
7 Tonkotsu Ramen transformation to Red Tonkotsu / Mitake Imo Shochu
Our signature ramen, tonkotsu ramen. This I have elaborated in other places so I will abbreviate the 3 days of effort that goes into making the soup. The cilli oil is intended to only add umami and another layer of flavour to the soup and not mask or compromise the pork flavour of the soup. The matching drink is the Mitake Imo Shochu. A distilled sweet potato shochu that has a long floral finish.
8 Charsiu w Apple Balsamic & Cumin / Felton Rd Bannockburn Pinot Noir
The charsiu is oven roated at Taro’s. We aim for a 65 degree finish and when we reduce the juis with some apple and cumin as well as some balsamic and soy, you get a completely western fine dining type of main dish. What a better wine to go with this than a Otago elegant ripe Pinot.
9 Bangalow Sweetpork Shabu Shabu
Another featuer dish we have at Taro’s is the Shabu Shabu hotpot. paper thin slices of Bangalow Sweetpork cooked at your table and finished off with ramen noodles in the broth you have created in your pot. This course we have not selected a drink. It goes well with any of the above drinks so please request a drink of your choice.
10 Panna Cotta / Kozaemon Junmai Umeshu
Our eggs are the best quality organic free range from the Darling Downs. We don’t usually use dairy in our kitchen but get some organic milk and cream, some temperature controlled whisking and we have a beautiful desert. Peaches are in season so top it to match our fine stone fruit desert wine the Kozaemon Junmai Umeshu. Usually in Japan, Umeshu is made with distilled shochu and sugar but this one is created with minimal sugar and with Junmai sake adding much more umami and creating it a refined umeshu for the mature palate.
11 Yukimi Daifuku / Ureshino Green Tea
A new challege. I wanted to feature our Green Tea. This tea is also a special tea. Even in the world of tea, there are producers that emphasize umami. The Green Tea from Ureshino is made in a nitrogen rich soil and controlled sun bathing and the only first few leaves are cropped for our premium tokujo sencha. I hope you can tell the difference between our green tea and tea you taste elsewhere. The matching second desert is mochi wrapped ice cream.
In conclusion, it was very exciting to construct a full course dinner thinking about food drink pairing but also having to consider service timing, plate (china) selection, explanation add-ins. It was difficult to find a good balance. I want to explain a lot more in every detail but the customers will get tired and want to eat quickly. I want to cram in more good dishes, customers get too full. I want to offer all the best sake and wine in our restaurant, the customers get drunk?! Anyway it was a fun evening and may do it again in a different manner.
(Didn’t have the time to take pictures but we got a whole film crew out for the next one so pls excuse the random pictures!)