Thursday, May 17, 2012

Craft Beer & Saké Japanese Dinner-Meeting @ Urameshi-ya, Little Tokyo, Makati.

A month or two ago, Alex had recommended a typical Japanese yakiniku restaurant in Little Tokyo so we planned to have one of our craft beer and saké dinners there sometime last week (Jim was in the US for business at the time so couldn't join us). Since I also had to meet with Alicia and Cyrene for a project by Summit Books, I figured to combine the two since Alicia and Cyrene really wanted to check out Urameshi-ya anyway.

I had read many good things about their Tofu Salad. I'm not really into tofu dishes, but tried it out because of the good reviews. I must say that it's pretty good - the tofu silky-creamy, the greens crisp and fresh, the dressing and cherry tomatoes sweetly tangy, bright and refreshing. Very nice to start with. Only Alex had been here before (several times, I'd say, since the waitstaff obviously knew him), and, since he knows Japanese cuisine much better than us, we asked him to do all the ordering.

Beef Tongue. Very nice.

Jyo Karubi (fatty beef). Excellent.  We had over a dozen orders of this.

Beef Tongue on the brazier.

Alex can cook! We teased him that he should get married already.

Chu-toro Sahimi (3 orders), cross-ordered from a nearby restaurant. Evidently better than the ubiquitous, run-of-the-mill maguro, but nothing great. Still, at a mere P650/order, it's good to go.

Moderately spicy Emma Ramen (3 orders). Nice in itself and for a change of flavors/textures.

We got a couple of bottles of what the waitresses said were the restaurant's best sakés (none of us read Japanese, so I can't mention the brands/types of sakés we had). Both were quite acceptable, though nothing really to write home about. At a reasonable P1800/bottle, however, they were more than acceptable for our yakiniku meal.

Of course, we very much enjoyed the two 750ml bottles of  Rogue Morimoto Imperial Pilsner that I brought along. I've written at least twice about this signature Iron Chef imperial pilsner before, so no need to repeat myself. Suffice it to state that I always ensure to bring bottles of this, as well as the Hitachino Nest White Ale (of which I am now all out of) for Japanese meals. We actually went through both bottles of the imperial pilsners pretty fast (though Alicia just stuck to the saké) - I should've brought 3.


Alicia, Cyrene, & Alex.

Though Alex had promised a night of "light drinking" (I really should know better by now), I agreed to his suggestion of a nightcap of "a little single malt and a cigar" at Kipling's (the cigar and single malt bar of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Manila), where he treated me to some of his bottle of Glenfiddich 30 Years (Alicia, opted to take her leave at Urameshi-ya, so only Cyrene joined us). With this, and a double espresso after, I had my usual Cohiba Lancero.

In the above photo, Alex attempted to explain how he doesn't deserve his reputation of always getting those around him drunk as skunks - which spiel he delivered just before I discovered that he had surreptitiously spiked my double espresso with more of his single malt.

Thereafter, Alex tempted us with "one for the road" at the hotel's Martinis Bar, and, foolishly, I agreed on the condition that the last drink would be champagne - to which Alex obliged with a bottle of Moët & Chandon. It just so happened that old college buddy, Johnny Besa, and his band The Blue Rats, were playing there that night - and I caught a nice rendition of "Tobacco Road" as we walked in (they play there every Thursday night I learned). Unfortunately, Alex also ordered several very dry martinis for which he called "bottoms up!". Since I can't really take anything with gin in it (I dislike its taste and it makes my stomach very acidic), you can imagine that this phase was quite difficult for me.

Be it as it may, it was a very fun night - yet another one of fine food, craft beers, sakés, and friends. Thanks for the single malt and the bubbly, Alex (never mind those martinis)! Until the next!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Birthday Dinner @ The Goose Station.

This past Tuesday, the 1st of May 2012, was my 47th birthday; so, after a day of golf (it being Labor Day holiday), I had a quiet dinner at The Goose Station. We were just 5 for dinner, Catha, the children, and I.

To start off, we had some 2002 Champagne Dom Pérignon - it must've been a very ripe vintage for the Champagne region.Toasty, bready aromas mainly with slight white flowers; the ripe fruit is plump, broad, and lush on the palate. Immediately pleasing. I can't guess how long this can age, but it is already more than a little enjoyable now. Notable rounded bottom in this and quite open for barely 10 years from harvest. I should get more of this vintage for early drinking. A cute, precocious champagne.

Mojito Amuse Bouche.

The Signature Menu.

Foie Gras Cones, delicious as always. Joaqi ordered an extra cone for himself after.

Assorted Rice Cracklings with 2 dips: Avocado & Sinamak

Tomato-Capsicum Soup

The kitchen was quite busy that night.

Caviar Parfait (Cauliflower Panna Cotta, Crab Jelly, Tapioca & Crab "Salad", Sea Urchin, & Avruga Caviar)

One of the restaurant's most famous and sought-after dishes: their version of Eggs Benedict.

Catha & Joaqi

Mauro & Lorenzo

A creative and entertaining take on Garden Salad (para healthy).

Fideuà Negra. Always delicious, the accompanying scallops seared to perfection.

Duck Confit. Catha and Joaqi really liked this. I'll try it next time.

24-Hour USDA Shortrib "Steak"

With the duck and beef courses, 1964 Faustino I Gran Reserva - Superb as usual with a bouquet and flavors of dark red fruit, berries, sous bois, ceps, cedar, violets, underlying leather and sanguine whispers, with only the telltale balsamico telling one that this is an aged Rioja rather than an aged Burgundy. Refined, silken, slightly over medium-bodied. A confident, moderately long finish. Beautiful wine, if I do say so myself.

Due to the wine's age, I removed the cork myself, and there was no problem at all - the cork was in excellent shape, though obviously old.

My birthyear is actually 1965, but that was pretty much a crappy vintage all over the planet. Thus, following the advice of Bodegas Contino Wine-Maker, Jesus De Madrazo Mateo (also a '65er), when it comes to wine, I consider myself 1964 - which happens to be a legendary vintage for Rioja (and, anyway, we were both conceived in 1964).

Desserts were Deconstructed Cheesecake...

Panna Cotta with Pumpkin, Chocolate, & Coconut...

Strawberry Sorbet...

Deconstructed Lemon Meringue with Berries, and...

Dark Chocolate Bar with Raspberry.

Petits fours were assorted (delicious) Macarons.

Double espressos ended yet another deliciously entertaining meal at The Goose Station. The kitchen team does credit to Rob & Sunshine in that, although neither of them were in that evening, all the dishes were very nice, showing the technique, playful and precise use of flavors, and over-all polish their cuisine is known for. Thanks also to Rene who kindly arranged my reservation at relatively (for the restaurant) short notice. Until the next!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Saturday Dinner @ Champêtre.

Dinner of Saturday the 28th April 2012 was back at old favorite Champêtre (Ground Floor, Net One Building, The Fort, Taguig). Marc had texted a few days before saying that he had moules du Bouchot available the coming weekend, so I immediately reserved a table. We were 7 in all: my 3 sons, one nephew, and longtime friends Boozze & Margarita (Catha attended a function with her dad).

Moules du Bouchot are mussels from la Baie du Mont St-Michel in Brittany ("Bretagne" in northwest France) falling within its own AOC (Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée in July 2006), now AOP (Appellation d'Origine Protégée in 2012). These mussels are picked young and are relatively small, very tender, with a clean, unique taste. Those interested in the details of how these are grown can click on this link.

Marc prepares them à la Marinière (steamed in white wine, their own juices, with some butter, etc.) and serves them with excellent fries. I never miss them if I can help it. Champêtre was packed that night, all the way to the tables outside with more than a few tables turning over. Marc mentioned that many people come for the moules du Bouchot - and I don't blame them. Flown in live from France, they are not always available. The best way to get them is to ask to be put on the restaurant's SMS alerts. If one has not had this before, one should try them out. The difference with our local mussels and those from New Zealand and other countries/areas is very apparent. We had 3 orders of it.

Aside from the mussels, we had several old favorites:

Escargots à la Bourguignonne (3 orders)

Foie Gras Terrine (3 orders)

Roasted Portobellos w/ Oeuf Cocotte (2 orders)

Tartare du Boeuf

Joaqi & Zach really enjoy the beef tartare.

With 4 growing boys at table, one has to act fast.

With the foregoing, we enjoyed a magnum (i.e., 1500ml, double the size format of a regular bottle) of 2010 Domaine Tempier Bandol Rosé - From my notes of 12 November 2011: "This vintage seems, at this point, to be more like their '08 than their '07 or '09 - fruitier and more casual in nature, touches of lavender in the discreet herbs, with graceful orange rind/peel notes in the finish." All know by now that I consider Tempier's rosé the best in the world, and it is obviously my favorite - a wine I fearlessly purchase regardless of vintage (locally distributed by Jerome Philippon's Sommelier Selection). Perfect for our hot, humid, tropical summers.

The teenagers.

Keeping their mains light, Boozze and Renzo ordered an old staple for their respective main courses, Trio of Seafood Pasta (Chilean Sea Bass, Prawns, & Scallops). This is not on the menu (it used to be during the Je Suis Gourmand days), but they will make it for you if you request it.

Mauro, Joaquin & Zach went for the Dry-Aged US Prime Grade Bone-In Rib-Eye Steaks (rare) for their main courses (the little ones shared one order, Mauro had one for himself).

Margarita and I each had an order of the night's special: Roasted French Pigeon. Delicious.

With our mains, we had Boozze's bottle of 1997 Far Niente Estate Bottled Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley) - So nice to get to have this again after several years. It's crème de cassis, licorice, loam, pipe tobacco, slight cedar are so mellow now. Softly fruited, quietly rich, and notably rounded on the palate. Nice, and I'd say enjoy it now and soon.

Margarita, Boozze, & I.

Lorenzo had the Raspberry Sherbet for dessert...

...Joaqi had the Dark Chocolate Mousse.

Three orders of the Dark Chocolate & Grand Marnier Soufflé - Boozze & Margarita shared one, Mauro & I had one each to ourselves. This is not on the menu, but is available upon request.

Marc joined us later in the evening for a chat and some rosé as service wound down. Great to see Marc and the restaurant doing so well.

Coffees, espressos and complimentary snifters of plum brandy ended the evening. Thanks so much for yet another excellent dinner, Marc! Until the next!!!