Monday, July 23, 2018

Beach Hill Smokehouse, Toronto

Beach Hill Smokehouse serves Texas style BBQ. White oak is used for smoking. Beach Hill could be the best Texas style BBQ in Canada.

Some of you may know that I am a certified Kansas City BBQ judge (KCBS) and have also served as an invited Judge at the most prestigious BBQ competition in the world, "The Jack" (Jack Daniels Invitational World Championship BBQ). 

Beach Hill Smokehouse is the real thing. First, let me say that their smoked turkey (first image below) is the best that I have tasted anywhere in North America (including Franklin in Austin), perfectly brined, juicy, tender, not overly salty and with a very generous flavour of the wood smoke. 

Roast beef bones and turkey. Roast beef bones were very tasty, slightly on the dry side with a slightly overdone bark, but still delicious.

The sausage was perfectly smokey, very tasty and had the perfect grind (coarseness). The pork ribs were very tasty but slightly dry, however the meat pealed off the bone with a bight, perfectly. The brisket was excellent, juicy, good texture, did not fall apart when picked up with the fingers, presented very good smokey flavour and would make for a great sandwich meat. The beans were good and well mixed with the smokey burnt ends but the sauce was more vinegary than my preference.

The house sauce did not get a high rating from me because of the vinegary aspect, certainly not typical of Texas.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Honolulu: Sushi Sho, Senia, Sweet Home Cafe, The Pig and the Lady.

SUSHI SHO

Sushi master Keiji Nakazawa oversees Sushi Sho, the debut restaurant opened outside of Japan. Nakazawa pairs varying temperatures of rice seasoning to different types of fresh fish to maximize flavor. With only 10 seats, this exclusive restaurant is an extremely difficult reservation, fully booked weeks in advance. Dining is omakase-style with each course selected by the chef.

I did not take photos for various reasons, but I do want to say, and many readers know my extensive experience at the most exclusive traditional Japanese restaurants in Japan and elsewhere, that Sushi Sho was one of the finest Japanese dining experiences that I have enjoyed outside of Japan, perhaps the finest. Anyone traveling to Honolulu loving Japanese food should book this resto well in advance. There are two seatings available at $300 per person.

The rather large room resembles an amphitheater, with its high ceiling dark beams of mixed woods that surround the sushi counter in a wide arch. About 10 inset ceiling lights flood down on the counter focusing on the head chef and his two assistant chefs perform their craft.
The head chef, listened to everyone's questions and had precise thoughts and recommendations on beers and sakes to match what he would be serving and well considering our tastes or preferences. 

SENIA


Maine scallops, perfectly cooked, with mushrooms, English peas and shiro dashi broth. Well composed and delightful.


Mushrooms with caramelized onions and rye crisps.



"Tako (octopus) a la plancha" with lap cheong (Chinese sausage), daikon and XO sauce (chopped dried seafoods {which may include conpoy, dried scallop, squid and shrimp} subsequently cooked with chili peppers, onions, garlic, Jinhua ham and shallots). 


Potato and apple gratin topped with fine herbes mousseline.


Hirabara Farms thumbelina carrots with harissa and sesame.


Charred cabbage with shio kombu, green godess and buttermilk.


Triple smoked king salmon, juicy with wonderful texture and perfectly cooked medium rare, accompanied by crispy lemon and chive waffles, sweet pickles, brown butter and maple onion jam.



"Fluffy cheesecake (Japanese style) 


SWEET HOME CAFE


This hot pot resto was inspired by the owner's Taiwanese heritage.


1. Take your seat in this small restaurant. You may share a large family style table. Choose your preferred soup stock from among 15. The soup is brought to your table in a divided stainless pot that accepts 2 soup stocks and is placed on an induction burner. Rice is also available.

2. Walk to the back of the resto where multiple refrigerators contain over 200 choices from fish, clams, shrimp, crab, mussels, poultry, beef tendon, tongue and beefsteak, pork slices, pork belly, tofu, about 15 kinds of green veg, daikon, 12 different kinds of mushrooms, 3 different kinds of cabbage, various kinds of dumplings such as spinach, various kinds of dim sum, noodles and everything in between. They are all on colored plastic plates wrapped with plastic. The cost per plate is based on the plate color, starting at $2.99. You can selects as many ingredients as you wish. The menu also has a list of items such as beef, pork, lamb, chicken, beef tendon and pork belly which is ordered off the menu.

3. Pick from a huge assortment of 15 house made sauces such as black-bean sauce, garlic chili sauce, Taiwanese seaweed sauce and who knows what else. Now head back to your table.
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4. Add the ingredients to the soup stock and cook as per your liking. Use the scoop to move them to your bowl together with broth. Add sauce, and your first fabulous bowl is ready to consume.
5. You have a 90 minute time limit. After 60 minutes, they serve the shaved ice dessert below.
 The veg fridge bank.


The dim sum and dumpling fridge bank. 


More dim sum, dumplings, shellfish, etc. 


Root veg, dumplings, etc.

The utensils and divided stock pot with my 2 different soups and items selected and added, cooking. One stock I ordered was a fish based sour cabbage stock flavoured with tamarind, lemon grass and Chinese cabbage. The other stock I ordered was the "house special: fish based stock flavoured with Chinese parsley, star anise, bay leaf and orange peel.


Shave ice dessert topped with coffee panna cotta, bright strawberry and mango jellies, tapioca balls, coffee panna cotta and dollops of soft, house made almond tofu.

THE PIG AND THE LADY

Burmese salad with green papaya, cherry tomatoes, fried garlic, peanuts, sprouting seeds, preserved lemon, serrano pepper, all topped with grilled Kauai shrimp and all dressed with fermented lahpet dressing.


The number 2 great dish of the night, poached duck pho with hand cut rice noodles all in an aromatic spiced broth with ginger, sawtooth herb and scallions. An added option of egg yolk confit was available.


Very good nori chips topped with asparagus namul, smoked trout roe, creme fraiche, pickled fresno and shiso leaves.


A perfectly cooked whole branzino with smashed cucumber marinated with lemon grass and pepperoncini, dill and shallots.


Slow braised octopus in a sausage of pork, lemon grass, wild betel leaf and ginger doused in a sauce of fermented shrimp, pineapple and sambal, topped with an herb salad with fried garlic and shallot. This was the number one dish of the night, a great range of interesting and very complementary flavours and textures.


Mango sorbet.







Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Yu Garden, Toronto

Yu Garden was founded 150 years ago in Shanghai. From the beginning the restaurant was known for its dim sum and especially for their steamed stuffed buns (soup buns). The Toronto branch is the first outside of Shanghai.

King size Nanjing crab roe soup in steamed bun (with small shrimp inside).

Special prawn cooked in selected style.

Chinese cabbage, cured ham in cream sauce was the least liked dish of the evening. Banal taste and way too salty.

Stir fried pea sprouts with crab meat.

These steamed buns were another very disappointing dish. Extremely greasy.

Braised pork knuckle in  brown sauce was very good.

Wheat gluten and black mushrooms.

Shanghai style fried mini pork buns.

Shanghai style salty duck.

Minced wild Chinese vegetables.

Shanghai style wok braised eggplant.

Amazing braised sweet pork belly.

Truffles with assorted mushroom and pork steamed buns (a soup bun).

Deep fried onion pancake. Tale a pass on this.

Cold shredded jelly fish.

Assorted mushroom and vegetable steamed soup bun.

Chilled smoked fish and spices (pass on this one too).

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Kyoto Japan, Spring: Hyotei, Iida, Miyamasou, Maeda, Suzue

Kyoto in spring, if one is lucky enough to time it right to be there just when the cherry blossoms bloom, is a spectacularly beautiful scene. In the Kyoto area, particularly, about 130 varieties of cherry blossoms bloom over a very short period of time. So, the visual effects are quite spectacular.

Everyone from all over Japan, and elsewhere make a pilgrimage to where the blossoms are in bloom. Many Japanese, by tradition, follow those blossoms as they bloom, from region to region in Japan. 

It is essential to book airline and hotel reservations about a year ahead to ensure getting a good room and a good airline seat. The same applies to getting reservations at the most interesting restos. Having a very good Japanese friend may help, or, write directly to your hotel concierge as early as you can. In making your booking, you are playing a bit of a roulette game, hoping your timing will be just right. Among my several trips to Japan, I have only managed to time it right, twice. 

Hyotei

This sublime, peaceful, beautiful path leads through the interior of Hyotei restaurant, originally founded as a tea house in the 17th century and converted to a full fledged restaurant in 1837. This striking path led us into a resto owned by the same family for 16 generations and having a 15th generation chef. They have a 400 year old tatami mat covered room for special meals. We enjoyed our meal in our own 200 year old tatami mat covered room.

The men's washroom has urinals filled with spruce and pine boughs and also has a woven grass and bamboo hand washing bowl filled with water  and a long bamboo stem handle with an attached bamboo cup, rests on the bowl and is there to be filled with the water and used for washing and rinsing one's hands. 



The continuing path leading to our private room.


Our tatami mat covered, 200 year old private room. Our lovely and very knowledgeable host, Kumi, sitting at table in front of the tokonoma, a recessed space where honoured items for artistic appreciation are displayed.


Our personal hostess who served us our meal. This is a formal kaiseki (analogous to western haute cuisine) presentation. 

The bold faced introductions below present the formal stages of the meal.


Sakizuke (Appetizer)

Simmered broad beans with young sansho leaves (no photo).



Mukozuke (Sliced Seasonal Sashimi)

Tai (red sea bream) sashimi from Akashi (where the best sea bream is fished) with basic soy sauce and new style soy sauce made with tomato.


Close up of the above.




Nimono-wan (Simmered Dish)


Greenling with kudzu starch, butterbur, udo plant and leaf bud accompanied by daikon radish shaped into a cherry blossom.


Hassun (Second Course)


Presentation.


Hyotei tamago ( their version of soft boiled egg). This is the traditional cooked egg that Hyotei first offered to travelers who approached the Nanzenji temple about 400 years ago. It was considered a rare and luxurious find. The egg has been continually offered since the restaurant's founding. It is presented with fried ice fish with rice powder, bamboo shoot coated with basil miso sauce, rapeseed blossoms rolled in trout with egg yolk vinegar sauce, caviar and fried fatsia (aralia) sprout with rice powder. Also present is a lily bulb shaped to look like the seasonal cherry blossom petals.


Abramono 


Tempura of bamboo shoots with prawn; tempura of seasonal onion; simmered ostrich fern; dashi-soy sauce with grated daikon.


Shiizakana 


Prawn, cockle, udo plant, cucumber and tomato with milt (fish semen) sauce, topped with red taro jelly.


Yakimono (Flame Grilled Food)


Charcoal grilled tile fish; wasabe leaves; special sauce with a citrus flavour.


Gohanmono (Rice Dish with Seasonal Ingredients)


Red miso soup; tofu with Japanese parsley and bracken; rice with scallop and bamboo shoots; roast beed (Tosa-Akaushi beef....The Tosa red cow is a rare variety of brown-colored cattle, accounting for only 0.1% of all “wagyu” beef cattle in Japan. Its key feature is the deliciousness of its meat. Raised in Koji prefecture, Shikoku Island)


Konomono (Pickles) (no photo).

Mizumono (Seasonal Fruits)


Green tea ice cream made with egg (no milk), and lemon oil accompanied by a strawberry and melon.


Usu-cha (Green Tea Service)


A serving of roasted green tea followed. 


Omogashi (Moist Sweet)


Wasabi mochi.


The 400 year old tatami mat covered room.


The height of the room is intentionally low to make anyone with any height be slightly bent-kneed.

Iida

The entrance tokonoma.






The Tokonoma (alcove of honour in the background).

Fried scallop and simmered bracken and aralia sprout; urui (a foraged vegetable) and udo marinated with soy bean paste with wasabe flower and pickled wasabe. All accompanied by soy sauce and arrowroot with vinegar.


Soup: greenling, half dried sea cucumber ovary, Japanese ginger and sansho leaves. 


The soup cup itself is "Makie" with a cherry blossom design, reflective of the season and maple leaves which symbolize eternity.


Sashimi of snapper from Akashi (the best area) topped with milt (semen), accompanied by mustard flower.


Sashimi of squid and sea urchin with Taiza nori and soy sauce.


Steamed broad beans with mullet roe.


Boiled bamboo shoots.


 Presentation of the dish below.


Grilled soy bean curd with ginger soy bean paste (called tofu dengaku).


Grilled bamboo shoots with thin sliced dried bonito with sansho leaves.


The presentation of the dish below.


Tempura of cherry shrimp.

Mozuku seaweed and thin sliced yam (no photo).



Dried flowering fern rolled in soy bean curd skin with giant butterbur and white asparagus. It is extremely rare to be served dried flowering fern (in skin) as it takes an inordinate amount of time to soften in order to be used. There are extremely few chefs who do this and the number of craftsmen who know the proper technique to dry them has been steadily decreasing. 


Presentation of dish below.


Miso soup with wakame seaweed; pickles: dried daikon, cabbage, dried plum and shiso.


Rice with trout, bamboo shoots and sansho nuts.


How everything is enjoyed together.


The interior to the top of the miso soup.


Strawberry with blanc mange of roasted green tea and blood orange.


The cup which contained my green tea during service.


Cherry mochi with red bean paste inside.


Matcha green tea served at the conclusion of service (fyi, a serving of matcha powdered green tea has 137 times more antioxidants than regularly brewed green tea and about 20 times more than a serving of blueberries).


SAKE: TEDORIGAWA AND KOKURYU RYU.

MIYAMASOU


Miyamasou is one of the most famed Ryokans in Japan, known for its Tsumigusa cuisine (freshly picked in Japanese). At Miyasansou, only fresh seasonal ingredients found locally such as wild mountain vegetables and herbs, fish from the streams in the mountain, and fresh fish from the sea, are used. I have been coming to Miyamaso since 1988!! Miyamasou was originally a lodging in front of the Bujouji Temple. It located in the mountains about an Hour north of Kyoto.


Our saki carafe and my cup.

Presentation. The chopsticks were fashioned by the chef from fresh bamboo branches.

Hassun (Appetizer)


Giant butterbar mixed with soy bean curd paste siitake (emperor's shiitake); Fried konnyaku with pounded horse chestnut; urui with plum jelly; gudgeon (fish from lake Biwa); fried river shrimp; nobiro (a leek like veg); ostrich fern.


Presentation.


Carp sashimi with fried carp skin, bracken marinaded in kobu seaweed and ground daikon and nobiru.


White soy bean soup with fava beans and arrowroot.


Wild yam with vinegar and dashi.


Tempura: dandelion leaf, suiba leaf, ascetic garlic leaf, aralia sprout, ostrich fern, koshiabura (leaf in the aralia family) and azalea flower.


Charred and grilled whole bamboo shoot.


Boar confit with wild stone parsley, butterbar sprout and shiitake. 


Presentation.


Steamed sushi with ostrich fern, knotweed, flowering fern, baby ayu, sliced soy bean skin and the reproductive shoot of field horse tail.



Presentation.


Tile fish with turnip, udo, dandelion leaf, wasabi flower, all in a clear soup.


Presentation.


Grilled trout with natsumikan accompanied by orange and vinegar.



The grilled trout plated.


The orange vinegar.


Simmered mustard flower and quail dumpling.


Rice with trout and Japanese parsley.

The rice plated.


Pickles: turnip, mustard flower and dried daikon.


Milk from Miyama, jelly with Hassaku orange marmelade, wild carrot leaf and gojiberry.


Mugwort mochi.



Traditionally prepared matcha tea.

Sake: YOAKEMAE (from Nagano Prefecture).


Maeda

No photos were allowed at Maeda



Maeda kaiseki restaurant is very highly rated on tablelog and has 2 Michelin stars.


Clam and sea urchin with new nori seaweed with arrowroot.

Baby ayu (sweetfish) with sansyo salt and lemon.

Akagai (ark shell) and white asparagus with vinegar and soy bean and pine nuts with fried shiso leaf.

Mugwort custard with chopped bracken, wasabi and umadashi (strong dashi).

Soup: bamboo shoots, geoduck, wakame seaweed and half dried ovary of sea cucumber.

Sashimi: snapper marinated with kobu seaweed; dip in simmered sake with plum pickles; wet nori seaweed and soft skin of bamboo shoots, snapper roe and mustard flower.

Bamboo shoot with sansho leaf paste; egg soy bean paste and sansho leaves.

Ocellated octopus with giant butterbur and egg yolk vinegar.

Sea eel roll with spicy simmered butterbur sprout and sansho flower.

Blue crab with ostrich fern and sesame paste, bracken and wasabi vinegar and wasabi stalk.

Snapper roe, tilefish, fried yam, soy bean curd skin, butterbur sprout and shiitake mushroom.

Pickles: daikon, kobu seaweed, Chinese cabbage and wild mustard.

Dessert: 3 kinds of orange: amanatsu; kiyomi; dekomomoe accomapnied by strawberry.

SAKE: KAKEYA (SHEMANE PREF); KUROKIJYOZU (YAMANGATA PREF); KAZE NO MORI (NARA PREF).

SUZUE



Suzue is a very highly rated kaiseki restaurant on Tabelog, ranking #1 in Kyoto and has 2 Michelin stars. The dishes used for presentation are great old collectors items and are museum quality.


Sake carafe and cup presentation.


On left: half beak, hari squid, prawn, firefly squid dressed with olive oil (made domestically on Shodo Island, first pressing). On right: aralia sprout, asparagus, ostrich fern bracken and peas with olive oil.


Presentation of red sea urchin from Awaji Island, with yuzuri leaf and wasabi. ***plate is Ming Dynasty (!!!!!).


The full presentation of the above.


Cherry blossom colours snapper sashimi is added to the plate.


Presentation.


Greenling presented in the soup cup above, call Nichigetsu Wan, which means sun and moon.




Grilled sea eel from Awaji island.


One of the great antique ceramics used for presentation.


The grilled sea eel, plated.


Bamboo shoots, tile fish and ground daikon in soup.


Presentation of a great very old sake carafe.



Sushi: ark shell (akagai) with mustard flower and tuna (never frozen!!!) from Wakayama prefecture. 

The presentation of another antique ceramic plate. This plate the sushi is presented on below is a registered Ming Dynasty plate called Gosushiro.


The ark shell and mustard flower sushi.


The tuna sushi.  


Strawberry mochi made using momo-ichigo (peach and strawberry, giving the mochi a peach aroma).


Another great antique plate used for presentations to other clients.


Another great antique plate used for presentations to other clients.



Another great antique plate used for presentations to other clients.

SOUKOO SAKE FROM FUSHIMA, KYOTO.



Our view at breakfast.


Presentation.

Bonito dashi in a small cup (no photo).

Lotus, bread-like food made of wheat gluten, Japanese parsley, shiitake marinated with sesame paste.

Sweet fried udo. 


Ice fish (note the black dots, their eyes). 


Plum and daikon pickles. 


Natto. 


Simmered hijiki salad with plum. 


Vegetables: red daikon, broccoli, broad beans, onion accompanied by olive oil, salt and soy bean paste (see below). 





Raw eggs (to be eaten raw). 


Lunch that the resto packed for us. Look how elaborate the wrapping is. 


The wrapping removed. 

Our wonderful box lunch.