Tuesday, 30 June 2009
Mais la curiosité de la maison était, au fond, de l'autre côté d'une barrière de chêne, dans une cour vitrée, l'appareil à distiller que les consommateurs voyaient fonctionner, des alambics aux longs cols, des serpentins descendant sous terre, une cuisine du diable devant laquelle venaient rêver les ouvriers soûlards.
Emile Zola 'L'Assommoir' 1877
"It's not a science, we are loading the still by hand".He talked of adding the botanicals one by one, using their noses to sniff the 'spirit safe' and as one smell fades, adding another spice.
Sam, passionate:"It's got sparkle, pepper, prickliness".You bet. I think I'm too much of a wuss for one shot distillation.
Monday, 29 June 2009
I'm taking a little break this summer to write the book, visit other restaurants. I may even do a pop up restaurant in St. Tropez! So my last dinner until September 11th is this Friday 3rd of July, barring special events. Unless I miss it all too much!
Sunday, 28 June 2009
I would like to learn more about Japanese food and it was great having Emma, Taka and Hiro on hand. I tried to introduce some new ingredients to the standard fare you get at sushi restaurants. Some of the ideas I found in an old Japanese cookery book. I used shiso leaves to wrap rice. I also picked camelia leaves from my garden, an unusual method of presentation.
Chilled Sake from Akashi-Tai
Edamame with Maldon salt and pink peppercorns
Ippin Ryouri (Japanese tapas)
Tempura Set including Asparagus, Avocado, sweet potato, peppers, chili peppers
Aubergine, red onion and mushroom skewered kushi katsu in soft white bread seasoned with Japanese mayonnaise and Japanese brown sauce 'tonkatsu'
Cucumber and Wakame Salad
French Beans with white Japanese Sesame paste (the difference between this and tahini is that it's made with roasted sesame seeds) lemon, mirin and ginger dressing
Salmon Sashimi on a bed of Mizuna lettuce with Ponzu Sauce (I told one girl off for not eating her lettuce."That cost me a fortune" I remonstrated. She ate it quickly.)
Shiso leaf onigiri
Salmon & Avocado/Carrot & avocado/Japanese pickle selection including daikon, sweetened shitake mushrooms, pickled carrots, umeboshi plums
Crispy salmon skin maki with shichimi chili pepper
Inari Sushi (Sweetened tofu parcels with onigiri rice)
Miso soup with Enoki mushrooms
Green Tea Ice Cream/wasabi meringue/cherry
Chilled Plum wine (this was a massive hit!)I think that's the most 'courses' I've ever served. A record!
"Cooking for this many people on your own with the help of a 15 year old girl is the ballsiest thing I have ever heard".She continued:
"It's really tiring. It reminds me of catering for a wedding. It's a special kind of tiring. And you are doing it with just a domestic kitchen. One under the counter fridge. That's hard."
Friday, 26 June 2009
The Honourable Society of Gray’s Inn
8 South Square
Telephone: 020 7458 7960 / 7968
Thursday, 25 June 2009
UNDERGROUND RESTAURANT JAPANESE MENU
Sake from Akashi-Tai
Edaname (with and without shichimi pepper)
Ippin Ryouri (Japanese tapas)
(Asparagus, Avocado, carrot, sweet potato, peppers, Mars bars) (jokes)
Aubergine, red onion and mushroom skewered katsu
Cucumber and Wakame Salad
French Beans with Sesame Dressing
Salmon Sashimi with Ponzu Sauce
Salmon and Cucumber/Japanese Pickles (v)
Sweetened tofu parcels with rice
Green Tea Ice Cream
(Japanese pancakes with custard or adzuki bean filling)
All of this is subject to dishes getting a bit fucked up, mistakes, errors, seasonality, pure whims and changes of mind/wind of course.
Wakana, the 'face' of Akashi-Tai sake, popped over this morning. She brought some beautifully straw packaged Akashi-Tai Honjozo bottles of sake.
"These are usually used for weddings" she explained "They are served chilled."
There will be one for each table. Smaller tables will have to share with bigger tables. There is also 'Umeshu' a sweet plum infused wine that tastes a bit like prunes in Armagnac (but less sickly). Proper sake, made in Japan, uses the best water and rice. It has no artificial elements, hence no hang-over. Cheap sakes made in California or China compromise on rice quality and water. One of Akashi-Tai's sakes is made with rice that is polished down to 40% of the original grain. This means that only the starch is used, making it sweeter.
I discussed with Wakana food blogger Bellaphon's assertion that Japanese rice does not taste as good in the UK because of our hard water. She agreed saying that some rice in Japan is so good you can just eat a bowl of it plain, with nothing on it. Water in Japan is soft but for Sake purposes, hard water must be used, which is only found in a couple of areas of Japan.
Wakana comes from the Okinawa islands. Her family own an old shrine and every month shamens come to pray. Their religion, Ryukyuan, is pre-Buddhist, the equivalent of our pagan religion. I am going to set up a little altar, comprised of a dish of rice, a bowl of sake and some herbs, placed in the Western corner, to placate the kitchen or hearth gods, Hinukan.
Together we looked at an old imported Japanese cookery book that I have, that I bought for a huge amount of money at the 1991 Japanese festival at the Victoria & Albert Museum. Some of the recipes are clearly meant to appeal to Westerners, for instance the 'spam' sushi. I first got interested in Japanese food when I saw the 1985 film 'Tampopo'. I have never been to Japan however. It's on my to do list.
"The French don't like to mix in the way we do, to share tables with strangers" Rachel said.
"I'm moving out, so the chef can live here for a month and set up dinners. I want to promote new talent" continues Nuno "I know how hard it can be not to be able to do your own food if you don't have a restaurant. This will be an opportunity for chefs to show what they can do".I asked Nuno if he would feel happy to open a 'normal' restaurant again.
"Here, I'm my own boss. I've enjoyed the freedom. No rules. It's my playground, as long as the neighbours don't bitch too much. At Viajante I have partners so I will have to compromise. It's not just me."
"I will have a long mixed table again, near the kitchen. This has worked very well."
"I like clean food, that makes you feel healthy. It is influenced by my travels in Asia, living in New York and my Portuguese background."
"I was given opportunities to open up in Trafalgar Square. But I want to stay local. I like the way this part of London is anarchic, edgy. The other day I saw a crazily decorated car, like a work of art. You don't get that in the centre of town"