Showing posts with label green tea pudding. Show all posts
Showing posts with label green tea pudding. Show all posts

Celebrating #Canada150 at Shoushin (Toronto)

Aside from the beautiful land, what I love most about Canada is our diversity and that we’re generally a country that celebrates multiculturalism. Being a child of immigrants, my parents left their families and travelled here for university. Of course, it wasn’t easy – getting comfortable with the language and having to work harder to prove their worth – yet, they love their decision and would never return to Hong Kong … Canada is home.

Hence, when it came time to celebrate Canada’s 150 anniversary, forgoing the typical BBQ and celebrating with Shoushin’s special Canada omakase ($150), served until the end of July 2017, seemed like the patriotic thing to do.

The first bite from the dinner is the mozuku, a refreshing start with finely cut seaweed slivers mixed with a sweet vinegar. Its consistency is a bit slippery, but since the seaweed has little flavour, it’s not off putting. Garnished with tomato pulp, grated ginger, and daikon slivers, these add a nice crunch and additional flavours to the starter to keep it interesting.

As a first experience goes, the lobster sashimi wasn’t horrible. Although it’s not something I’d want to eat again, the east coast crustacean actually had a crunchy consistency and wasn’t soft and gummy as expected. Chef Lin notes that lobster sashimi is really about the texture as it has little taste. He was right; while it was simply adorned with seaweed salt and wasabi, I still couldn’t taste much sweetness (something that seems to develop when it’s cooked).

The aroma emitted from the grilled unagi is heavenly, the perfume of sweet caramelized soy that makes you want to dig in right away. Since the eel is from Quebec, it’s much larger and hence meatier than the typical unagi found on rice or topping sushi. Glazed with mirin, soy sauce, and chocolate (if I heard correctly), it’s sweet and peppery thanks to the chilli berries on top. It would have been even better if it were cooked a touch less as I found one piece a tad chewy and dry.

Before the sushi procession begun, a bowl of nyumen arrives, the kelp and bonito infused broth swimming with silky somen noodles, crunchy snow peas, and earthy re-hydrated shiitake mushrooms. The dish is simple but wonderful, the soup ideal for readying the palette for the raw seafood that follows.

Starting light, the first piece of sushi was a Japanese flounder. While it’s a meaty fish, there’s an interesting almost fluffiness to its consistency.

Though the west coast big reef squid’s slightly sticky chewy texture isn’t the greatest, it’s not repulsive either and likely due to the thicker slice given. After getting past the consistency, it’s a nice light squid with the main flavours stemming from the swipe of soy on top.

The golden eye snapper is always a treat, even as a milder fish, there’s still a prevalent flavour to it and pairs rather nicely with the vinegar mixed into the rice. As commended in a previous post, Shoushin makes excellent rice: it’s heavier on the vinegar so that grains actually have flavour and the temperature is spot on (warm enough to enhance the fish without changing the temperature).

Shoushin also makes amazing horse mackerel sushi! Since the fish is cleaned so well any gamey fishiness is removed. On this occasion, they added a healthy sprinkle of green onion on top creating an extra zip to the sushi. It’s by far the best horse mackerel I’ve had.

Midway through the 11-piece sushi meal the tuna parade starts, following the leanest to fattiest sequence. The lean blue fin tuna has that vibrant red colour that’s so mesmerising. Meanwhile, the warmer rice with the medium chu toro was fantastic, causing the tuna taste to cover the tongue and linger even after the piece was finished.

Typically, the fattiest piece of the tuna comes from the otoro or tuna belly. In this case, Shoushin introduced me to the fattiest part of the tuna’s back, which still melts in the mouth and has a much stronger flavour.

After such lovely pieces of tuna, the gizzard shad was out of place. Having had it before, this piece was overly salty and the skin too thick – it felt like I was chewing forever when I just wanted to swallow the salty fish down.

The east coast surf clam wasn’t any better. At first it had a crunchy texture emitting a sweetness, but as chewing continued, the clam finished off with a fishy aftertaste. Take my advice: chew and swallow quickly, this isn’t one for savouring.

Thankfully, the following east coast scallop was better: with a hint of seaweed salt and lemon on top, the ingredients helped augment the scallop’s sweetness. Not having been blow torched, you could still taste the seafood in a delicate manner.

In lieu of the traditional hand roll, a piece of sushi topped with pop-in-your-mouth Canadian fish eggs arrived. With a light dusting of yuzu zest on top, it was a cold and refreshing ending.

Of course, we were also served a piece of tamago, which Shoushin does so well. The beautiful layers and rich delicately sweetened egg is the perfect bridge between sushi and dessert.

Whenever they serve some sort of rendition of a green tea pudding, that’s what I have for dessert. The matcha flavoured jelly is generally accompanied with a sweet red bean paste (a staple in Asian sweets) and a chewy unfilled glutinous rice ball. In this case, the Canadian theme continued with the pool of maple syrup on the bottom, helping to add a sweetness to the dessert.

While not as impressive as their general Yuri tasting menu, this one was still decent. However, for something classified as a special “Canada celebration” menu, it’s disappointing that less than half of the dishes were made from Canadian ingredients.

Understandably, sourcing an entire Canadian menu for sushi may be difficult, but at least the individual courses such as the seaweed (from Okinawa) and somen noodles (presumably from Japan) should be Canadian related. Either they could be sourced from Canadian ingredients (wouldn’t we produce seaweed?) or replaced with something signifying our country (an Angus beef tataki would have been delicious).

Without a doubt, I love Canada for its diversity. Nonetheless, perhaps refined sashimi and sushi should be left for other days of the year.

Overall mark - 8 out of 10

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 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 3328 Yonge Street

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Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!

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Minami Aoyama Toshio 南青山 とし緒 (Tokyo)

Location: Tokyo, Japan
Address:  5-12-4, Minami-Aoyama, Minato (All 菓連 building B1F)
Type of Meal: Dinner  

Minami Aoyama Toshio is situated on a quiet street in Minami Aoyama, at the basement level of a building but is still visible from the street. If you’d like to visit, it’s a place that’s harder to find but not impossible, included below is a picture of its entrance.

Upon entering the dining area I was excited for the intimate surroundings (about nine bar seats and two tables). We were brought to the bar, which is always a treat to be seated near the chef as I love to watch them prepare ingredients and put dishes together. Although, in this case, a bit of a turnoff as he kept coughing and most times not even covering his mouth.  Luckily, by then he had already prepared our sashimi dish, but I felt a little disgusted for the other patrons – really he should wear a mask.

The hand written menus were attractive and foreshadows Toshio’s beautifully presented dishes to come. Although they have a la carte options, we went with the omakase (tasting menu). Unfortunately, I don’t know the price per person but our bill ended up being ¥50,400 (inclusive of taxes and gratuities) for four people, three beers and a glass of white wine.

To start, a hollowed mikan (type of mandarin orange) was filled with a hot taro/sweet potato (?) paste which had a smooth but slightly sticky texture from the starch.  Pods of edamame and a piece of scallop sat at the bottom; the edamame adding a nice crunch but the scallop overdone. Overall, a good start but you have to be careful to not get over zealous with scraping at the mixture as the mikan pith comes up and taints it with a bitter taste. 

An appetizer dish arrives next with tons to try. On a clockwise basis:
  • The square dish contained an interesting combination of creamy fish roe paste and blanched veggies, where the paste is very smooth and has a nice briny flavour.
  • Next, a Japanese take on an avocado and crab salad.  The blue crab meat was fresh and delicious going well with pieces of rich avocado and crab roe.  I enjoyed this simple but succulent dish.
  • Meanwhile, the karasumi, slices of cured mullet roe dried in the sun and then waxed, is truly an acquired taste. These orange slices are the consistency of pressed preserved egg yolks (sometimes found in the Chinese mooncakes) with the flavour of fish and a hint of bitterness. I’ve heard it’s a delicacy generally enjoyed with sake and tried but could not finish them.  Rather I ate the pieces of pear sandwiched in between the karasumi and relied on the pickled onion at the middle of the dish to take away the lasting aftertaste.
  • Lastly were two pieces of seared mackerel oshizushi (pressed sushi). It was average but somewhat expected for something premade and just added to the dish.

The sashimi platter was beautifully presented - the plate and slices of radishes brought out the colours of the fish so well! The thinner slices were more to my liking – simple and clean tasting.  Meanwhile, the stronger fishy taste of the thicker slices was more of a challenge but my husband preferred them. Two sauces arrived with the sashimi – the sweeter thick soy made for the thicker slices and the citrusy ponzu for the thinner fish.

Next, we were presented with two large pieces of fugu kara-age (also known as pufferfish or blowfish). The crust wasn’t tempura but thicker and akin to a fried chicken coating. The fugu is a dense whitefish with the texture of grouper or shark and is rather tasteless. Personally, I enjoyed the thinner piece which may have been the inflating portion of the fish as there where layers of gluey collagen and lots of bones with the meat. On the other hand, the thicker slice was just a big piece of rather bland fish. 

In the end, fugu is not the tastiest type of fish. Instead, people are drawn to it for its lethal nature given the fish has toxic parts that could be poisonous if not removed.  Only trained and licensed chefs in Japan are allowed to serve fugu (quite an extensive process including years of apprenticeship and various exams) so it’s generally not offered at many restaurants. Some say you get a numbing effect in your mouth when you eat it, this didn’t happen to me (perhaps because it wasn’t eaten raw) but I did have a weird feeling in my throat afterwards.

The best course of the night was a dish of thinly sliced beef with vegetables. I can’t remember what type of beef it was, but could have been the valuable Matsuzaka (a type of wagyu). It certainly had a rich flavor and was so well marbled that it sort of melts in your mouth. The crisp and lightly marinated vegetables (daikon, radish, brussel sprouts) helped to cut through the greasiness. However, I felt the ground pork stuffed shiitake mushroom could have been left out as it didn’t complement the dish well and personally wasn’t a fan of the mucus like consistency of the raw egg it was sitting on. 

Since it was winter, I was excited to see the bubbling hot stone bowl of the next course; that is until l I noticed the brain like matter sitting in the middle of it.  Luckily, it wasn’t brains or intestines (my second guess) but rather shirako which can also be known as milt or cod fish sperm. Its texture is soft and creamy (similar to silken egg tofu) and really wouldn’t be that horrible if it weren’t for the fishy and slightly bitter aftertaste… perhaps I shouldn’t have held the small piece I ate in my mouth to really taste but rather wash it down with as much soup as possible. Needless to say, I couldn’t handle it and scooped it out of the soup.

The broth was slightly sweet and flavoured with more of the mikan mandarins, which in my opinion ruined what could have been a delicious soup. I’ll admit it’s just my tastes - I detest most sweet & salty combinations and find fruit generally doesn’t go well with other ingredients. However, I was impressed with the carrots in the soup; they don’t have a stronger taste but were such a vivid orangey red colour. 

Rice accompanied the following course so we knew it was the last. The typical fish (this one soaked in a sweet soy and topped with green onion and sesame seeds), pickled veggies (thick dried seaweed and a very flavourful sweet & tart cherry) and soup (dark miso with fried gluten pieces) rounded everything off nicely.

The meal ended off on a high note with delicious desserts (two for each couple). Firstly, was a warm glutinous honey jelly with cold vanilla ice cream, the combination went wonderfully together.  Topping everything was a ground almond (?) powder adding a hint of nuttiness (in texture and flavour) to the dish. 

A rich green tea pudding was the other; the tea powder so infused into the custard that it gave it a powerful punch. Its creamy finish on the tongue was absolutely delightful.

Although I didn’t really enjoy the taste of most of the dishes (on account of the many sweet & salty combinations and bitter tastes), Toshio did offer the most unique dining experience of the trip. After all, restaurants don’t often serve karasumi, fugu and shirako all in the same meal! So, if you have an open mind and the desire to try rare local delicacies this is definitely the meal for you.

Overall mark - 6.5 out of 10

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Gastro World's Grading System
  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!