Monday, June 15, 2009

Chef's Cheese Degustation: course seven

Our review of the orenji-created Chef's Cheese Degustation and Wine Tasting continues with a palate cleanser. Following such rich foods as duck confit and braised pork belly, our guests needed to refresh their palates for the tastes yet to come. The perfect way to do that, in our opinion, is to hearken back to two of our favorite Japanese inspirations: sake and shiso.

We whimsically refer to this dish as a deconstructed Japanese "mojito..."

As palate cleansers often are, we opted for something cold and icy-- a sorbet. This sorbet, a white and icy experience, was made from unfiltered Hakutsuru-Sayuri (はくつるーさゆり) sake-- a sweet and creamy sake made from rice. As the sake is bottled in it's natural unfiltered state, a yeasty and deep flavor develops which translates into a complex and multi-layered sorbet. Coupled with the sake, we added (to continue our highlighting of cheese) sakura cheese (Hokkaido, Japan)-- a soft calf'smilk cheese, wrapped in salted cherry blossom leaves prior to aging. The subtle milkiness and saltiness of the cheese, tinged with a slight scent of cherry, gave delicious depth to the sorbet.

To combat the heat and alcohol of sake, we topped our granita (tableside, of course) with a cool and refreshing aloe "air." Sweet and herbal, the light and airy flavors of the foam floated atop the granita, both balancing and sweetening the "kick" of the sake.

We further highlighted shiso-- a deliciously fragrant Japanese herb reminiscent of cinnamon, cumin, and basil-- serving in in two ways: first, we "crisped" it by flash frying it, and dusted it with sea salt; second, we created shiso gelée"ice cubes." These cubes of lightly sweetened gelatin were infused with the essence of shiso, creating a bright and fresh taste.

Lastly, for temperature and textural contrast, we hand-candied some fresh, young white ginger and served it "tempura" style. The candied ginger almost liquefies, with the crispy tempura shell creating the perfect envelope in which to serve it.

Of course, for the adventurous, we served a small portion of the unfiltered Hakutsuru-Sayuri sake for tasting along with the palate cleanser...

With our taste buds refreshed, we were ready for the next course... but we'll get to that in our next post. Be sure to check back!

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