Rosanjin, NYC 3

March 1, 2010

Linda and I dined at Rosanjin on February 23, 2010, for the first time in over two years. We had really enjoyed our two previous meals there and had learned a lot about Kaiseki cuisine. There were only five other diners on this cold, rainy Tuesday night. Two peonies and a candle were on our table.
 

We had pre-ordered a Kaiseki meal and decided to have the offered sake pairings with it. All nine sakes were served in the same type of little glasses, but the bottles were very interesting and varied. I regret not having taken photos of all of them, but that would have interrupted the flow of things.  Fortunately, we were given a sake pairing list and I have clipped from it below. There was no written description of the food and the oral descriptions during service were frequently hard to follow, so my descriptions below are unofficial and partial.

The first sake was Yukino Bosha Junmai Ginjyo Nigori (Akita/ unfiltered/ fruity). I generally do not appreciate the cloudy, unfiltered sakes; they seem flabby, like vin rosé; but this was okay as apéritif and with the first course, which was slightly sweet.
Homemade tofu, salmon roe, dashi broth and a dab of very hot pepper.

The tofu was somewhat grainy, which gave it a rustic quality that was enhanced by the other ingredients. The very hot pepper was good with this if one carefully spread it around.

Sake: Dassai (Yamaguchi/ semi-dry/fruity)

There was tuna with a creamy sauce in the little bowl. I didn’t record the other ingredients except for the two black beans. This was very good.
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Sake: Kubota Manjyu (Niigata/ dry/ sophisticated). We found it flavorful, but not complex.

The sashimi course included fluke, abalone, red tuna, rock lobster, a shiso leaf, daikon and sharkskin-grated wasabe.

One of the nice things about this was the wide variety of textures among the fish.

Sake: Kitaya Kansansui (Fukuoka/ semi dry/ light) We liked this one. If it were a Burgundy we would have said it had a goût de terroir.

This was a dashi broth with various elements; the little square dishes had pureed daikon and a mild soy sauce.


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Sake: Square one (Nagano/ dry/ rich) This one had the most striking bottle, gray earthenware with a calligraphy square and a single horizontal line.

Top quality toro sushi

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Sake: Kanchiku (Nagano/ semi-dry/ slightly sweet)  This was a little sweet up front, but then had a nice, complex follow through.
Yellowtail teryaki with a mountain plum; wagyu filet was served alongside in a fish dish.



I did not see the point of serving these two together and ate them sequentially. Putting the very good, rich beef in a fish dish was making a statement which eluded me.
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Sake: Sake Hitosuji (Okayama/ dry/ flavorful). We thought this had a lot of flavor, but it was not complex.

Shrimp and asparagus tempura; sweet and sour beef in an eggplant bowl.

Once again, I did not see the logic of serving these two together, although I may be missing an important point of Kaiseki. It would have been nice to have a substantial tempura course as this small sample was excellent.

 

Mr. Park, the director of Rosanjin, had come by our table before the last course; we had a nice conversation. Then he came back to our table carrying a small, green porcelain grill with hot coals and a plate with two pieces of hoshiko, also known as kuchiko, bachiko, or konoko, dried sea cucumber ovaries that are extracted, salted, layered together and dried in the sun in a triangle shape. It takes up to 100 to make one triangle piece. Mr. Park lightly toasted them over the coals which releases the flavors and fragrances. He suggested that we bite off small pieces and slowly chew them which would reveal the flavor. There was an unctuousness like foie gras and a flavor like caviar, but deeper and with a nutty undertone. It was a very special delicacy.

 

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Sake: Tenryo Hidahomare Gifu/ mild/ fruity)

It is common at the end of a kaiseki meal to serve a pot of rice so that no one will be left hungry. (Dessert has been added for the Americans.) Here the rice was thickened with taro, which gave it almost a barley texture, and shredded crab meat. It was good, but we declined a second helping from the cast iron pot. In the lovely lacquer bowl was miso soup with a big mushroom and some diced vegetables. Fresh Japanese pickles completed the course and added needed zing.

 

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Sake: Plum sake (Okayama/ sweet) This was served over crushed ice which diluted and killed it.

Dessert was banana ice cream, green tea cheesecake and red bean pudding with a custard on top.

The nice cheesecake slices are behind the ice cream, which had a very good flavor, but was overly gelatanous.

To finish, instead of matcha, whipped from green tea powder, Rosanjin serves its own fresh green tea from leaves.

When we chatted with Mr. Park, he told us that there was a new and better chef since our last visit. We could certainly see some changes. There were more courses with multiple elements that didn’t seem to have relevance to each other. I suppose that is part of the idea that the meal should always be considered as a whole and not as the sum of its parts. It is also very interesting how different this was from the Shojin meal we had enjoyed the week before at Kajitsu. Kaiseki is supposed to be derived from Shojin, but you would not guess that from the two meals. Most of the presentations seem similar, but the ingredients are very different and Shojin’s sense of austerity is lost in this Kaiseki.

 

We stopped in the small ante-room to put on our winter gear before going back out into the storm.

To see our meal at Rosanjin in March 2007 click here.

To see our meal at Rosanjin in December 2007 click here.

www.rosanjintribeca.com

 

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