Orthogonal Thought | Random musings from the creator of Cooking For Engineers and Lead Architect of Fanpop





What I Ate: July 21, 2010 (Kenichi)

Posted 23 July, 2010 at 2:09am by Michael Chu
(Filed under: Food, What I Ate)

Dinner: We went to a food blogger invitational dinner at Kenichi (419 Colorado Street, Austin, TX‎ - (512) 320-8883‎) where they provided us a seven course meal with sake pairings. I only had a few sips of the sake because I had to work more that evening (and, from past experience, consumption of alcohol reduces my appreciation for food and deadens my taste buds), but even so I could taste a whole variety of different flavors that different sakes can provide. Many paired excellently with the food while some others just didn't seem to work for me.

red snapper salad tai sashimi with pine nuts, orange supreme, shishito peppers, sunflower sprouts and confetti sauce. I felt the sashimi was too mild of the strong flavors of the sauce and the sprouts. In addition, there were too many sprouts - in the end I left the excess sprouts with a small pool of sour dressing. It was surprising that there was a puddle of dressing left over since the person who brought my plate to the table managed to spill some of it on Tina's lap. She also spilled some on Natanya (of Fête & Feast), but I suppose it's excusable since she works in marketing and isn't one of the wait staff (helping out to accommodate the large group). I think much of the problem comes from the triangle plates which are easy to tip slightly and cause low viscosity liquids to slosh out. Thicker sauces on plates of that shape should pose no problems.
Kenichi - Red Snapper Salad

seared sea scallop house made yuzu kosho, sweet pickled daikon, candied ginger, peanut butter miso. I liked all the components on this dish, but some were executed better than others while there was an overall balance issue that I felt was created by oversaucing. The scallops, where they were browned, were savory, pleasantly sweet, perfectly cooked, and worked very well with the pickled daikon and candied ginger. However, the peanut sauce (of which a tiny amount would have sufficed) was overwhelming. If this hadn't been served in a pool of the sauce, I think the mild (but still rich) flavor of the scallops would have been balanced with the other components. Some of the paler (not properly browned) scallop portions lacked enough flavor to even be discernible from the peanut sauce and served merely as a contrast in texture.
Kenichi - Seared Sea Scallop

sansho escolar peppercorn crusted waru in a lemon-truffle sauce over sautéed portabellas and japanese peppercorns. I really like the combination of the escolar with the thinly sliced marinaded portabella mushrooms. I would have liked it more if the escolar had better texture. The slices I had tonight were a bit mealy, not firm and slightly resisting to the bite like other raw escolar I've had in the past. I don't know if it could be an inferior fish, a different cut, or that the lemon juice in the mushroom marinade altered the texture of the fish. I did feel that the acid in this dish (like the first dish) could have been dialed down a little because escolar's natural flavor can't really compete with something as acidic as what I had in this dish. Like the first two courses, balance was more of an issue than anything else. A few simple adjustments could make all three dishes very good, but they are hard adjustments to make properly.
Kenichi - Sansho Escolar

tuna and miso fois [sic] gras pear, crispy garlic, truffled ponzu. A small sliver of Hudson Valley Foie Gras was placed on slices of seared big eye tuna. This worked remarkably well - the mild flavor of the tuna received a big boost from the strip of foie gras while bright, refreshing asian pear brought a third complimentary flavor and texture. The only problem was there was a bit too much ponzu sauce which I didn't think was absolutely necessary. Enough to season the big eye tuna and nothing else would have been better. I should note that at this point in the meal someone from Kenichi gave an entire spiel about how Hudson Valley Foie Gras was okay to eat because the ducks are well treated and they don't force feed them. This wasn't exactly true - the ducks are well treated, but even Hudson Valley tube feeds their ducks. Each duck is tube fed by hand and this isn't cruel - the ducks are always allowed to come willingly to the feeder (they aren't forced to take the tube) and they take such good care of their ducks that mortality rates are extremely low for a poultry operation of their size. But, to say they don't use force feeding techniques is going a little far. If this practice can be considered a form of animal cruelty, then it is certainly a whole lot less cruelty occurring at Hudson Valley than any other typical poultry farm and since I eat chicken and duck without any hint of regret or sorrow, I feel fine about eating foie gras.
Kenichi - Tuna and Miso Foie Gras

temari sushi yellowtail belly, orange mustard sauce, scallions, red shiso. This was the best dish we had - the rice was well prepared: discrete grains, well packed, slightly sweet, slightly vinegared. The yellowtail belly had a richness that blended well with the sweet citrus flavors and the red shiso worked perfectly to give it a little bit of herbaceous mint.
Kenichi - Temari Sushi

japanese steak & eggs akaushi, poached quail egg, king oyster mushrooms, kizame wasami. A playful take on the classic American breakfast food, this dish could have been much better executed. It was oversauced and my egg was broken (yolk lost to the pool of sauce). According to Chef, the egg was cooked in a bag (which I assumed meant in a water bath), but I felt that the beef should have been cooked in a water bath instead. Both Tina and I had chewy steak slices - the interior was tender but the outer ring required a reasonable amount of chew to get it to come apart. When a dish is dependent on an ingredient like akaushi beef (a type of wagyu beef), overcooking the edges enough for it to be chewy is a travesty. I haven't had an opportunity to have much American-bred Akaushi beef (all of which is produced by Heartbrand Beef in Texas), but I suspect the difference is much the same as the best American-bred wagyu vs. A5 Wagyu from Japan (night and day). I liked the egg with the chewy (but flavorful) trumpet mushroom slice and had the beef been done properly (and egg not broken and sauce reduced to a streak) this would have been an excellent combination. Again, another dish with great ideas and combinations, but having problem with final execution and balance.
Kenichi - Japanese Steak & Eggs

green tea tiramisu japanese chestnuts. This was a pretty good dessert. It was milder than other tiramisus, lacking the strong coffee/espresso flavor (replaced with macha, a green tea powder that has a distinct flavor but is still orders of magnitude milder than coffee) as well as the alcohol. Because both those ingredients were missing, the layered dessert was also a bit drier than usual. The flavors did work well together and was very pleasant to consume - especially with sips of the Gekkeikan "Zipang" Sparkling Sake that was paired with it.
Kenichi - Green Tea Tiramisu

Lunch: I ate a bowl of Cottage Pie for lunch.
Cottage Pie

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