Tuesday, 20 May 2014

THE BACKBENCH #2, KOYA

After a really enjoyable experience at the first BackBench last month, there was no doubt that I was just as excited, if not more, to grab a place at the second one.

The BackBench concept enables Chef Junya to experiment further with his dishes to bring a Koya-style tasting menu. Limited to only five spaces per seating, the experience is much more intimate and personal, giving the opportunity for interaction and being able to observe the different dishes being prepared in front of us.
The use of freshly picked seasonal ingredients means that the menu is always different, with dishes being subject to change, even on the night before, depending on what ingredients Chef Junya has been able to obtain.

 

Like the previous one, the menu consisted of 10 different courses. This time I had some company so we both went for the sake flight, consisting of four 180mL glasses (£68). 
The selection of sake was sourced from The Natural Organic Japanese Brewery "Terada Honke", which has brewed sake for more than 300 years in Kozaki. Utilizing the Kimoto method, the sake is naturally brewed using organic rice, with the help of yeasts and various microorganisms involved in sake making.

| Wild Pea Shoots, Horseradish & Yoghurt Miso | 

This first course was a really tactile dish, which we were advised to eat with our bare hands. The wild pea shoots were freshly foraged the day before and went perfectly with the dip.

This came paired with Terada Honke Gonin Musume ("Five Daughters") Unfiltered Sake.

 


| Fresh Yuba, Amalfi Lemon & Wild Rose |

 Yuba, also known as "beancurd sheet", is a true delicacy made from soya beans. Freshly made in the kitchen just before being served, it was silky smooth with a lovely melt-in-your-mouth sensation. Fresh citrus flavours from the lemon and slight sour taste from the vinegar.

 

| Seaweed Salt Roasted Jersey Royals & Miso Soup | 

I remember this dish well from the first BackBench! 
Jersey Royals are most plentiful and flavoursome from April to June, with its peak production in May - their season is so short that it makes sense to enjoy them while available. 
Most farmers still use natural seaweed fertiliser, also known as "Vraic", which provides the soil with nutrients and helps stop pest infestation.

The potatoes were baked in rock salt and seaweed from Scotland - delicious sweet and nutty flavours, and a warm and comforting bowl of miso soup to accompany it.

This course was paired with Terada Honke "Katori 90" Junmai Kimoto Muroka. For this sake, the rice is only polished for 90%, which results in a strong rice-y taste.

 



| Kombu Cured Turbot, Cucumber & Shungiku Flower |

My first time trying turbot as a sashimi dish, which had quite a chewy texture, accompanied with the fresh flavours of the cucumber and slight peppery taste from the Shungiku ("Spring Chrysanthemum") flower.

 

| White Asparagus Tempura & Nettle Salt |

Grown underground using the process of etiolation, the white asparagus variety has a slightly milder flavour and is more tender than green asparagus.
Crispy light batter, and great with the finely ground nettle salt.


| Seabass, Cockles & Sea Kale Tops |

The seabass was grilled perfectly and the soup was light yet appetizing. I don't often see cockles on menus, and to be honest I've never actually dared to try them back home in Malaysia where seafood is in abundance. However, I did surprisingly loved the Scottish cockles which were very fresh and clean.
Topped with lusciously green fresh sea kale that were just picked the day before, another seasonal ingredient.

This was paired with Terada Honke Gonin Musume Junmai - slightly stronger flavours than the first one.


 

| Grilled Duck, Burdock Miso & Sansho |

A generous amount of deliciously tender and slightly rare grilled duck meat shared between the two of us. Each mouthful was an explosion of juicy goodness (some bits slightly fattier than others) which went well with the sweetness of the burdock miso.

This course was paired with Terada Honke Kaikoshu, our final sake pairing - the colour and flavour much deeper and stronger than the earlier ones.

 


 


| Asparagus, Pickled Egg & Garden Herbs Udon |

 And of course there was their famous handmade udon noodles, topped with an oozy pickled egg and asparagus and garden herbs (mint, chives, parsley).

 


| Cherry Blossom Pickled Turnip |

Pickled overnight, this was a tasty palate cleanser just before dessert.

 

| Elderflower & Sakekasu Ice Cream |

An interesting flavour choice, using the lees left over from sake production. Subtle rice and sake notes with a refreshing light finish.



Another fantastic meal at The BackBench, which will definitely be one of my regular spots in the months to come.
To read my previous post on the first BackBench, click here.
The next date has not been announced yet, but will surely be something to look forward to.

The Cheekster, signing out x

Square Meal

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