After missing out on last year's sold out eel dinner, I was glad that we managed to nab a table this time round, thanks to Ge's eagle eyes and prompt booking skills.
The dinner was part of the annual 'Doyo No Ushi' celebration which celebrates the eel eating culture of both Japan and England. There is a long tradition in Japan to eat eel on that day in preparation for the hot summer, with beliefs that the nutritional benefits of the vitamin rich eel (particularly vitamin E) will provide energy and bring relief from the summer’s oppressive heat and humidity.
The Doyo No Ushi supper also coincided with Chef Junya's last dinner in London before he moved back to Japan. I have clearly missed the Backbench days at Koya, and I'm sure that like many others my heart sank after attending the final dinner at Koya before it closed its doors for the last time at the end of May.
Hence, it was a really wonderful opportunity to enjoy his delicious cooking for one more time.
The first course was jellied eel with chilli vinegar, sansho leaf - a traditional English dish served chilled with a nice spicy twist to it. On the side was a bowl of creamy mashed potato to share. This was follows by a piece of eel bone which had been deep fried so that it was really crunchy, and came with a soft boiled egg and celery salt - an improvised version of eggs and soldiers! I could have done with a couple more 'soldiers', or a whole plate of them...
|Jellied eel, chilli vinegar, sansho leaf|
|Eel bone, soft boiled egg & celery salt|
Next up was eel offal, skin and girolles. I am generally not too keen on offal, but I always try it every time with the hope that one day it will grow on me. I adore girolles but unfortunately the offal and I did not quite get on too well...I did finish about two thirds of the dish though, which I think was a pretty good achievement! I probably shouldn't have told Ge what offal was as I don't think she was that much of a fan of it either (oops!).
|Eel offal, skin & girolles|
The English Shanghai hairy crab was an eel by-catch. We both definitely had our share of 'crab-peeling' practice a couple of day before at Newman Arms, so this was a piece of cake! It was pretty small, so you can guess that there wasn't much meat in it either, but at least it served its purpose in life somewhat despite its short existence...
The seawater pickled cucumber with wild fennel served as a form of palate cleanser, before we moved on to the slightly heartier eel and coco bean soup.
My favourite dish of the evening was undoubtedly the grilled eel, with lovely smokey flavours and a nice, crisp skin at the bottom - perfection. This was served with a horseradish and bitter leaf salad which helped to balance out the richness of the eel.
And to finish off, a light dessert of Kappacasein ricotta ice cream, fennel blossom and sour cherry.
|Horseradish & bitter leaf salad|
|Kappacasein ricotta ice cream, fennel blossom & sour cherry|
Overall, it was a really laid back evening filled with simple and clean dishes.
A successful collaborative evening and hopefully there will be more like this in the near future.
The Cheekster, signing out x