Sunday 7 October 2012

Eating Out

Last week I was lucky enough to have dinner at one of London's newest restaurants; Chrysan.

I'd never eaten Japanese food before; and for a novice Chrysan's Kaiseki course is a great introduction; you do have to be a fan of fish though! You can find the full menu here.

We were lucky to be were eating in the Chef's Table which is a private dining room with a view into the kitchen, so you can see Chef and his team at work. The décor is very understated; the table is a solid wood tab, unvarnished; the floor is also wood, very light. The walls are also pale and undecorated apart from a bookshelf on one wall with a bonsai tree and some other Japanese crockery. The ceiling keeps the theme; with wooden battens and two Warlon paper light fittings; which give fantastic ambient lighting.

Our dining experience started with a welcome drink of sake; this was served in very small red saucers; and tasted mostly of lychee. 

I started with a Umami Prawn Cappuccino; very light and not too heavy on the prawn. Beautifully resented in a small dish on a wooden tray with a wooden lid.

Next up, Freshly Made Tofu with Orange Miso. To get the full effect of this you have to dig right through all the layers at once. Presented in a scooped out orange, put back together; light and although infused with orange not over-poweringly so.

Possibly my favourite course, the half dozen Sashimi selection
Octopus with tosazu jelly and ginger
Salmon with wasabi tosajyoyu jelly 
Yellowtail with mooli and horseradish 
Sea bream marinated with sun dried tomato and parmesan
Tuna with mustard base and English mustard
Red Mediterranean prawn with ponzu jelly 

Some of the fish was raw, some cooked. All the flavours blended perfectly with the fish; and I especially enjoyed the mooli; not popular with some of my party so I got to eat theirs too! The sashimi  were all presented in small differently coloured glass dishes placed on a glass tray.

Parsnip and Duck Foie Gras “Manju” with Truffle Dashi Soup came next. Served in a very utilitarian metal dish with matching  lid; Foie Gras and truffles were long on my list of things to try. I enjoyed the soup and the dumpling - but I didn't really like the taste or the texture of the Foie Gras.

We then got to what could be considered the main course. I had Smoked Scottish Salmon with Mint miso sauce and Jerusalem artichoke . Presented on a beautiful blue almost pottery looking plate (yes, I was getting crockery envy) the salmon, I was told, had been cooked for an hour. It was a worthwhile use of time; it melted in your mouth! The sauce was fantastic... and I loved the finishing touches; the capers on the fish and the pomegranate seeds with the vegetable (yes, that does work).

My fellow diners had some different choices; which they, of course, let everyone have a taste of. I still think the salmon was the best choice. The Scottish lobster with scallops, mussels and yellowtail in dashi broth of Saikyo miso was very tasty; well the broth and one mussel which I tried were. The lamb chops came on three flavours Sansho miso, ginger and wasabi; I tried the wasabi and it was very good the wasabi was balanced just right so as not to be over-whelming. The mackerel was good too (although I'm not fond of smoked fish) and oddly came with strawberries!

A palette cleanser of pear and wasabi granite (gra-nee-tee) which is rather like a sorbet was served in a pretty little glass next. This was a fascinating combination; fruity and cold but with a lingering taste of the hot wasabi. Again, you wouldn't expect it but it works.

And so to the end. Desert. I had soy and caramel Apple Tatin, with cinnamon ice cream, and “Yatsuhashi” Biscuit. Unsurprisingly this was delicious. We know that apple works with caramel and cinnamon; the Tatin was crispy top and bottom but soft in the middle and the ice cream was fantastically creamy; and the apple purée gave a little extra sweetness to dip the biscuit in. It was fantastic. Presented with flair on a blue stripy plate.

Again the rest of my party had some different deserts, and again we shared the tasting. The cauliflower Crème ginger snap with poached Kumquat and Yuzu Sorbet was interesting. The vegetable was carried through to the topping with some tomato but also flower petals! I'm not convinced by the inclusion of vegetable in desert but the sweetness came through more than the vegetable so it wasn't unpleasant; but not for the desert traditionalist. The other choice was cucumber soup with green apple sorbet and tomato pastry; I only tried the soup so I didn't get the full desert experience but the soup was very nice; and probably more desert-like with the pastry or sorbet - it certainly was very refreshing.

We finished with some tea, green tea, of course. We were told there were four different strengths, I went for a lighter tea (which I did well out of as I got a whole tea-pot). I'm not sure if Japanese green tea is different from the stuff in the supermarkets, but I did enjoy my tea. I'm glad I didn't go for the 'super-strong' tea; that was basically 'froth' in the bottom of the cup and definitely an acquired taste.

Our meal was accompanied by sake; I'd never had this before, it was a little like a white wine but with a (not surprising) definite rice/grain bouquet. It is difficult to judge how much sake you are drinking as it comes in white bowls rather than the traditional wine glass.

Worth a mention of their own are the toilets. They are what you would expect if you were in a high class restaurant in Japan. When you open the cubicle door the lid raises; the seat is heated... you probably need a manual for the control panel above the toilet rolls! Plenty of lighting and mirrors in the main area, and I wanted to take the blue-lit basins home with me.

We ended the evening back where we started, in the bar. This is a very elegant area; having been there in the earlier in the day I can say that it looks best at night. The purple end wall shades in colour from quite light up to the darkness of the ceiling. On the way out you notice the feature wall of the entrance (with a wooden sign and another bonsai tree); the texture of the wall is brought out by the directed lighting; and if you turn around you see the paper lanterns through the wooden screen.

An evening out to remember.

Dinner at Chrysan

A set by nat_mach
Chefs at work (1)
Ambient lighting
Sakizuke - all gone!

Square Meal