Reviewing restaurants is a tricky business, and it raises many issues. One of the questions we are constantly asked is why we don’t ever read a bad review. Well, a) we endeavor not to review bad restaurants! They are either recommended or we have eaten there ourselves, b) we want to promote and help the restaurants not damage its reputation and c) it is what we don’t say that speaks volumes and our more insightful readers detect this. Also, sometimes a memorable meal is more than just the food. Ambiance, the occasion and the company all contribute to happy memories. With all that in mind, here are some memorable bites from 2017.
Wine dinners are gastro-staples in Pattaya giving the Chefs full reign for their gastronomic imagination combined with the perfect pairing of wines. However, during 2017 Mick and I have been hosted to some amazing dinners where in some cases, wine was eschewed for whisky and sake making for some surprising conclusions.
Dicey Reilly’s pushed the envelope and conjured a tasting of the iconic and much loved Belvenie whisky married to a trio of courses to complement the spirit. Firstly though, a small tulip shaped glass “known as a nosing glass” arrived on the table. It traps the aromas in the bulbous bottom of the glass for perfect detection and pinpointing.
The first course introduced roasted New Zealand mussels baked in parchment with herbs in a white butter sauce and the chosen whisky a “DoubleWood” 12-year-old single malt. Who knew roasted mussels and whisky would make such good friends? Not “any” whisky of course but this pedigree which has been matured in two wood types; a traditional oak cask and an European oak sherry cask, each stage affording its own special qualities to the malt. Smooth and oh, so mellow with a nutty sweetness and that underlying lying Sherry flavour are now confirmed Balvenie admirers.
Pork sous-vide with butter, herbs, carrot puree and tomato relish then hit the table with another wee gram, this time my favourite of the evening, a “Caribbean Cask” 14-year-old. This particular malt had been matured in traditional oak casks for many years and then finished in Caribbean casks that had previously held rum. The result is unbelievable, rich, sweet and creamy with a soft and lingering finish. Eaten with the buttery pork and a quite delicious tomato relish it was alike to a walk in the Highlands with a glass of Balvenie in hand. Lastly the Clan Leader was introduced – a “DoubleWood” 17-year-old single malt. It gains its name from having being matured in two distinct casks: a traditional whisky cask followed by a shorter period in an European Sherry cask. The taste is elegant and complex with shades of vanilla and honey with just a hint of green apples. Grilled lamb tenderloin with prune sauce proved the perfect partner to this aged gentlemen of the glen.
Dicey Reilly’s is located on Second Road, Pattaya next to the Avani Hotel and Royal Garden Plaza complex. Tel: 038 411 755 Open 08.00 am to Midnight.
The famous sake house of Kozaemon hosted a successful event where they presented nine of their most popular varieties while Beni Hana staged a culinary abundance of dishes prepared by their talented young chefs. Japan’s national drink has played a central role in Japanese life and culture for the past 2,000 years. It is sometimes referred to as “rice wine” but the brewing process is more similar to beer converting starch to sugar for the fermentation process. Undiluted sake contains 18 – 20% ABV (although this is often lowered to 15% by adding water prior to bottling).
This rich brewing tradition is probably one reason why the Japanese love their sake so much, so where better to hold this unique Sake Tasting event than at Benihana, Pattaya’s favourite teppanyaki steak house. So it was with much anticipation and enthusiasm that Mick and I headed out to the second floor of the Royal Garden Plaza’s life style mall to enjoy this rare occurrence.
Our welcome sake was a Junmai Umeshu Beni Nankoubai or plum liquer which provided an elegant almost sweet-sour sensation for a refreshing curtain raiser to the evening. Sesame lavash, a thin crunchy Middle Eastern treat together with nori chips and some wasabi nuts. A glass of the most premium sake, Junmai Daiginjo was then served with the pairing of French oysters, larb tuna tartar and Hamachi jalapenos which with their fusion characteristics made immediate friends.
A selection of succulent sushi balls, takoyaki (octopus filled wheat balls) and salmon garnished sushi plus California and Tarmako Maki rolls were disappearing at a rapid rate with the next sake, a fragrant Junmai Ginjo Bizen Omachi. However, the star of this course was sushi frost, soft tender salmon was served on a bed of meringue and then “dry iced” to perfect frostiness. The next offering was another Ginjo #20 Mino-Mizunami which we sipped and slurped with quite a few delicious chicken Yakitori sticks liberally drenched in the sweet umami sauce. This course also included a delightful osuimono soup a light fishy broth fashioned from dashi, water and sake and floated with a sweet poached prawn. The accompanying sake was a smooth Kirinzan which enhanced and complemented all the various flavours.
The finale presented our Master Chef preparing us garlic fried rice and a teppanyaki premier quality beef. Knives (and eggs) were thrown, flipped, juggled, lobbed and pitched with skill resulting in a delicious bowl of rice and a perfectly grilled piece of beef before his wagon was ceremoniously wheeled to another table. Quite a performance and from the appreciative ovations and cheers that emanated from the surrounding areas we were not the only ones enjoying the Benihana magic.
We had a “funtastic” evening, the food was top notch, the sakes more than interesting and of course proved the perfect accompaniment to the Japanese cuisine. Benihana scores on so many levels having creating a totally distinctive ambiance where the preparation of the food is driven by the prowess and skill of its highly trained staff who not only produce the product but entertain, surprise and amuse along the way. It’s a culinary circus, a foodie playground and a piece of gastronomic theatre that hits all the right spots.
Benihana is located on 2nd Floor, Royal Garden Plaza, Second Road, Pattaya. Tel: (038) 412 420 Ext.1395 or visit www.benihana-of-tokyo.com for full menu and prices.