Monday, December 17, 2012

The Four Seasons Plus a Few More

The Husband and I decided to spend a lovely evening at Aviary. We wanted to get in before the Kyoto menu changed over so we could taste the Kyoto flight and slurp on some delicious ramen. A friend and Aviary regular, The M2, ended up meeting us there as well, (he needed a break from studying for his Medical School exams) so the three of us had a lovely evening drinking and eating.

The last few times we had been to The Aviary, we skipped drinks upstairs and went downstairs to The Office. Because of this, there were several new drinks on the menu that we wanted to try. I went with the Kyoto Flight, a four course flight of drinks based off of the Kyoto Kaiseki menu at Next.  When I finally write up our Kyoto dinner, I will go into detail about what a Kaiseki menu is. But for the sake of today, kaiseki is a type of art form that balances the taste, texture, appearance, and colors of food. In traditional kaiseki menus, only fresh seasonal ingredients are used and are prepared in ways that aim to enhance their flavor. Finished dishes are carefully presented on plates that are chosen to enhance both the appearance and the seasonal theme of the meal. At Aviary the each of the four courses represented a season.

Spring was a Cherry Blossom. It was beautiful. The flue came with a cube of sugar and small dried ball at the bottom along with a single sprig of leaf on the side. Our server informed us that the sugar has been soaked in cherry, persimmon and various other deliciousness before being formed into the cube. She then slowly poured the spirit into the glass and as if by magic, the dried ball at the bottom began to open up and became a beautiful cherry blossom. They then took a small spray bottle and sprayed some essence of cherry onto the glass. The drink was light, refreshing and all around perfect. Once I finished my drink, I was trying to get to the sugar that was at the base of the flute (without sticking my finger inside).  When I got my next course, I ended up using the straw to grab at some. Seriously, best sugar ever.


The second course, Summer was a Barbque. The cup was cold and stone, the ice was made of matcha green tea, there was gin, pineapple a shiso leaf garnished it and the straw was lemongrass.  It was really refreshing and went down super easy.


When we sat down, we had told our waitress that we wanted the ramen, she recommended bringing it out during the third course, fall. So when my Autumn course came out, a Japanese Pickleback, out came two seaming bowls of ramen. The drink came out on a heavy stone that was covered with oak leaves and had a small piece of rolled oak parchment paper burning. It smelled like fall, it was divine.  I am not a lover of brown liquor, so when I was told that the drink was a rather large bowl of 12 year aged Japanese whisky  (yamazaki) alongside a shot of red wine vinegar, I was a little worried. I shouldn’t have been, as it is The Aviary. The whisky didn’t burn, it wasn't peety, and it didn't have a distinct caramel or vanilla smell. I found out that it was infused with seaweed and some other lovely stuff. The pickleback was tangy and a little salty and worked REALLY well with the whisky. The Husband was sipping along and was really happy. He had initially offered me his drinks when he heard it was 12 year ages whiskey, I think he was a little sad that he didn’t get to have it all to himself. I did share though.


As for the ramen, oh the ramen. Heavenly. We ordered two of the three on the menu, the Tonkatsu (pork belly) and the Shoyu (vegan).

The bowls, if that is what you can call them…more like vessels made for slurping, came out with the noodles inside and a teapot with the broth. When the Tonkatsu broth was poured, it looked like milk, it was not however. The broth was made from 50 pounds of pork that was slow cooked and broken down into an emulsified pork stock (yes, you read that right). The bowl was filled with pickled vegetables, quail eggs, hand extruded noodles, thin slices or pork belly and mushrooms. Oh my word, it was heavenly. It’s the kind of dish that you want to sit on your sofa, hug it close and read a book; the epitome of comfort foods.  

The Shoyu is a completely vegan dish with a soy-based broth. It was light and elegant and delightful it contained fried shiitake mushrooms, a hunk of miso, bamboo shoots, and tiny marinated cubes of tofu. The noodles, which are the same across all the ramens, are kind of amazing. They’re thin, they don’t stick together and they do a great job of soaking up the broth.

We were given a fork to eat the noodles, and expected to get all of the broth out by tilting the bowl. I want those bowls.

And finally, winter came. And along with it came the Grasshopper. Traditional Grasshoppers are made with Crème de Menthe, Crème de Cacao and fresh Cream. This drink was not that. It came out in a tiny plastic cup with a lid and a huge straw used to drink Bubble Tea. The Crème de Menthe was made into large green pearls at the base of the drink. You’d suck them up and as soon as they hit your mouth, they would explode. I was told not to drink it too fast, lest I get a brain freeze. The base of the drink was a vodka and white chocolate slush with a hint of wasabi. Some people have said they didn’t like the addition of the wasabi, I thought it was a perfect hint to cut into the sweetness of the slush and the pearls. I was a fan.

While I was sipping on these, The Husband started his evening with the End of Days. It was awesome. They brought out a huge golden table with the Mayan seal, placed a glass on the table and then brought out the flame thrower. You can’t have an end of the world drink without fire. A coup filled with pomegranate & rum torch, bourbon and mescal. It was a little smokey and really good. 

The End of Days

The Husband nursed that through my first two rounds and when the ramen came out, our waitress suggested that he try two half pours of beers they had on tap. The first was the Haptera beer Next partnered with Half Acre to create for the Kyoto menu.  The beer was brewed with szechuan peppers that Andrew Zimmer (from Bizarre Foods) brought from China to Chef Beran.  He was given a preview of the Kyoto menu and gave the peppers to Chef Beran, hoping he could use them. They ended up putting them into the second fermentation of the Half Acre beer. It was delicious when we had it at Next and it paired perfectly when we had it with the Ramen.

After that, he moved over to the Pre-Fixe menu. He started with the Pear Shurb, apple cider vinegar, thyme and The Husband’s favorite, Aquavit. It was carbonated and bottled in house. He was informed that it was very vinegary, so if he didn't like the Pickleback I just had, he wouldn't enjoy this, but it was our waitresses favorite on the pre-fixe. She was correct, it was vinegary and didn't really have much of a pear flavor, but both The Husband and I really enjoyed it.

The Pear Shrub

From there he did the Smoking Barrel.  Served in a similar manner to The Bitter, Oak is torched and the smoke is captured inside the glass. A carafe comes out filled with cognac, calvados, bourbon and fig is reminiscent of sitting next to a bonfire. It warms without burning and it smells absolutely delicious.

The Smoking Gun

The Husband’s final drink was the Hot Chocolate. This is one of our favorites and it’s typically only a winter drink. A super cool looking cup and saucer is filled with a chocolaty concoction of malt, banana, pecan and bourbon. The banana taste is very very light, the bourbon adds more of a vanilla smell than anything and it complements the warm frothy liquid. This is one of those super deadly drinks; you don’t realize how much alcohol is in it until you've had the whole thing.

The Hot Chocolate

We ordered some bites along the way as well. The Corn is always a favorite, creamy guacamole surrounded by a “corn shell” made from candied corn nuts. Yes; it’s delicious. We also had the Date, a bacon wrapped date. And Duck Rillettes; I never, ever say no to Rillettes and these were not ones to say no to.  The staff was also amazing and brought us two rounds of dessert bites, The Passion Fruit and The Brioche. The Passion Fruit was on a shortbread cookie and was light, a little acidic and sweet, The Brioche is the one bite dessert. A liquid (in this case with a slight bacon infusion) covered in chocolate. It explodes in your mouth when you eat it (so you take it in one bite, lest you get it all over) and it was amazing as always.

Duck Rillettes

Passion Fruit

Our friend, The M2, had been to The Kitchen Table the week before, so he had tasted a fair number of the drinks The Husband and I had. He started with the staple, In the Rock 2.0. When Charles Joly took over The Aviary, he reinvented the well-known cocktail. Before it was a Manhatten inside an ice egg, now it’s a play on a Vieux Carré with the ice egg infused with Peychaud’s bitters. The inside was a mixture of vermouth, cognac, rye and Benedictine, as the ice melts, the Peychaud’s bitters do a wonderful job of changing the flavor of the drink.

In the Rocks 2.0

As they were imbibing on Hot Chocolate and In the Rocks, I moved onto the newest edition of the Portal drink, Cranberry. The portal comes out filled with rosemary, allspice, gin, rum, cranberries and orange. As with all portal drinks, it evolves in flavor and color as time goes on.  The drink started as a very light, almost translucent pink, with a more alcoholic flavor to it and transformed into a magenta liquid, that smelled of rosemary and had the sweet tartness of cranberry’s and orange.


The M2 moved onto the Persimmon. The glass was what they used to use for the Hurricane. It was iced from the inside. Inside it was light, gewürztraminer, blanc de blanc, cognac and finished the night with a wonderful standard, The Rob Roy. Pedro Ximenez 1985 and Scotch - delivered in a sealed bag filled with lavender air. They open the bag up in front of you and you get a wonderful whiff of the lavender and as you drink, it permeates the glass; soothing and happy.


Rob Roy

As I was putting in my final order, The Baked Apple, we had already been asked twice if we wanted to continue our evening downstairs, they asked again. And while The Husband had nothing to do on Friday, The M2 had an 830am finals review session and I had work. However, rather than being adults, we decided that when you’re asked three times to go downstairs, you should just go downstairs.

I finished the evening with the Baked Apple, the newest Tea drink. It was awesome, as always.  A cored, peeled and baked apple is placed at the top of the tea stand along with Pine boughs, chai, pisco, silver lining and some brown butter at the bottom of your glass. The drink is warm, sweet (but not cloying) and really perfect. It’s like a spiked apple cider, but so much better.

Baked Apple

From there, we moved downstairs for one final drink. We were seated on one of the super comfortable leather sofas and armchairs and were given the book of drinks. As I’ve learned, asking the bartender to whip something up for you downstairs is never a bad decision, and so The M2 and I requested they whip something gin or vodka related up, while The Husband went with a bourbon drink.

The Husband got the Wheated Bourbon, cigar, allspice, pomegranate, maple. It was REALLY good for a bourbon drink. It didn’t have the typical burn and because of the maple and pomegranate, it tasted a little sweet.  The M2 got the Gin, huckleberry, averna, clove, egg white, black peppercorn. Frothy, a little spicy a little sweet, a really nice end of the evening drink. And I got the Rum, celery root, horseradish, grilled artichoke, thyme. As soon as they said grilled artichoke, The Husband turned around and said “This couldn’t be any more perfect for you” and he was correct. It was a little dry and not like a typical mixed drink, I can’t explain it other than to say it was very herbaceous but it was spot on to what I was looking for. Besides, it has artichoke!
Wheated Bourbon



So with all of that, we ended our evening at last call and hailed a cab home.

I’m hoping we can go one more time before the ramen goes in two weeks…I’d say we could limit ourselves to what we drink, but obviously that hasn't happened yet.

No comments:

Post a Comment