On Ghost Month, 10,000 hits and Hanakazu

Correct my limited knowledge of Feng Shui and Chinese-Filipino culture, but August is supposedly known as “ghost month,” and there is a general Friday the 13th type of superstitious caution. Bad luck is supposedly floating around, and major decisions are frowned upon. Personally, I’ve had a bit of a heaviness around me, especially towards the second half of August, which is supposedly in line with the beginning or Ghost Month in the Chinese lunar calendar. Whether that’s in line with bad feng shui, or just a general sense of burnout, I’m not really in the position to judge. I’ll just keep on keeping on. Nevertheless, there are a few things worth celebrating over the past couple weeks.

This blog topped 10,000 hits over the past few days. I don’t get much readership, I don’t spend on ads or do anything out of the ordinary to promote this blog other than through a Facebook page which posts alerts when a new entry comes out. It’s good to know that there’s a somewhat steady, albeit limited, readership to this. That’s the first of three blog milestones I’ll be celebrating over these next few weeks, as the next entry will be the 100th post and in a few weeks it will be BBB’s first anniversary.

Another thing worth celebrating was my friend Alex’s birthday. What was supposed to be an impromptu Ninoy Aquino Day lunch because Noel was getting cabin fever over the long weekend ended up as a very generous belated birthday treat at Hanakazu in BF Homes, Paranaque. We started with this small bottle of sake to go with the complimentary appetizers.

This tided us over until our platter of mirugai, Japanese toro (bluefin tuna belly) and sanma (Pacific saury). Noel ordered the mirugai (geoduck), having remembered that I showed interest in trying it during our previous dinner at Tsukiji. I take pride in having finally tried the most phallic of all shellfish – a bit chewy, almost meaty, but delicate and clean in flavor. The toro was good, as it ought to be. Not quite as fatty as the hontoro in Tsukiji, although the latter was of a higher grade. The sanma was a revelation. I had never tasted sanma like this: only slightly oily, more of buttery and soft – unlike those I’ve tried at hotel buffet spreads.

Daikon Salad – para healthy, as Noel would say. I especially liked the tiny fried shrimp (alamang?) that made this light, crisp salad, even better.

We also had a bottle of La Fin du Monde, a Belgian-style tripel from Unibroue in Quebec, Canada. I find this a more spicy, yeasty and carbonated version of the Hitachino Nest White Ale. The latter of course is one of the two best beers for pairing with sushi. Next to the White Ale, and Morimoto Imperial Pilsner from Rogue, I’d say La Fin du Monde is almost right up there with them.

Of course, the Japanese are known for their austerity, and I think with that comes maximizing every ingredient. The carcass of the sanma, after the filets were used for sashimi, was deep fried and also served. By no means should this be considered an afterthought, however. I’d order this separately if I could! It’s exceptionally good when dipped in matcha (green tea) salt, which Alex requested and has been raving about for as long as I can remember.

Live crablets, on display in a tank, were subsequently deep-fried. Taken alone, they would be quite ordinary and not much different from the crispy crablets served in your typical Filipino grillery, but with a more substantial shell and without the flour. The green tea salt, however, really brought them to a wholly different level.

We also had ikura gunkan (salmon roe gunboat sushi) and ebi nigiri (shrimp, of course), along with the fried shrimp heads. Ikura has always been a favorite of mine, with the salty explosion the eggs make when they pop in my palate.

By now we were on our first big bottle of sake, Jozen Mizunogotoshi Junmai Daiginjo. I’m not really trained in appreciating sake, and my main basis is how “clean” it tastes. I also prefer dry sake over the sweeter ones. Luckily, Jim’s Global Beer Exchange will be bringing in a selection of premium sake from Kiuchi Brewery, makers of Hitachino Nest – which means more “practice” for me.

Grilled hamachi collar was also served, compliments of the chef. Hamachi (yellowtail) is quickly becoming my favorite grilled fish – the only drawback being that I don’t get to try it too often. Yellowtail is known by different names depending on its age and size. There are different variations on the number of “stages” depending on your source and the area in Japan, but it’s anywhere from 3 to 7. Hamachi refers to an older fish, just younger than the mature buri. And based on different sources I checked, it can refer to the third or fourth stage.

With the fried and grilled dishes, we also had some Sculpin IPA. Pairing fish and fish? Well, in this case, it works, because for hopheads like us, the best-rated India Pale Ale in the world will go with nearly anything.

Of course, the requisite ebi tempura – Japanese comfort food for Filipinos. This was made much better, again, by dipping it in the matcha salt instead of the usual radish sauce. The green tea salt really elevates fried food to another level. I have to get my hand on one of those.

We had one more bottle of sake after that, the green one in the photo. Very good, as well. Thanks Alex! Iki! (I learned later than night that iki is the Japanese imperative to drink. In other words, bottoms up!)

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1 Response

  1. Noel says:

    Alex was unstoppable as usual, that second bottle of saké was north of P8k/bottle, and I can't even remember its name…too much iki!

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