Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A Zen Repose

What a gratifying change of pace last night at Millbrae's Zen Bistro! The past three weeks have been the most tense and hectic of my life, so I really needed to immerse myself in a bacchanalian meal once again while we're still in the midst of the holiday season.

Fortunately, two of my best buddies came to the rescue. I suggested we just grab some handy white wines from the stash and head to the neighborhood seafood bistro, where a fish tank filled with live shellfish awaits us. No one argued.

Not even Chablis can match the genius pairing of Bordeaux Blanc and fresh oysters--these pair were simply a match made in Bacchus heaven. Zen Bistro's chilled half-dozen oysters are miyagis dressed in a light yuzu vinaigrette, topped with tobiko and a dab of chili sauce. It is the best plate of fresh oysters in town. The 1962 Château Faubernet Bordeaux Blanc, soft but still alive after all these years, with some residual sugar, was elevated by the sweet and piquant flavors of the oysters.

Mirugai, or geoduck clam, is a humongous bivalve with an overgrown appendage. Ordered whole and fresh from the tank at Zen Bistro, the chef prepared it two ways.

Of course, the purest and most mouthwatering way to enjoy mirugai is to sashimi the long siphon or "neck" of the clam. The chef served the paper-thin sashimi slices in a bowl of ice. Sweet!

Given that we were in a Japanese restaurant with a Chinese crew, we were roused to be served the clam's body en papillote, with butter, garlic, and wine. The chef must be French-trained. Needless to say, this second mirugai dish was spectacular, and perhaps even topped the sashimi preparation. A seamless match with a 1981 Alsace Gewurztraminer whose producer escapes me.

And now for the pièce de résistance, the 4 to 5 pounder Alaskan King Crab. The animal was still swimming in the tank when we ordered it.

Everyone knows this crab for its long, meaty legs. The chef prepared the legs for us sashimi style--its flavor was sweet with a briny contrast, slippery in the mouth with a lobster-like density and chewiness. Dipped in soy and wrapped in minty, fresh green shiso leaf, these crab legs were decadent.

We opted for a ramen noodle soup as the second dish for the remaining portion of the crab. Though most of the flesh of this crustacean is in the legs, the soup draws out the rich flavors of the shell and innards, infusing the noodles with a lot of goodness. You can't have a more opulent ramen noodle than this. It's a long way from Nissin!

My last bottle of 1999 Didier Dagueneau Blanc Fumé de Pouilly “Pur Sang” turned out to be an unmistakable choice for the crab medley. I've had this wine many times before, but at ten years, this magnificent pure Sauvignon Blanc was at the peak of its powers. Bright, mineral, more restrained, yet filled with fresh-cut herbs and ripe, crunchy green pears. A great finish to this awesome meal!

Zen Bistro
420 Broadway
Millbrae, CA 94030
(650) 697-9988

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