"Ok, who ordered the green tea?"
-Samurai Jack, Episode 9
I get excited when a chef takes an ingredient out of its usual context and transports it to a new setting with unexpected results.
That is why I am such a fan of the Green Tea Rendezvous dessert at Kubo's. The chef takes a good, but ordinary tiramisu and covers it, and the plate, with matcha -- a fine, powdered green tea. On the side, he serves a bowl of green tea ice cream, some mint leaves, and an odd raspberry-like Japanese berry.
By itself, matcha is strongly flavored and bitter with a seaweed-like flavor. When I have tried tea made with matcha, I wanted to like it, but it was too bitter and odd. But I am a fan of green tea ice cream, which is usually made with matcha. Green tea ice cream is not as sweet as American ice cream. The matcha flavoring gives it a slight bitterness, and sea-like quality. It is subtle and complex. Somehow, it makes me think about the flavors more than an overly sweet American desserts.
The pairing with tiramisu is brilliant. Like green tea ice cream, tiramisu is not very sweet. Yes, it has been overexposed for the last 15 years. (The line about tiramisu in "Harry Met Sally" was the turning point of over-exposure.) But the addition of green tea makes tiramisu interesting again. It brings adds complexity and an exotic quality to the dish, and pairs well with the coffee flavors in the dessert. The dessert is simultaneously familiar and strange -- a great way to introduce the American palate to the flavor of matcha, which most of us Americans do not like by itself.
I have written about other food at Kubo's before in my posts on June 22, 2006 and December 18, 2005. It really is one of Houston's culinary gems, and the atmosphere is very hip. The service -- particularly one waiter, Jake -- is outstanding.