June 6 2021

Review: Yuzu by Dan Moon

Duck glaze and kimchi; goats curd and dill oil; crab bisque, chicken tea, caviar: that doesn’t read like your regular weekend shopping list, does it? The ingredients do, however, take me back to a time long, long ago, when I used to browse Bath-based superchef Dan Moon’s Tasting Menus at his eponymous restaurant at the Gainsborough Bath Spa Hotel online on a regular basis, not because I had an impending booking (although I often did), but just because, to me, Moon menus were the stuff that foodie dreams were made of. Never did I once imagine, back then, that one day I’d be browsing one of those menus… and putting the whole 5-course shebang together myself, at home.

Yuzu by Dan Moon is a new DIY Dining Kit venture launched by Dan during the pandemic. Want to know how, why, when? Read the back story here, and more about Dan while you’re there. Want to know more about the menus? See here; they change on a monthly basis, and include barbecue boxes for the summer months too.

The May menu fun (full rundown: Chicken Tea, spring cabbage kimchi, mustard cress, crispy chicken skin; Sea Trout, goats curd, asparagus, pea, Asian crab bisque; Glazed Duck, spring rolls, plum, sesame, pak choi, mooli, carrot; Buttermilk Panna Cotta, strawberries, vanilla, basil; Coffee and Coconut Chocolate Truffles – phew!) started with an enticing box of goodies delivered directly to our door.

All the ingredients/components were fully prepped, portioned out and ready to roll, from the slab of succulent sea trout, super-neat, tightly-packed spring rolls and chunks of duck for the two main courses to the dinky little pots of mustard cress, sesame, basil leaves and caviar that bring all the necessary cheffy twists to the party at the relevant junctures.

There were neat little bottles of dill oil and plum sauce for various drizzles, blobs and flavour-packed artwork to dress the plate at serving time. The goats curd for the sea trout came in a ready-to-snip piping bag. The fresh vegetables were neatly sliced; the chicken tea, duck glaze and bisque sleek and glossy in their own little tubs; a little sachet of fresh coffee for two sat happily alongside a little tub of truffles which had to be hidden immediately, stashed away for much later*. All the ingredients are locally (and impeccably) sourced; all the packaging is fully recyclable; all the cooking/serving instructions are included.

Having cleared the kitchen counters of all clutter (top tip: sort all the ingredients, bits, bobs, etc into course-specific sections before you start work – you don’t want to get your chicken tea mixed up with your crab bisque while you’re searching for the sesame, do you?) and put the posh crockery into the oven to warm up, we were off. And – considering how this was a menu far, far removed from anything close to anything I’d even dream of putting together at home – service went seamlessly.

Silky Chicken Tea, part-ramen, part-soporific broth, enlivened with kimchi and teased by shards of crispy chicken skin. Clean-tasting Sea Trout with creamy ripples of goats cheese, dotted with dill oil, luxuriated by caviar, and paired with a heavenly, velvety crab bisque. Succulent, gamey duck breast properly pink beneath the rich, glossy glaze, accompanied by crisp spring rolls (which can be deep fried but we did ours in the oven, which worked out perfectly), pak choi, mooli and carrot, with sesame to sprinkle and a divine duck sauce ready to elegantly drench across the whole lot (and yes, it is possible to drench a plate elegantly) just before serving. Panna Cotta for pud? Just unscrew the tubs, top with compote, meringue crumb and fresh basil… and tuck in.

Of all the courses, the Panna Cotta was the simplest to serve… but when that time came, we found ourself missing the thrill of the chase for prandial perfection. We really got into the pace and rhythm of our voyage of discovery, me executing at the pass (of course!), Mr Pig proving his worth as an outstanding Sous Chef. While you need to pay full attention to the instructions (and honestly, none of the stages are complicated, totally belying the end result) and your creative skills are pushed to the fore when it comes to presentation, Dan has done all the hard work for you; not a single frond of mustard, crumble of meringue or slick of oil has been left unturned in his quest to serve you his level of perfection at home, with him there in spirit to guide you.

Yuzu Tasting Menus for two people cost £95 – so yes, it’s costlier than your average takeaway or meal kit delivery. But this is not an average takeaway or meal kit; to look for comparisons or similarities between the two eat-in options would be doing a huge disservice to both. If you were to order a similar selection in a restaurant, you’d pay at least £95 per person without drinks or service for quality of this standard – and, let’s be honest, many folk don’t like the ‘fuss’ of the ‘fine dining’ experience. If you want to bring a bit of theatre to the experience, get theatrical about it; aware that this wasn’t going to be ready-to-serve dinner ready to eat in front of the TV, we dressed up a bit, selected wine to match the courses, put nice music on and set the table properly. We put each course together, together. We both agreed that we were far more thoughtful about the various components of each course because we were more connected to those components than we would have been had we been served the same menu in a restaurant. We had fun eating fantastic food at home.

Moon menus are indeed the stuff that foodie dreams were made of. Stop browsing online and live the dream.

*A note on the coffee and truffles: we had them for breakfast the next morning. Yes Chef!

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