About mel91872

A living conflict, writing about food, foreign politics and anything that comes to mind.

Review: Imamura

19 November 2017

I am not sure how tonight’s dinner at Imamura is going to top the last 2 sushi meals, to be honest. Last night’s extravagant session at Sushisho Masa showed the amazing diversity of the bounties of the sea, while today’s stunning lunch at Sawada demonstrated as spectacular quality of that bounty. How will Imamura stand up to all this?

I had a few errands to run in the afternoon, but didn’t plan much because of the very early hour for my Imamura booking. They took 2 seatings on a Sunday night, and I had the early slot at 5.30pm…too early to eat, but no choice. Plus, the restaurant was a 15-minute walk from an already-inconvenient metro station…

I got there and it was a very relaxed environment. Being so far from the centre not many foreigners venture out to the area I reckon, as I was the only non-local dining there at the full counter that evening. I relaxed with some sake, hoping for another wonderful sushi meal to make it a hat trick.

I enjoyed some sake as I noticed others were drinking pretty heartily — if not having already been consuming earlier. In fact this was one of the rowdier sushi experiences I’ve had, and the most lax I’ve seen the staff. Perhaps the Sunday thing is a big part of it. Nevertheless we started the course with the usual hirame (flounder)…

01-hirame & engawa

Nice, the twist here is also a piece of the engawa (fin). Tasty, a good start. Next up some tako (octopus)…

02-tako

Not bad, a good balance between flavour and texture. Then we have some shirako

03-shirako

Nice and creamy, love it. Then the last empty chair next to me was filled by a latecomer, who quickly caught up before we transitioned into the sushi. There were a few more cooked dishes first tho…

04-chawanmushi

A nice chawanmushi using softshell turtle, which is in season as noted. Not bad at all. Then we got a shellfish duo…

05a-himo & namako

A tasty grilled himo (lip) of a clam, and some namako (sea cucumber). Really love the crunchiness of the namako, though not as good as the ones I had in Hakodate last week. Good tho. We then had a nice chunk of ankimo (monkfish liver).

06-ankimo

Lovely, I like this more than foie gras… Not as good as the one at Sushisho Masa last night (of which I forgot to take a photo), but really nice. Then the last cooked dish, tachiuo (scabbard fish).

07-tachiuo

Excellent, I really enjoy this fish whenever I get it. Works so well with the daikon. At this point we transitioned into the sushi, but I could not get any of the apprentices’ attention for a sake, so I had to bother Chef before he started.

I got my sake, but I noticed that the apprentices seem to be doing their own thing…one of them is just chatting away with the customers and was a little lax in his duties. In fact, the other apprentice kept forgetting to wipe my plate, and later on I had to remind him — which is a little embarrassing. In any case, the sushi started with katsuo (bonito).

08-katsuo

Done tzuke (marinated), not bad. Then we have amaebi (prawn)…

09-amaebi

Quite good, worked well in this prep. Then some ikura.

10-ikura

Not bad, but definitely not as good as the last few times I’ve had this. And it was messy… Then mirugai (geoduck).

11-mirugai

I tend to like my clam with more texture, so sometimes when they overprep it I find it a miss…like this. That’s just me. Tho beautiful, and showed off some mad knife skills by Chef. Next up was the tuna segment…

12-akame

A good lean tuna to start, then the o-toro

13-otoro

Good, but nowhere near as good as Sawada during lunch…tho I suspect not many other tuna experiences would be close to how good that was…

14-kohada

Then the usual kohada (gizzard shad), which was very ordinary. In fact, most of the fish was good, but very ordinary compared to the last 2 sushi meals… Then we got hokigai

15-hokigai

Oh gee, the clam was frozen in the middle. What happened here? This is really poor, someone should have noticed this. This is as sloppy as that horrible maki that fell into pieces at Ozaki last week… I don’t mind a sushi-ya being relaxed, but when it’s lax to the point of sloppy it’s not worth the money or effort or time for us.

Next up was kawahagi (filefish) with its liver…

16-kawahagi

Good, tasty. Then another amaebi, this time fully cooked.

17-amaebi

Nice, a good size too. Then we get a tasty uni

18-uni

But then I see them work on the unagi, which was next…

19-unagi

Are we done? I guess we are, as the tamago was quickly presented.

20-tamago

Sigh…honestly I could have ordered more, but I chose not to. This was nowhere near the quality of the previous two meals, but that’s asking a lot. However, this didn’t even compare to many of the other Tokyo sushi-ya I’ve been to. In fact, this would rate as one of the least good experiences I’ve had in the past few years. The service was, I’m sorry, piss poor. When I had to wipe down my own sushi plate because the apprentices couldn’t be bothered? This reflects bad on Chef too, which is a shame because he seems like the only person who did his job all night.

That one apprentice just wanted to chat with the customers in his corner. The other one just ignored me. Whatever, I didn’t need this. If there was ever a sushi-ya that doesn’t deserve its Michelin star, it is this one, I’m sorry…

I headed out very disappointed, suddenly thanking the long walk back to the metro so I could cool my head off from this disappointing evening. What a waste of a dining slot, money, and time…

Maybe it was an off night for them, but I cannot recommend this place — especially with so many excellent sushi-ya all over this city. Give this place a miss, folks…at least until the apprentices gain a semblance of professionalism.

Imamura [いまむら]
5-8-13 Shirokane, Minato-ku
Tokyo, Japan

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Review #2: Sawada

19 November 2017

After that spectacular sushi course at Sushisho Masa last night, you’d think I’d be sushi’d out… No such thing…due to various planning issues I ended up having to do 3 consecutive sushi meals in a row. The first was last night, the second is lunch this Sunday, which marked my return to the incredible Sawada.

Last time I was here in the autumn of 2016 I had a wonderful experience. Sawada-san doesn’t allow photos as it disturbs the entire process, and I always happily oblige (BTW if you wonder, part of it has to do with the camera sound — which cannot be turned off in many parts of Asia due to “upskirting” — and it wouldn’t be fair for some to be able to take photos and others not, right?). Photos or not, it’s always an amazing experience here.

I arrived at the familiar sushi-ya and was greeted by staffers who welcomed me back. Chef himself recalled, which is quite amazing considering it’s been over a year and how many customers he’s seen since. But as usual a full house at the counter, comprised of a few foreigners and more locals. Seeing Chef prepare the day’s fish made me anticipate this lunch even more…

I sipped on some sake, trying to not drink that quickly for a Sunday lunch. All sushi today as it was lunch, and Chef got to work. First up, the traditional opener, hirame (flounder).

Excellent, the modest fish helped on by good, balanced rice. It still puzzled me what happened at Harutaka last week when I first arrived in Japan…but this was good. Next up, sumi-ika (cuttlefish).

Tasty, love the texture here. Then we have sayuri (needlefish). Also excellent, as we get deeper in intensity slowly but surely. That was followed by akagai (ask shell), which I love because you can’t really find them in the US. Next up, a delicious piece of buri (yellowtail), the proper wild ones that have such a luscious rich taste…

Happy so far! Then we have hamaguri clam, which was nice with a stroke of eel sauce. I like this back and forth between fish and shellfish so far too. Next up, ikura. So fresh and delicious here…again, reminds me of Hakodate from last week… Lovely. Then we start with the tuna series…

First up Chef brought out some tzuke, marinated lean tuna. Tasty. Then a piece of chu-toro, which was just dreamy. Then he cut a piece of what’s between chu- and o-toro, which was just mesmirising… Then the o-toro, which happily melted in my mouth with minimal movement… Oh my that was good…today’s tuna was spectacular…

As always, we have the kohada (gizzard shad) afterwards, to sharply change directions after the tuna set. Then we have awabi (abalone), which was delicate — though as mentioned before I rather have them raw and crunchy. But really nicely done. Next up some uni from Aomori, which was delicious as you can imagine…

I enjoyed a bit more sake here as Chef brought out the rather large kuruma-ebi (prawn), which had that wonderful sweetness that comes from the light cooking. Then we have one of my favourite things, smoked katsuo (bonito)…oh my this was good. Reminds me of that amazing one I had at Harutaka the 1st time I visited…this was nearly as good. Wow…

Then Chef made a stuffed squid, which was sliced as served to all of us. Really nice. Then he brought out the tuna box again and sliced some o-toro, and seared them very quickly…oh my, this still melted in my mouth but the searing brought out something really special here. Oh the aroma…I’m hungry just thinking about it!

We started towards the close of the lunch course with another uni, which was delicious. Then a really fluffy and soft unagi to close the course. Chef then asked if there’s any requests, and several people had — and I mentioned akagai because I can’t get it back home, so he ended up doing the clam’s himo (lip) for me. Quite nice…

At this point the banter between Chef and the customers were going well, and even I joined in with my limited Japanese. I actually made my first joke in Japanese here… Chef then asked if any of us wanted a maki, and we basically nodded. Then he had this evil look on his face, smirked, and then took all the tuna out again…

Then he took 2 giant sheets of nori, joined them together with rice, and created a humongous roll. He put the rice and wasabi, then he re-opened that tuna box…and BASICALLY PUT ALL THE STUFF INTO THE ROLL. I mean not just the lean, but the chu-toro, the in-between, and even the o-toro into this roll. When he was done rolling it, it was about as thick as someone’s arm. Oh my…

He then sliced it up for everyone, and gave me the end piece — for nudging him to do this roll from some insane tuna heaven… And it was served like a slice of cake the circumference of a wine bottle… What a dessert! It was one of the most delicious things I’ve ever eaten, just a total joy slowly consuming this unit. I took his challenge of eating it in one go, which got a round of applause…but it worked so well because it balanced out all the different types of tuna with the rice, so you get the entire package perfectly.

Oh this was so good…

And frankly he could have charged us a ridiculous amount for that one roll — which probably cost over 10,000 yen on its own — but looking at the bill later he may have not even charged us at all… What an amazing “dessert”…and for the first time here I regret we couldn’t take a picture because this was LEGENDARY

My fellow diners started drifting out, and I was last to go. I thanked Chef and told him I’ll be back next trip. I certainly will be, my goodness this was one of the best sushi experiences ever. Adding last night’s amazing sushi? This was an insane sushi 1-2 for sure… And I have another sushi dinner tonight?

But clearly amongst all the top sushi-ya in Ginza this is the best, and my favourite, easily earning its 2-Michelin status. Some are put off by the photo rule, but come on… I for one found it strangely relaxing, though many of us were taking notes of the items. If Sushisho Masa was about showing the diversity of the sea, Sawada is about getting the very, very best out of each one.

Absolutely fantastic, the best 1-2 sushi meals you can imagine having in Japan. Just fantastic.

Sawada [さわ田]
3F, MC Building
5-9-19 Ginza, Chuo-ku
Tokyo, Japan

Review #2: Sushisho Masa

18 November 2017

Slept pretty well after that fabulous night of dining at Ichi, my Tokyo happy place. I didn’t have much to do today except some shopping for gifts in the afternoon, and lunch was at one of the oldest restaurants in the world named Momonja — a boar specialty restaurant that’s been open since the early 1700s. Always odd to eat somewhere that’s been open since before George Washington was born, but it had a limited lunch menu. Not bad boar and venison, and it fuelled my shopping stamina for the afternoon…

Probably good that my lunch was modest, as I needed space for my anticipated huge dinner coming up at Sushisho Masa. I returned again after that spectacular experience last autumn, and immediately they greeted me, remembering me from my last visit. Within a few minutes the counter was full, and the amazing experience started. If you’ve not experienced this place, it’s unlike most sushi-ya in how Chef Masa tries to present as much of each individual creature as possible. It’s very common that he presents different cuts, from different parts of the fish, or uses the organs, or to present them in different preps. It’s never just one piece of fish…there’s always a twist with the 2nd and 3rd related pieces…

This is the joy of Sushisho Masa, and we were getting started quickly here… Enjoy the ride!

01-tako

First up was some delicious tako (octopus), lovely texture here. Again, I love how he cuts different parts of the tentacles to get a different perspective of the creature. Next up, menuke (rockfish).

02-menuke

A rarer item, this was delicious. 2 pieces from different parts of the fish, again shows off the nuance of each fish. Fabulous. Next up was hirame (flounder) with a Masa-ish twist…

03-hirame w kimo

The fish is wrapped in its own liver, and it’s delicious. I love how he uses the insides of the fishes to add an extra dimension to the items. Then we have some mirugai (geoduck)…

04a-mirugai

First was raw, the second lightly grilled…

4

Lovely, and you get to taste the contrast in preparation. Another of Chef Masa’s way to showing all the facets of presenting seafood. Then next up, shako (mantis shrimp).

5a

The twist here is that it’s stuffed with its innards…just absolutely lovely. Like some dream roll… So far this is living up to my ridiculously high expectations! The sake is flowing well also, but back to the food and next up, saba (mackerel).

6

2 parts of the fish in different preps. Sorry for the bad photo but the sheen threw the focus off… Really delicious, and quite generous pieces too. Then we have some marinated ebi (shrimp)…

7

Really nice, topped with its roe. Another of Chef Masa’s way of presenting. I just love this. Then we have some of my favourites, shishamo

8

As I’ve said so many times, I can eat these things non-stop…just excellent as usual. Then we have sawara (spanish mackerel)…

09a-sawara

First piece sushi, second piece grilled…

09b-sawara

Again, lovely contrast, as the raw has its own unique taste and cooked brings out the oil in the oily fish so differently… Fabulous way of serving these fish! Next up, the lip of the tairagai (pen-shell)…

10-tairagai lip

Excellent, lightly grilled with a skewer. Then next up was ankimo (monkfish liver)…I was so excited by the huge portions I forgot to take a picture! That’s how good the food has been! I kicked myself as I was enjoying the large second piece…ugh! And then we got a huge curveball here with some lightly-grilled shirako

12-tako no shirako

It’s actually octopus shirako! My goodness, never had that before! Wow… Just wow…so creamy, and the flavour is quite unique. Such a fun meal so far!

I enjoyed more sake and chatted with various folks, from Chef Masa to fellow diners, to one of Chef’s apprentices — who was originally from Sweden. Not many sushi-ya would take on a gaijin apprentice, which just shows how differently Chef Masa thinks. Pretty cool to be honest. And having him here helps with his foreign customers too, and I think he appreciated me using my limited Swedish with him… Next up some baby cuttlefish…

13a-baby cuttlefish

And its tentacles…

13b-tentacle

Lovely stuff. Next up some hotaru-ika (firely squid) on a skewer…again I was so excited I missed the photo! UGH! Then next up more shirako

15-shirako

Just lovely and creamy… Then a tasty piece of kodai (snapper)…

16-kodai

Then we get the brain of the shrimp…

0

So good…then we get a pair of buri (yellowtail)…

18a-buri

The traditional piece, and a piece wrapping its innards…

18b-buri

Oh dear these are so bloody good it’s hard to imagine… You don’t need the tuna series when you get real, wild yellowtail…wow…

More sake, and we keep going! I warned you about the volume! Next up kani (crab)…

19-crab

Wow, this was so rich and nice, with so much of the coral… I have to admit at this point my note-taking got really messy and I messed up by not saving a draft of the notes, so from this point on there are a few items I’ve forgotten what they are…first is this…

20-unknown

I remember it’s a fish of some sort, may be kamasu, but not sure…but it was good. Then a nice serving of uni

21-uni

Then one of my favourites, katsuo

22a-katsuo

First smoked, then sushi…

22b-katsuo

Wow, that smoked one is fabulous… Then a grilled tachiuo (scabbard fish), I love this fish!

23-tachiuo

Then Chef brings out a delicious cherry tomato…

24-tomato

A great palate cleanser before the iwashi (sardine)…

25-iwashi

Lovely, then kamasu (barracuda)…

26-komasu

Again, excellent. Then some kaki (oyster)…

27-kaki

Really nice, you don’t see oyster too often, especially in Tokyo… Then we move into the tunas here with the chu-toro

28-chutoro

Lovely stuff…but then broken up by a tsubugai (whelk) roll…

29-tsubugai

Mmm…this sets up for the layered o-toro

30-otoro

Wow, this was not just delicious but it was fun watching Chef’s mad knife skills make this work…wow… Then in a reverse we get the lean tuna to close this segment…lol…

31-meguro

Nice, it really makes you appreciate the fatty stuff more! Then a fish I can’t quite remember…

zz

Sorry, this is sloppy of me to mess up on the notes…but the pace is so quick here! Then a delicious serving of ikura

33-ikura

Lovely stuff, reminds me of my Hokkaido trip… Then we get some kohada (gizzard shad)…

34-kohada

Then an excellent kawahagi (filefish), topped with its own liver…excellent, lovely deep flavour.

35-kawahagi

Then a nice kuruma-ebi

36a-kurumaebi

Then its brain…oh my…

36b-brain

Then we get a pair of sayuri (needlefish)…

37a-sayuri

First grilled, then sushi…

37b-sayuri

Lovely contrast once again! Then we get a pair of eel…

38-eel

Kabayaki vs shirayaki…both absolutely lovely! We are into the 40s items-wise and it’s still going…

39-kamasu

Another kamasu, cut differently. And at this point Chef overheard me and another diner talk about what is our favourite fish, and he went back and grabbed it…

40-nodoguro

Nodoguro (black-throat perch)! My favourite fish! Oh this is just a dreamy meal at this stage… Unfortunately I was so zonked I didn’t get the name of this amazing piece…

41-unknown

Wow…then we finish with a humble maki…

42-maki

We finished just over the 50-piece mark… I love this place to death…and everyone here this evening did as much as I did. One party asked if they can make a booking for their next time in Tokyo next year. Not surprising, as this place is always full and beloved by its diners, local and foreign. They bring out the very best in each creature of the sea…

I finished up and thanked everyone, especially Chef Masa. I told him I’ll see him again soon as I’ve decided to make this my “regular” for sushi in Tokyo. This is just such a different experience from other sushi-ya, and so different each time. I love the ability to get different takes of all the lovely creatures of the sea. What a joy this is…

Once again I apologise for the poor note-taking, but this was the true sign I was so overwhelmed with the food I messed up my task…you know what, it was so worth messing up…

Beyond recommended, it’s a must for Tokyo for those who really love their seafood. One of the true temples of seafood.

Sushisho Masa [すし匠 まさ]
B1F, 4-1-15 Nishi-azabu, Minato-ku
Tokyo, Japan

Review #4: Ichi

17 November 2017

I headed back to Tokyo after a nice few days in Kansai, still full from last night’s wonderful dinner at Wayamamura. I skipped lunch as I was actually not hungry… I made my way back to my usual hotel in Tokyo, my home-away-from-home, the wonderful Park Hotel, and unpacked and relaxed before I was to head out for an early-ish dinner this Friday evening.

Tonight’s dinner destination is one of my favourite restaurants in the world, the excellent Ichi in Roppongi. It’s my 4th visit to this comfortable eatery, and I’m glad they retained their 1 Michelin star. The hospitality at this place is exceptional, and they make everyone feel so comfortable. They take special care for their foreign customers, which is an attitude you don’t always see in Japan (though generally out of shyness and linguistic barriers).

I arrived and the familiar staff members, as well as Chef Yuichi Tanaka, smiled and greeted me. They remember me well, and I immediately felt at home sitting in my familiar counter spot. The cushion is so comfortable… I didn’t have to say anything and my wonderful server Ms Noguchi greeted me with the usual hand-written menu for this evening, as well as my first sake. They put together a sake pairing for me once again, and I already am anticipating a wonderful evening!

menu - 06

I don’t peek at the menu (this page came far later, but I had to share it to show how nicely they do this!) until the item is brought, as to not ruin the surprise. The first sake arrives, just in time for the first dish — a salad I’ve come to really love.

01-winter parsley

Today’s winter parsley from the garden of Chef’s parents, was especially tasty. I love the flavour of this type of parsley, a soft and sweet flavour accentuated by the shaved dry bonito and the light shoyu-based dressing. Really nice start! Then the hassun, which I always love…

02b-hassun

Another really excellent set here, with treats like kamasu (barracuda) sushi and stewed tako (octopus), from salmon skin to an eggplant tamago, from sweet potato to smoked salmon. All fantastic! Really happy so far, and the second sake worked really nice too. Then a third sake is poured, and we have our sashimi dish…

03b-sashimi

A wonderful selection, from saba (mackerel) to suzuki (sea bass), from o-toro to the rarer kuromutsu (gnomefish). A delicious set that would rival many of Tokyo’s finest sushi-ya’s output. Excellent! Then they brought a duelling set of sake for the next course, for me to taste the difference with the special seasonal variety…

04a-sawara

The next dish was sawara (spanish mackerel) grilled in paper with fig…

4

Lovely flavour here, love the white miso-based sauce here. Perfect with this oily fish. Loving it! And more sake! This is getting fun! Next up is taro fried in a mochi powder…

05-taro

Sounds odd, but quite tasty with a very complex sauce that involved crab, crysanthemum, bonito, kombu and other things. Quite fascinating, and quite nice. Then they bring out the grill and I sense beef coming up…

06e-grill

And indeed I am right, this time the ichibo is grilled with pear…

06k-ichibo

Lovely stuff…just melts in my mouth, with the pear adding a nice touch. Really delicious again! I love that photo of Chef at the grill as it reminds me of my first meal here, nearly the same pix

Then as they took the grill away and brought me another huge sake, they set up a shabu set…I wonder what the treat is for today…

07a-kue shabu set

Kue (longtooth grouper)! One of the true delicacies you find in Japan during the season, a lovely fish that you so rarely get.

07d-kue shabu

Worked well in a shabu form, as this didn’t need more than a quick dip. Just lovely…really savoured the taste of this. After I was done they poured the broth into a bowl for me, and brought me more sake! I wish I took down more detailed description of them, but they were all excellent and worked with each dish!

We moved then to the part of the meal I most look forward to each time I return. Earlier Chef had asked which rice I was interested in tonight, and I chose crab. And this was the result…oh my…

08a-rice bowl

This was excellent, topped with ikura as well.

08c-rice

I love how Chef does the controlled burn so you get a healthy portion of burnt rice too…it’s by far my favourite rice in any kaiseki place in Japan…

08e-last rice

I slowly finished all 3 helpings from the big bowl, much to everyone’s approval! Wow, this was good! Then a nice dessert…

09-dessert

Followed by just a visually dazzling tray with a last flavoured sake…

s

What a wonderful dinner once again! And for the heck of it, they brought me one last strong closing sake. I was full and happy and wee tipsy at this stage, feeling very happy. I love being back here, I feel so comfortable…they treat me like family, and feed me so well. Again, Ichi is one of my 5 favourite restaurants in the world, one that I would go back to time after time. No other place in Tokyo is automatic for dinner like Ichi for me.

I headed out after thanking Chef, Ms Noguchi and the rest of the staff. My happy place in Japan…

Ichi [いち]
7-10-30 Roppongi, Minato-ku
Tokyo, Japan

* BTW I have posted all the paired sakes here on my Instagram, in order of pairing. Scroll and enjoy…

Review: Wayamamura

16 November 2017

I was fuelled by the nice lunch at Unagi no Kawahara, but I was still challenged by a second day of 15km+ trekking. Yesterday in Osaka I pushed way over 15km, for which my feet have not forgiven me…and now I do this again, going around various parts of Nara by foot instead of train and bus…

About 4 hours of hard and fast walking I finally headed into the famous park to chill out — and to enjoy hanging with the deer. The ones near the front don’t even try anymore, having figured out there are so many lazy tourists not willing to walk deeper into the park…

Nevertheless I did, and it was quite nice to see a wee bambi chasing mum for milk. I daren’t get too close as an angry pappy — with full, untrimmed antlers, was standing by keeping an eye out for the few tourists in that section. But you had plenty of happy deer, though some were not impressed that all I could offer them was tea and not biscuits

I spent the rest of the afternoon there enjoying the park and the deer before I made my way towards my dinner destination. I chose to eat early tonight as I needed to get back to Osaka. But I really wanted to try this place, one of the most storied eateries in this town, Wayamamura.

I was surprised to learn that Wayamamura is actually a 3-Michelin restaurant, which I found out after I asked my Osaka hotel concierge to try for a booking. I had forgotten the guide covered Nara. But that’s inconsequential, as my 3-star meal at Taian the other day didn’t blow me away. I got to Wayamamura and was immediately greeted by a smiling staff, who had prepared a hand-written menu for me in English.

menu - 01

This reminds me so much of Ichi in Tokyo (which incidentally is where I’m headed for dinner the next night), how they take the time and care to explain the ingredients to their foreign guests. I can see I’m going to like this place. I left my sake selection to Chef, and soon one appeared. Then soon after the opening item arrived…

1

A very simple start, fresh crab with various vegetables including udo (mountain asparagus). Delicious, very clean and crisp. Nice start. Then a soup dish…

02-dumpling soup

The broth is quite nice, and you had a tasty dumpling of prawn and abalone that unfortunately fell apart a bit when I tried to eat it. But it was quite tasty, alongside the wood ear mushrooms. Really a nice little treat here. Enjoying this dinner so far. Then we move to the third and rather modest looking rice dish…

3

Oh my, this deceives the eye. Chef made some glutinous rice and sprinkled onto it some konoko (dried sea cucumber ovary). Really simple yet tasty! Then we have a plate of sashimi that I thought was fugu, but it’s actually okoze (stonefish)…

4

Never had okoze before, which is a very poisonous fish but totally safe to eat. Nice, similar to many fish of this type in taste, a tad more interesting than fugu. That was actually not on the written menu and I think Chef got this in and decided to serve it. That’s actually one of the nicer themes of this dinner…

With another sake on the way we continue with the sashimi theme with this…

05a-sashimi

Wow, right? This tray was so big it couldn’t fit on my part of the counter… First up on the left is a nice assortment of fish…

05b-sashimi

The hirame (flounder) was quite good, with some of its engawa (fin) too. The ika (squid) was nice, but the toro was just lovely. Then on the right…

05c-lobster

A Japanese lobster. Wow… Lovely meat, with the sweetness you’d expect from this delicacy. I was cheating a little by trying to poke at the head to get some of the brain… Not much luck tho… Then next up was another tray that was too big for the counter, and I had to blink a few times here…

06a-hassun

Wow…I can’t even describe the hassun… In front you have a sesame tofu topped with uni, then going clockwise you have ebi (shrimp) and tai (sea bream), then the persimmon with shredded veggies and raw fish selection, then karasumi (bottarga) with daikon next to a eel and burdock roll, then shirako, then fried gingko nuts and taro — all with edible skewers. Wow…

I was blown away by this hassun, which took awhile to eat as you can imagine. Chef smiled as he watched us enjoy this amazing spread… This 3-Michelin is blowing away the 3-Michelin in Osaka… Wow… I caught my breath afterwards and the dinner continues in full force…

07-amadai

Next up was grilled amadai (tilefish) in a starchy yet tasty sauce, garnished by some mochi made of gingko. Really delicious. Yesterday’s sauce for the amadai at Yuuno didn’t work at all, but this was excellent. Next up was shrimp — the head fried, and the body ready to be cooked…

08a-prawn set

Then they bring out a mini grill — goodness this was actually kind of cute!

08e-prawn grilling

We grilled the prawn and enjoyed the fried head. All quite excellent. Again, not on the menu, I think Chef is improvising a little and adding things on here and there, which is rather cool. Talking cool, next up is the cold dish.

09b-crab & scallop

You have some really nice crab with mustard greens and yam on the right, and on the left scallop with purple daisy and a citrus-based jelly. Worked well to bring the sweetness out of the scallop. Another hit! Then a surprise from an earlier course…

Remember how I mentioned I was trying to pick at the head of the lobster to get to the brain? Well…

10-lobster head

I guess Chef read my mind…oh my… It took awhile for me to get through this but wow it was nice… Again, off the menu, a wee surprise… Wow, right? It’s still going full force! Next up is the steamed course…

11

After all the hearty dishes it’s good to have one that focuses on vegetables. Here we have daikon, taro and spinach gracing a special mochi made with pumpkin. Really wonderful seasonal dish here, lovely. I was getting very full at this point and just perfectly we have the rice dish to close things out…

12a-rice set

A rather simple one with shirasu (dried baby sardines), which I chose over several other possibilities. This worked so well…

Oh my I was full! And the 3rd pot of sake was drained, and I was more than happy… What a fantastic dinner! Then the dessert…

13-dessert

A lovely fruit bowl with jelly…the quality of fruits are so amazing here. Melon and persimmon were shaped into spheres to join grapes in this lovely closing number. Wow I’m full, and wow I’m happy!

This was a spectacular dinner, and it’s shocking that it’s cheaper than either of the courses at Taian or Yuuno — despite the far larger volume and the far better quality and the far wider breadth of ingredients. Spectacular, one of the best kaiseki dinners I have ever had.

I thanked Chef and the staff for not just the fabulous food, but the wonderful hospitality. They did a wonderful job with all the customers not just at the kappo, but also in several adjacent rooms — including one with a crying baby all night. And considering many of the guests are Chinese tourists, they managed quite smoothly with service and language. I’m impressed.

Good enough to make me want to come back here just for dinner next time I’m in Osaka, even with the long commuter train journey back there like I had to take…but it’s so worth it…

Wayamamura [和やまむら]
2-11-15 Shibatsujicho
Nara, Japan

* Just to show I’m not that crazy, as much as I wanted to go back to Tayutayu again for a nitecap my stomach was beyond full even into next morning…Wayamamura has certainly done its job right!

Review: Unagi no Kawahara

16 November 2017

I woke up with a bit of a headache from the drinking last night, but I’m still dreaming about that amazing nitecap at Tayutayu last night…another temple of pork. I had a long day today as I planned to go to the neighbouring city of Nara, and there’s a lot on my plate for this day trip…

I headed out south for the train east to Nara, and I rolled into town mid-morning. Had a nice stroll around the central part of the city, also running some errands before I dropped into lunch. You may think why I’m doing eel of all things in Nara, but that’s what today’s lunch at Unagi no Kawahara is…

I had a very long afternoon planned, so I wanted to fuel up a bit. As I sipped on some tea they brought me the snack I ordered…

spine

I love these things, deep-fried eel spine. It’s such a good drinking snack (although I’m not drinking at this hour) and I still shudder thinking how much places in the US charge for a few small pieces (I’ve seen as much as $15 for 10 pieces of this in New York). Reminds me of a trip to Tokyo back in the early 2000s when I mentioned this at an eel place near Shinjuku and they gave me a SACK of it for free…

But as I was slowly enjoying these things my lunch set arrived…

set

Oh my, this will certainly fuel me! I was instructed to eat the eel bowl in 3 parts by scooping a third into the rice bowl… But before that, look at this thing…

unadon

Anyway, the first part was to eat the unadon as is. The second part is to eat with with the green onions added, as well as wasabi. Then the last was to pour the tea into the bowl for a porridge. I followed all that, and all had its niceties — although at this point the “chopstick fatigue” made part 3 difficult to eat — as I refuse to slurp my food.

I finished the lunch set and slowly finished off the spine as I sipped on more tea. The place was getting busy for the lunch rush as tourists flood the town, so it was my time to head out. I thanked the staff and headed out for another very long day of walking… At least I am properly fuelled today…

Unagi no Kawahara [うなぎの川はら]
35 Shimosanjocho
Nara, Japan

Review: Tayutayu

15 November 2017

Well, it seems like it. After a few glasses of wine I headed to my room to plot out tomorrow’s long day in neighbouring Nara, but I felt like doing something more tonight as it wasn’t late yet. I had a good dinner at Yuuno, but for some reason I was getting a little hungry as the evening went on…

I walked around the vicinity of the hotel, and there were many izakaya and other eateries and drinkeries, but one place caught my attention — Tayutayu. I quickly looked it up online and…it’s a pork specialty place! Oh my, what a great way to cap this evening!

sign - 02

I went into the busy izakaya and was seated at the end of the counter. Thank goodness for pictues in the menu and English content! Oh my this is one of those places that you want to eat everything… I ordered a shochu and a bunch of dishes and chilled out with my drink as I soak in the atmosphere…what a cool place! A wee bowl of veggies to start on the house, then we started the porkfest…

1a

Oh my, this was a hell of a start. The tongue was good, but that shoulder fat was stupid good…should be illegal… Just look at it…

1b

Crazy good, beyond addictive! Next up the larynx cartilage of all things…

2

Really nice, love the texture here. No holding back on the strength of the pork taste here! Then you have the fried ear…

03-ear

Oh my this was heavenly. So good… Then the rib meat…

04-rib

Just kill me now, this is dreamy… Oh my goodness I can’t believe how good this is! What a wonderful discovery! As I sat and watched the kitchen go, I ordered another shochu and knew I had to keep going, even if I was full…

motsu cooking - 01

I saw them stewing the motsu but that’s too much for me tonight…next time!

I kept drinking and watching the open kitchen at work and soon the second round started. We move into more offaly items now…

z2

First up was the diaphragm, so basically the skirt. Lovely flavour…a rarely seen cut for pork, which is too bad. Now the offal starts, first the lung…

z1

This is illegal for consumption in the US but it is so, so, SO GOOD. Holy crap it’s good… This is nearly worth coming to Osaka for!

07-stomach

Then we have some stomach, followed by chitlins…

08-intestines

Mmm, a pair of really good offal that you see too rarely…so good and full of flavour. And the last item, the meatball with yolk…

09-meatball yolk

Look how glorious this turned out…oh my… What a wonderful, wonderful end. If I wasn’t so stupid full I’d order more, but it’s time to move on… I need more booze, something stronger than the shochu I’m having here.

I thanked them and headed out, knowing I’ve basically found my “regular” here in Osaka (like how Hinaiya in Tokyo is my “regular” there) since I am happy with this hotel and location. Oh, the joy of discovering this…

I am one happy piggy tonight…

Tayutayu [たゆたゆ]
1-4-8 Dojima, Kita-ku
Osaka, Japan

* I ended up at a cocktail bar across the street from my hotel called Bar Tarlogie Sona, and I’m so happy I found this. A really skilled barman/owner who knows his whisky extremely well, makes a mean cocktail and is happily chatty. And best of all, this is a smoke-free bar. This could be dangerous as I enjoyed a few cocktails before stumbling back to my hotel, knowing I’ll be back drinking here next time I’m in Osaka…